Thanksgiving Entertaining with Jack Bishop

Jack's four-day-long Thanksgiving celebration features make-ahead gravy, a new take on sweet potatoes, and, of course, plenty of pie.

Published Nov. 2, 2017.

We hope this Thanksgiving will find you and your loved ones sitting down to a perfectly cooked turkey, an array of favorite sides, and a pie or three. If you’re hosting dinner or making a side or dessert to take on the road, we’re here for you. After testing thousands of Thanksgiving recipes and cooking for our own families over the last 25 years, we know exactly what needs to happen between now and November 23rd—the planning, the shopping, the cooking. Find all of our Thanksgiving recipes and tips in our Thanksgiving Guide.

Each Thursday until the big day, one of our test kitchen experts will share their go-to recipes, which will be available free on our member websites for one week (until November 9). This week, Jack Bishop shares the details of his holiday celebration.

Jack Bishop

Home or away?


When do your festivities kick off?

On Tuesday night, when the first out-of-town guests arrive. We celebrate Thanksgiving for four days!

Any special diets to consider?

We usually have a big crowd—at least a dozen and often 18—so there are always guests on special diets, including vegetarian, gluten-free, and paleo. The great thing about a big Thanksgiving is that with so many dishes there’s plenty for everyone. I stick with vegetable broth (rather than chicken broth) in vegetable dishes and soups. Other than that change, I just plan a diverse menu.

Jack Bishop Thanksgiving recipes

What’s your favorite recipe?

The Cook’s Illustrated Best Turkey Gravy makes me look like a hero every year. Most guests tell me it’s the best gravy they have ever tasted. I do most of the work the day before (I prepare the gravy through step 6), so I like that this recipe is so cook-friendly. The roux is the secret. Gravy thickened with cornstarch will NEVER be half as good.

What’s your family’s consensus pick recipe?

Mashed Potato Casserole from Cook’s Country. My kids (now young adults) love mashed potatoes, but mashing potatoes is the LAST thing I want to do as I’m trying to get dinner on the table. This recipe is totally make-ahead. You mash the potatoes the day before, enrich them with eggs and seasonings, and then arrange the mash in a huge Pyrex dish. The casserole bakes while the turkey rests, and the potatoes brown and puff in the oven. It’s so good.

Any new recipes this year?

I have my eye on the Radicchio Salad with Apple, Arugula, and Parmesan from the October/November 2017 issue of Cook’s Country. There’s so much heavy food on the table, and this salad is so crisp and fresh. Or maybe sweet potatoes will make a return.

I’ve had trouble getting my crowd excited about sweet potatoes in recent years, but the Loaded Sweet Potato Casserole, also from Cook’s Country, might do the trick. I love smoked paprika, and bacon and cheddar cheese are always a hit.

What’s your must-have gadget for Thanksgiving cooking?

An instant-read thermometer. An overcooked turkey is a disaster. And a good thermometer (I have a purple Thermapen) ensures that I don’t make this mistake, even if the cocktail “hour” stretches into hour two or hour three.

What’s your pie preference?

We have all three: Perfect Pecan Pie from Cook’s Illustrated along with my wife’s recipes for apple pie and pumpkin swirl brownies. It’s nice to have something chocolate, and she cuts these superfudgy confections into small bites so everyone can have one (or two). No one misses the pumpkin pie.

When will the first turkey sandwich get made?

Lunchtime on Friday. We eat late on Thanksgiving, so there’s no time for “second helpings.”

Will anyone be watching football?

We are not a football family. The kids (now all teenagers and young adults) will play Let’s Dance on the Wii (cousin Alexandra and our daughter Eve will be fighting to win). The adults will be listening to my wife’s music selections—a mix of Latin tunes, ’60s surf songs, and classic R&B.

Meals that impress

All-Time Best Holiday Entertaining

Celebrations call for meals that impress, and with thousands of meticulously tested recipes to our name, guaranteeing that perfect outcome is central to what we do at Cook’s Illustrated. In this definitive collection, we have gathered the absolute best dishes for making your next celebration memorable, stress-free, and, above all, delicious.  
Shop Now

How do you plan to celebrate Thanksgiving this year? Let us know in the comments. And for more of our editors' holiday plans, check out these articles (and check back for more in the coming weeks!):

This is a members' feature.