Are you tired of the same old Thanksgiving turkey year after year? Does your Thanksgiving usually include a turkey cooking catastrophe? Does that poor, dried out and tasteless bird sit on your table quietly mocking you for having lost the battle with it once again? Have no fear! I’ve compiled a list of ten delicious ways to turn your turkey into the centerpiece of your dinner table. And get this; some of the cooking methods are actually easy! So don’t let that turkey intimidate you this year. Approach it with a new cooking method, a fresh mindset and show that turkey who’s boss!
1. Roasting- Roasting a turkey is the most traditional method of cooking a turkey. It’s also one of the easiest ways to mess up your turkey. People think you can just toss the bird in the oven and walk away. When roasting a turkey, it’s important to thaw it properly and read the per pound cooking instructions on the package. Be sure to set your oven to the appropriate temperature and figure out your approximate cooking time in advance so your turkey is ready when your guests arrive. To ensure your turkey is properly cooked, invest in a good meat thermometer.
2. Smoked- Smoked turkey is very flavorful. Just think of the turkey legs you get at a renaissance fair. Those legs are smoked. I like smoked turkey because the meat is tender and falls right off the bone. To smoke a turkey, you’ll need a smoker (or a kettle type of grill) and aromatic hardwood chips. The smoker should be set at 240 degrees and slow cooked. Directions for how to smoke a turkey can be found online.
3. Steamed- There are two ways you can steam your turkey. You can wrap it loosely in aluminum foil and place it in a roasting pan in the oven or you can steam it in a giant pot on the stove. Either way, it is recommended that you finish off the turkey in the oven to crisp up the skin. If you steam the turkey in the oven, simply peel back the foil at the end of the steaming process to brown the skin. This method of cooking seals in moisture and helps keep both the white and dark meat juicy despite their different cooking times.
4. Deep Fried- Ah, the infamous fried turkey. Responsible for countless numbers of Thanksgiving cooking disasters every year. People that have tried it say the meat is moist but not greasy. This method calls for a large pot with a basket (like a 40 or 60 quart pot) and a propane tank and burner. You must use oil that has a high smoke point. Turkey’s made this way are sometimes marinated before frying. This method should only be attempted outside with a fire extinguisher handy.
5. Grilled or BBQ- Grilling your turkey is a great way to free up space in your oven to cook other dishes on Thanksgiving. This cooking method adds great flavor and crispiness to the turkey as well. You can grill your turkey directly on the grate or in a roasting pan. Be sure to use a meat thermometer to check for the appropriate internal cooking temperature of the turkey.
6. Rotisserie or Spit Roasting- This method can be done in the oven or on a grill depending on the rotisserie equipment you have. Cooking your turkey this way will keep it moist and allow for even cooking.
7. Marinated- A marinated turkey helps distribute flavor, tenderize the meat and can help keep the turkey moist while cooking. To marinate a turkey, fill a large bowl with a few inches of the marinade and set the turkey inside. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate. A whole turkey can be marinated overnight, just make sure you keep turning the turkey so that all the parts are soaked with the flavoring. Many great marinade recipes can be found online.
8. Oven-Bag Turkey- Reynolds makes turkey sized oven-bags that make roasting your turkey a breeze. If you use an oven-bag, you won’t have to baste the turkey and it keeps the meat moist. This is how I make my turkey each year and I love the results. I like to open the bag near the end of the cooking time and allow the skin to brown and crisp up a bit.
9. Brining- Brining a turkey will keep the meat from drying out in the oven. This method is similar to marinating a turkey, but calls for a solution high in salt. The brining process forces liquid and seasonings into the turkey meat, making it flavorful and tender. You have to plan ahead for this method, since the turkey has to be kept cold while it’s brining.
10. Crock Pot- This method is by far the easiest way to cook turkey. Just dump everything in and turn the crock pot on. If you don’t have a large turkey, you may be able to fit it in your crock pot. If you’re not having a lot of guests for dinner, this is a great way to cook a turkey breast. You can add stuffing or vegetables to the slow cooker for another course, which makes everything easier on you.
I hope one of these cooking methods strikes your fancy and that you give it a try. And remember, it doesn’t have to be Thanksgiving to cook a turkey. Practice some of these cooking methods throughout the year and by Thanksgiving you’ll be a pro! Happy Turkey Day everyone!