To brine or not to brine? Kitchen experts answer your holiday cooking questions

Posted 11/7/19

Cooking for an event can be nerve-wracking, especially if it happens to be the first time you’ve prepared a holiday meal for a big group. No cook makes it through without a couple of hiccups and a …

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To brine or not to brine? Kitchen experts answer your holiday cooking questions


Cooking for an event can be nerve-wracking, especially if it happens to be the first time you’ve prepared a holiday meal for a big group. No cook makes it through without a couple of hiccups and a handful of questions. The good news is that now there’s an easy way to get the answers you need – by asking the food experts at the Betty Crocker Kitchens. For over 90 years, Betty Crocker has been a resource for inspired ideas and trusted recipes. The Betty Crocker Kitchens, based in Minneapolis, Minn., are home to a team of food experts who are eager to guide home cooks through their holiday culinary preparations. In addition to the thousands of recipes, how-to videos, tips and Thanksgiving menu ideas on, a leading food website, a special initiative called “Ask Betty” enables cooks to ask any culinary question and get a personal answer from a kitchen expert. Additionally, all of the questions and answers are housed on, so you can also find out what others are asking. “Our ‘Ask Betty’ food experts have a range of culinary backgrounds, including chefs, nutritionists and food scientists, so you know you’ll get an expert solution to any cooking challenge,” says Ann Stuart, manager of the Betty Crocker Kitchens. “Being able to access more than 20 food professionals during the hectic holidays – or any day of the year - enables you to relax and be the best cook you can be.” Whether you’re having a baking emergency or planning your holiday menu weeks ahead of time, Betty Crocker can help. Visit or Betty Crocker’s Facebook community at to learn more about Ask Betty and ask your most challenging cooking questions.  And during the busy holiday season when cooking and baking questions are at their peak, the Ask Betty team will be working harder than ever to give cooks the answers – and confidence - they need to have a successful holiday.  What questions does Betty get the most? Here is a sample of the most commonly asked questions the experts receive, along with the answers: * Are there quick ways to thaw a turkey? Answer: For food safety reasons, never thaw poultry at room temperature. Cold-water thawing is quicker than refrigerator thawing. Submerge the packaged turkey in cold water, changing the water every 30 minutes. An 8- to 12-pound turkey will take four to six hours when cold water submerged, while a 20- to 24-pound turkey will take 10 to 12 hours when cold water submerged. * What are the best potatoes for mashing? Answer: Round red, white potatoes or Yukon gold potatoes make creamier, denser mashed potatoes, while russet potatoes make for lighter-textured mashers. * How can I make gluten-free gravy? Answer: White rice flour as the thickener works well.  Make your holiday event a hit with two new recipes from Betty Crocker, sure to please any palate: Chocolate Bourbon Pumpkin Cheesecake Makes 16 servings Prep time: 40 minutes Total time: 9 hours, 35 minutes Ingredients: Crust 2 cups gingersnap cookie crumbs (35 to 40 cookies) 1/4 cup butter or margarine, melted Cheesecake 4 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese, softened 1 1/2 cups sugar 1/4 cup Gold Medal all-purpose flour 4 eggs 4 tablespoons bourbon 1/2 cup canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix) 1 1/2 teaspoons aromatic bitters 1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg 1 teaspoon vanilla 3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips, melted Toppings 1/2 cup caramel topping 2 teaspoons bourbon Dash aromatic bitters Toasted pecans, if desired Directions: 1. Heat oven to 300 F. Grease 9-inch springform pan with shortening or cooking spray. Wrap outside bottom and side of pan with foil to prevent leaking. In small bowl, mix crust ingredients. Press mixture in bottom and 1 inch up side of pan. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until set. Cool 5 minutes. 2. In large bowl, beat cream cheese with electric mixer on medium speed just until smooth and creamy; do not overbeat. On low speed, gradually beat in sugar, then flour, then eggs one at a time, just until blended. Remove half of the cream cheese mixture (about 3 cups) into another large bowl; reserve. 3. Into remaining cream cheese mixture, stir 2 tablespoons of the bourbon, the pumpkin, 1 1/2 teaspoons bitters, the ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg with whisk until smooth. Spoon over crust in pan. Into reserved 3 cups filling, stir 2 tablespoons bourbon, the vanilla and melted chocolate; pour over pumpkin layer directly in middle of pan. This will create layers so that each slice includes some of each flavor. 4. To minimize cracking, place shallow pan half full of hot water on lower oven rack. Bake cheesecake 1 hour and 20 minutes to 1 hour and 30 minutes or until edges are set but center of cheesecake still jiggles slightly when moved. 5. Turn oven off; open oven door at least 4 inches. Leave cheesecake in oven 30 minutes longer. Remove from oven; place on cooling rack. Without releasing side of pan, run knife around edge of pan to loosen cheesecake. Cool in pan on cooling rack 30 minutes. Cover loosely; refrigerate at least 6 hours but no longer than 24 hours. 6. Run knife around side of pan to loosen cheesecake again; carefully remove side of pan. Place cheesecake on serving plate. Stir together caramel topping, 2 teaspoons bourbon and a dash of bitters. To serve, drizzle with caramel and sprinkle with pecans. Cover and refrigerate any remaining cheesecake.   Bisquick Pan Gravy Makes 1 cup Prep time: 10 minutes Total time: 10 minutes Ingredients: Drippings from roast turkey or other cooked meat 2 tablespoons Original Bisquick mix 1 cup liquid (turkey or meat juices, broth, water) Few drops browning sauce, if desired Directions: 1. After removing turkey from pan, pour drippings (turkey juices and fat) into fat separator or glass measuring cup, leaving browned particles in pan. The fat will rise to the top. With spoon, return 2 tablespoons of the fat to the pan. Pour or spoon off and discard any remaining fat drippings. 2. Stir Bisquick into fat in cooking pan. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly and scraping up browned bits, until mixture is smooth and bubbly; remove from heat. 3. Gradually stir in reserved juices plus enough broth or water to equal 1 cup. Heat to boiling while stirring constantly. Boil and stir 1 minute. Stir in browning sauce if a darker color is desired. To brine or not to brine? Kitchen experts answer your holiday cooking questions