Now that you have secured your turkey. Let’s quickly go through all the ways you can prepare it for an unforgettable Thanksgiving meal.
There are a few ways you can go about this. You can grill your turkey outside on a BBQ, luckily for us in California, this shouldn’t be an issue. The first way is on a charcoal grill or a gas grill.
Our tip: don’t stuff your turkey if you plan on grilling with charcoal. A 10 to 16 lb. turkey will take 2 to 3 hours to grill. When done, remove and let stand for 15 minutes before carving.
We like charcoal grilling our turkey for 3 reasons: 1, Grilled turkey not only cooks up tender and juicy but it also frees up the oven for your other dishes. 2, The heat of the grill infuses the meat with an extra smoky flavor, especially if you’re cooking on a charcoal grill. 3, Grilling requires using less fat than other, more traditional, preparation methods.
2. Oven Roast
This is probably the most common way to prepare the main dish for your Thanksgiving feast. Note there are different cooking times depending on whether you’re using a convention oven or a regular oven.
Our tip: If you don’t have a roasting rack, crunch aluminum foil into a coil or use vegetables like carrots to keep your turkey off the bottom of the pan.
Before you start to cook your turkey, you need to brine the meat. Brine is the foundation of every legendary turkey. It’s what preps your meat to be smoked, and locks all of those zesty, earthy flavors by infusing salt, sugar, and flavor into the meat. We recommend you brine your bird for 24 hours.
Wet Brining vs Dry Brining
Wet brining: You combine a gallon of water and one cup of kosher salt to add flavor and moisture. Wet brining makes the meat more succulent, tender, and juicy by allowing more juices to soak into the meat.
Dry brining: Here you simply rub salt on the surface of the turkey to block moisture from potentially escaping during the smoking process. It’s also done to enhance the meat’s natural flavor. People dry brine their birds to keep the natural flavor, the final result is a firm, tender, and well-cooked outcome.
Again, there are different ways to smoke a turkey. First, you can water smoke it, use an electric smoker or convert your grill into a smoker. If using an electric smoker, set it to 225° F and cook the turkey for 8 to 12 hours or until the inner thigh temperature reaches 180° F.
Our tip: the turkey must pass through a critical range of 40° F to 140° F in 4 hours or less. If the internal temperature is low after 3½ hours, take your turkey off the smoker and finish it in the oven.
Using a water smoker, the cooking times vary on the weight, an 8-12 lbs bird will take 4-8 hours, while a 12-18 lbs. bird will take 6-10 hours.
4. Slow cook
A slow cooker uses low heat to slowly cook the turkey, letting the meat marinate and simmer in its own juices and because it doesn’t steam, the moisture is locked inside the meat to help deliver juicy turkey breasts. We like slow cooking because turkeys tend to dry out at high cooking temperatures, making it a challenge to get a perfectly cooked, juicy turkey. The key is to not overcook. If you slow cook at a lower temperature, the meat roasts evenly without getting tough or dried out.
Our tip: Whether you cook the turkey in a slow cooker or slow roast it in a traditional oven, take care to start it at a higher temperature so you kill any bacteria.
5. Deep fry
This is a quick way to prepare your turkey. If your turkey is 14 lbs. or less, you can deep-fry it whole. If it’s 15 lbs. or more, separate the legs and thighs from the breast and fry them separately. Make sure your turkey is completely thawed and remove any excess fat. Let the turkey stand for 20 minutes before removing it from the rack or basket to carve.
Our tip: Do not stuff your turkey when deep-frying. Cook the stuffing separately.
6. Air fry
Think of a perfect brown and crisp turkey without an abundance of oil, effort, or time. That’s what you get when air frying your bird. Set your air-fryer to 400° F and cook 45-60 minutes, about 7-10 minutes per pound, until it reads 165° F. Then let stand for 10 minutes before carving.
Our tip: Using kitchen shears as an alternative to a sharp knife, is a safer option that provides more control and precision.
7. Rotisserie Roast
This is a classic way to prepare an evenly golden brown turkey because the turkey is able to rotate fully over the heat source. And once again, there are several ways to rotisserie roast your turkey. First, there is covered charcoal grill, uncovered charcoal grill, and gas or electric.
Our tip: Do not stuff your turkey, rather cook the stuffing separately in a casserole dish in the oven.
The most important thing to remember is to get the turkey! No, seriously. A lot of us start thinking about what we’ll cook instead of actually planning on how we’ll get the ingredients. We recommend ordering your turkey soon to ensure you have something to smoke, air fry, brine etc. Check out our post on Where to Pre-order Your Thanksgiving Turkey