Should I brine my turkey? Should I let my spouse fry the whole bird this year? How do I achieve a quicker cooking time?
We have some turkey-cooking techniques for everyone from the Thanksgiving chef to the person who begrudgingly took on the challenge this year.
Oven roasting is the most well-known route but there are tips and tricks to make this an even smoother, tastier technique. If you’re looking for a no-fuss, frill-free recipe, try this easy herb-roasted turkey.
Looking for a moist, slightly more complex turkey? Try butter or mayo!
The tried and true method: compound butter.
To make your turkey with compound butter, mix together the ingredients below then rub the butter both on top of and underneath the skin. You want a generous amount of the compound butter on each part of your turkey.
This butter will add moisture and flavor to every bite of your Thanksgiving centerpiece.
Compound Butter for Turkey
1 stick salted butter, room temperature
¼ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. minced fresh thyme
1 tsp. minced fresh sage leaves
3 cloves finely minced garlic
1 Tbsp. minced fresh parsley
2 tsp. minced fresh rosemary leaves
This year’s fad: a mayonnaise base.
Chefs who write for the New York Times, the Huffington Post, and more have declared mayo the prime base for an herb-filled turkey rub this year.
Simply sub in mayonnaise for the butter in our compound butter recipe above to try it out! Home cooks suggest this method is even easier than the butter, because they don’t have to remember to leave the butter out overnight to come to room temperature. With claims of an even more delectable turkey than one made with butter, we’ll be testing this recipe in our homes this year!
A quicker route to oven roasting: spatchcock.
Spatchcocking your turkey is a fancy word for removing some of the bones so it lays flat on a pan, ready to be roasted using any of the three techniques above. Here are the two steps to spatchcocking your bird in detail:
- Remove the backbone: Place the turkey, breast-side down, on a cutting board. Use sharp kitchen shears to cut along one side of the backbone. Repeat on the other side. Discard the backbone or reserve it for making stock.
- Break the breastbone: Use the palm of your hand to press firmly onto the breastbone until you hear a crack. Flatten the spatchocked turkey as much as possible.
Folks who swear by spatchcocking suggest the turkey cooks more quickly and evenly. Curious? Try out this recipe.
Many cooks swear by brining a turkey to get the best flavor. Brining is meant to break down the toughness of the meat while also adding flavor. The only drawback? The turkey has to sit in the brine for a minimum of 24 hours. If you have time to plan ahead, we have two brining techniques for you.
This buttermilk brine adds extra moisture to your turkey. Even the leftovers won’t be dry! To use a wet brine you’ll boil the brine ingredients and let them cool before putting the turkey and the brine in an airtight bag.
This brine only asks that you leave the turkey in the solution for one day, turning occasionally. Then, you rinse the turkey, rub it with butter, and roast it in the oven. Our compound butter above can be used in these final steps.
This dry brine is easy to do, just season your turkey, cover it in plastic wrap, and let it sit in the fridge for two days. The recipe only calls for salt, pepper, onion, and celery, but we’d recommend a few other seasonings too. Throw in some rosemary, thyme, and honey salt for some classic Thanksgiving flavors. Let the turkey sit in the brine for a third day for a stronger flavor.
While deep frying a turkey was a trend of the past, air frying some turkey is of current interest!
Air frying your turkey is great if you’re having a smaller crowd and cooking pieces as opposed to a whole bird. Here is a recipe for an air-fried turkey breast. In the air fryer the breast only takes 35 to 40 minutes to cook, and a compound butter can be used to add extra juices to the meat. Make sure to air fry pieces of turkey with the bone still in for more flavor and moisture as frying can dry out meat more quickly than roasting.
If crispy skin is of the utmost importance to you, try grilling your turkey. This technique, while uncommon, is great for large gatherings — it keeps the oven free for other dishes and spreads out the guests so they don’t all crowd the kitchen!
With crispy skin, you can brush a delicious glaze over the turkey after it’s done to add extra flavor without compromising the texture. Try brushing the turkey with maple syrup, paprika, salt, and pepper.
Grilling a turkey takes about the same time as roasting one, so you aren’t losing any relaxing hours here.
Do you still have questions about your turkey, such as how long to cook it or how many pounds you need? Check out this blog with portion breakdowns and more for your Thanksgiving dinner.