The Best Ways to Cook Your Thanksgiving Turkey
Whatever your favorite Thanksgiving dish may be, there’s one thing most everyone can agree on: the centerpiece of the Thanksgiving table is the turkey. The National Turkey Federation estimates that Americans eat as many as 46 million turkeys on Thanksgiving Day (weighing an average of about 16 pounds, for a total of 736 million pounds of turkey gobbled up at the big meal). Whether you roast it, fry it, or grill it, the odds are good that your friends and family are going to eat it; 88 percent of Americans surveyed have turkey on Thanksgiving Day. So, how do you make sure your bird is juicy, flavorful, and perfectly cooked for this important meal?
In his book, Thanksgiving: How to Cook It Well, New York Times Food Editor Sam Sifton says, “there are literally hundreds of ways to cook a Thanksgiving turkey. You could boil a turkey if you wanted to. You could roast it upside down for a time and hope that this keeps the breast meat juicy. You could wrap the bird in moistened cheesecloth and cook it a convection oven. You could cut it into pieces and cook it in parts. You could smoke it. Fry it. Shred its legs into sauce. You could even put a turkey on a stick set under a clean tin garbage can in the backyard and cover the top with coals… you could stuff it and roast it or you could roast it and not stuff it… if the result tastes good, it is a correct way to cook the Thanksgiving bird.” With all of these possibilities, how do you decide how which cooking-method is best for the most important bird you’ll cook all year?
Though our list is far from exhaustive, we took on the task of reviewing just about every turkey recipe we could get our hands on to determine which ones would produce the most delicious Thanksgiving turkeys within a reasonable amount of time and without unreasonable difficulty. The recipes we considered were ranked based on several factors: the number of steps and amount of time required, the type and variety of ingredients needed, the creativity of the recipe, and how good the finished product tasted. Each recipe reviewed was judged on a 100-point scale, with up to 20 points possible in each of the following five categories: Steps, Ingredients, Time, Star Rating (rated by our community), and Editorial (judged by our editors — a combination of creativity, accessibility, taste, and miscellaneous factors like special equipment needed or potential safety hazards).
Our goal was to find a balance between effort and results. Sometimes you need a few extra ingredients or steps to achieve a truly delicious turkey, but other times too much stress ruins the experience. If you’re looking for a truly tasty Thanksgiving turkey recipe (without making yourself crazy hunting for ingredients or learning a special cooking technique), we’ve rounded up a few that we know you’ll love. Here’s a countdown of the top 25 Thanksgiving turkey recipes for 2014.
25. Honey-Glazed Turkey
24. Maple-Brined Turkey
23. Orange-Glazed Turkey
22. Golden Cider-Roasted Turkey
21. Succulent Smoked Turkey
20. Garlic-Smoked Turkey
19. Grill-Roasted Herbed Turkey with Chardonnay Gravy
18. Deep-Fried Turkey
17. Benny Sauce Marinated Turkey
16. Yogurt-Glazed Roast Turkey
15. Roasted Dijon and Apple-Glazed Turkey with Fruited Stuffing
14. Roast Turkey with Spice Rub
13. Beer-Can Turkey
12. Red Bull-Brined Turkey
11. Savory Grilled Turkey
10. Cider-Marinated Turkey
9. Barbecue Spice-Rubbed Turkey Breast
8. Tangerine-Glazed Turkey
7. Balsamic-Roasted Turkey with Apple Stuffing
6. Southwestern Rubbed Turkey
5. Sweet Tea Brined Turkey
4. Grilled Apple-Brined Turkey
3. Basic Brined Turkey
2. Bacon-Wrapped Turkey
1. Bay and Lemon-Brined Turkey
(Credit: Flickr/Kevin T)
This turkey has a perfect balance of sweetness from the maple syrup and heat from the chile flakes and chopped ginger. Brining a turkey takes a bit of advance planning (be sure to get your turkey into the brine at least two days before you want to roast it), but it’s well worth the extra effort. Click here for the recipe.
This delicious roast turkey is stuffed with pears and aromatic vegetables like celery and onion and glazed with a reduction of orange marmalade, orange juice, and honey, making it flavorful throughout. It should come as no surprise that our online community has given this recipe a rating of five out of five stars! Click here for the recipe.
Kristie Collado is The Daily Meal’s Cook Editor. Follow her on Twitter @KColladoCook.