Thanksgiving Dinner: How to Cook the Thanksgiving Turkey

For many of us, the Thanksgiving Turkey is the Main Event. If this is the first Thanksgiving dinner that you’re cooking, the turkey may well be the most intimidating item on your menu. I PROMISE, cooking a delicious turkey is not difficult. In fact, the most difficult issue may well be which method you use because you have options!

Remember that your main goal is to get from this:

to a scrumptious platter of succulent meat on your Thanksgiving table.

Yesterday, I wrote about slow-roasting a turkey for maximum juiciness, but there are several other methods for getting that delicious result as well.

My personal favorite is GRILLED Turkey. One significant advantage to grilling the turkey is that it frees up oven space for all the other side dishes that accompany a lavish Thanksgiving feast.

Most people roast their turkeys and that is, indeed, probably the simplest method. You can read about roasting your turkey here.

An extra component that you can add to cooking your turkey is BRINING it. A brined turkey can be roasted, grilled, or slow-cooked. I highly recommend brining a turkey because it really leaves the meat plump and juicy and totally delicious. Again, it’s not difficult or expensive.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention stuffing/dressing when talking about cooking a turkey. Every regulatory or safety page that I’ve read strongly discourages cooking a turkey with stuffed inside. The stuffing may not reach the necessary temperature to kill all the bacteria. Experts recommend cooking stuffing/dressing separately OR baking the stuffing longer after you’ve removed it from the bird. Since I don’t want to mess around with potential food poisoning on the biggest food holiday of the year, I just forgo the stuffing IN the turkey.

Instead, I pack the cavity of the uncooked turkey with a variety of vegetables. Which vegetables you use influences the end result in terms of flavor. Your gravy will also be flavored somewhat by the vegetables you use. I always include the following:

  • whole garlic cloves
  • onions, quartered
  • carrots, chopped into large chunks

and sometimes I add:

  • apples, quartered
  • sweet potatoes, chunked
  • whole fennel, chunked
  • root veggies, chunked

No, it's not a turkey but a few of these will go IN the turkey

It’s important to note that you still don’t eat these vegetables that have been cooking inside the bird. You can safely use them to make your stock, but they shouldn’t be served at the table.

Last, but not least, we are still looking for any tips and information on deep-frying a turkey. Neither Laura nor I have ever deep-fried a turkey and we’re curious. I HAVE eaten some amazing deep-fried turkey and would love to experiment with it sometime.

So….now’s the time to start planning how to handle this central item on your Thanksgiving menu. Planning ahead means you have lots of options. We’d love to hear what your turkey plans are this year.


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