A simple Thanksgiving turkey preparation is on a table.

Six Thanksgiving Turkey Preparations

Thanksgiving may look a little different this year. Why not embrace the opportunity to experiment with new flavors and cooking methods for the feast’s star performer – the turkey.

Below are six different Thanksgiving turkey preparations inspiring ways a whole turkey or, for smaller gatherings, a turkey breast or two, can be prepared.

1. Air Fry It

Air fryers are the gadget of the year, achieving that perfect crispiness with ease. Since many of us will be hosting smaller Thanksgiving feasts this year, cooking an entire turkey might be unnecessary. Using an air fryer, you can have a succulent, perfectly seasoned, and beautifully browned turkey breast on the table in an hour or less.

The Daily Meal has a 55-minute prep and cook recipe that might be worth a try.

2. Deep Fry It

If you want to fry your turkey but plan on cooking a whole bird, deep frying is the answer. To truly do it justice, you will want to invest in a backyard propane turkey fryer. Some recipes call for brines, like this one from Alton Brown, while others, like this All Recipes keep it basic.

The turkey will need to be completely thawed and the oil must be heated to and maintained at 350 degrees while cooking. It will take 3 ½ minutes per pound. To check if done, carefully lift the cooking basket from the fryer and insert a meat thermometer into the thigh. An internal temperature of 180 degrees indicates your Thanksgiving fryer is perfectly cooked!

3. Brine It

Turkey is notorious for drying out while cooking. If you want a super juicy bird, brining is a simply delicious way to add extra moisture.

Brining involves submerging the bird in a salt solution that can be infused with herbs, fruit, and other flavors. This process seasons while enhancing flavor and tenderness. The key is soaking the turkey in the liquid for 12 to 24 hours prior to roasting. It can then be smoked, deep fried, or oven roasted.

The Pioneer Woman has a tried-and-true brine recipe that includes apple cider and orange peel. For those with a sweeter side, give this maple brown sugar brine recipe a go.

4. Slow Cook It

Obviously, an entire turkey won’t fit in a slow cooker but once again, if you are dialing back your Thanksgiving turkey preparations and have less mouths to feed, break out your slow cooker and get ready for a super easy and tender turkey breast on your table.

Slow cooking will take a bit of time, but this set it and forget it process, allowing you to focus on other things. Using slow, low heat maintains moisture and seals in flavor. Slow cooking isn’t for those desiring a crispy, golden skin but the succulent, savory results might just convert you.

This Daily Meal recipe uses a four to six-pound turkey breast includes Madeira wine and honey.

5. Smoke It

Smoking a turkey takes time but the results are worth the wait! Basic preparation is required, including proper defrosting and cleaning. Brine or apply a dry or wet rub if desired or allow wood chips used in the smoking process itself to infuse the turkey with a delicious flavor. Hickory and mesquite will add a solid smokiness while apple, cherry, or other fruit woods will impart a more subtle flavor. Soak the wood chips in water, wine, or fruit juice for additional flavor.

The key is low and slow. Smoking takes approximately 8 to 10 hours, depending upon the size of the bird. You can use any type of grill – gas, charcoal, or pellet – or a smoker if you have one. The bird should be placed over indirect heat ranging from 225 to 250 degrees. At 225, it will take half an hour per pound and at 250 degrees, it will take 25 minutes.

Baste your bird every one to two hours with the juices in the pan. An internal temperature of 180 degrees indicates the turkey is done cooking.

Hey Grill Hey offers detailed smoking instructions.

6. Oven Roast It

For those who love the traditional oven roast turkey (whole bird or breast), there is always the classic herbed turkey, seasoned with thyme and sage. As mentioned above, using a brine solution prior to cooking adds flavor and moisture.

The Daily Meal has a number of innovative ways to season and sauce-up your bird. These include a bay leaf and honey glaze that does away with basting, a rich coffee-rubbed turkey served with rum and pepper pan gravy, and a tart pomegranate-thyme glaze.

For a bird with cultural flare, use flavors from other nations. This Cuban-inspired recipe embraces plantains, sweet potatoes, and bitter orange. Or, go Moroccan-inspired and season with za’atar, a spice blend with cumin, garlic, cinnamon, and turmeric.

Turkey is the pièce de resistance for most traditional Thanksgiving meals. Step out of your seasonal comfort zone. Get creative with your Thanksgiving turkey preparations and try an international flavor, a new cooking method, or a fruity glaze.

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