Thanksgiving: How to Cook a Turkey, With a Twist

Happy Thanksgiving.

See also: Thanksgiving: How to Make Stuffing and Other Side Dishes


There are many ways to cook everyone’s favorite holiday bird. Each family has its own technique for cooking a turkey, whether it’s using an old family recipe, adding a secret ingredient or shopping at a certain store in town that helps make the turkey taste all the better.

If you’re hosting Thanksgiving this year, you can try any of the recipes below to add a new kick to your feast. If you’re attending someone else’s dinner, hopefully their turkey will taste as good as one of these!

Just the name of this recipe makes my mouth water. An user contributes this Greek take on turkey, which combines ground beef and pork with tangerine juice, rice and other ingredients for an in-bird stuffing. This one requires no pre-made brine.

Emeril Lagasse’s recipe for a Cajun-spiced turkey is not for those looking for a simple roast bird this Thanksgiving. It calls for the equipment and safety precautions necessary to deep-fry a good-sized bird, but for those looking for a little extra flavor and adventure this year, this may be the perfect alternative to the oven. The results will undoubtedly be delicious, but be sure to heed the safety tips at the bottom of the recipe before attempting. If you want the Cajun flavors without the hassle, risk and calories of deep-frying, try this recipe from Jimmy Bannos.

This recipe calls for the use of a turkey breast roast, but variations can be worked out fairly easily for a smaller whole bird or even diced meat for a stir-fry or bake. I’ve made chicken dishes with a very similar yogurt marinade to this one and the key is letting the meat soak up the sauce overnight. The flavors are intense and aromatic, and will definitely lend themselves to a unique Thanksgiving meal.

This recipe’s name—and its use of whiskey—intrigued me. A flavorful blend of unconventional ingredients make this dish sound delicious and feasible, and it requires fairly simple preparation. Check out the chef’s note to see how you can use a crock pot for a quicker, easier version of this recipe. Some of the user comments also have great ideas for stuffings that use the same components.

If you’re in the mood for something more traditional this year, try this recipe:

The Food Network’s Alton Brown brings us this fairly simple (for a whole turkey) and by-the-book recipe, which uses a brine peppered with allspice berries and candied ginger. Coronado’s Melissa d’Arabian called it out as her favorite way to make a turkey. It takes about 10 hours of total cooking time, not including defrosting.

TELL US: What is your favorite way to cook a turkey on Thanksgiving? Do you use any special ingredients? Write your comments in the comment section below. 


  • mur_muh

    How to cook the turkey for the Thanks giving?
    I am new to north america and I want to cook a perrrfect,true to style authentic turkey for the coming Thanksgiving.

    All answers thanked before hand…THANKS!!!:)

  • BBQGuide

    Turkey Primer

    How much do I need? When buying turkey allow for 3/4 to 1 pound per serving on birds that weigh less than 14 lbs. and about 3/4 lb. per serving on birds over 14 lbs. We sell fresh turkeys for Thanksgiving and Christmas (No thawing necessary) and the rest of the year we carry top quality fresh frozen birds. We recommend these two methods of thawing turkeys. Refrigerator thawing: Leave the turkey in the original wrap and place on a tray or large shallow pan. Thaw in refrigerator for 2 to 3 days. Once thawed, cook at once or keep refrigerated no more than two days before cooking. Cold water thawing: Leave the turkey in the original wrap or place in a plastic bag. Important note: Do not put an unwrapped turkey in water to thaw, as it will lose its flavor. Place the bird in cold water, never hot or warm, changing the water every couple of hours. Thawing will take from 2 to 8 hours depending on size. Stuffing: There are as many recipes for stuffing as there are people who make it. Pepperidge Farm makes several types of high quality stuffing, or we have an excellent ready to use stuffing that we make. Allow about 4 oz. (3/4 cup, fluffed) of stuffing per pound of turkey. Preparation for cooking: Remove the neck from the body cavity and the giblets from the neck cavity. Note: Sometimes the giblets are jammed far back in the neck cavity, so be sure to get them out. Rinse the bird inside and out with cold water and pat dry. Rub the inside of the cavities with salt, if desired. Loosely fill the neck cavity with stuffing and stitch (using white cotton thread) or skewer the neck skin to the back. Twist the wing tips under the back of the turkey. Next, loosely fill the body cavity with stuffing. Skewer or stitch the skin over this cavity closed. Tightly tie the ends of the legs together and to the base of the tail.

    Roasting the turkey: Preheat the oven to 325o. Place the bird, breast up, on a rack in a shallow roasting pan. Cover the bird loosely with foil, pressing it lightly at drumstick and neck ends leaving an air space between the turkey and foil. Baste with pan drippings occasionally, if desired. Remove foil the last 45 minutes of cooking; cut and carefully remove string from legs and tail. Continue roasting until done. Remove from the oven and let stand for 15 to 20 minutes before carving.

    Turkey Roasting Chart

    Weight Stuffing Wt. Cooking Wt. Cooking Time

    9 lbs. 2.25 lbs. 11.25 lbs. 4.0 hrs. 11 lbs. 2.75 lbs. 13.75 lbs. 4.5 hrs. 13 lbs. 3.25 lbs. 16.25 lbs. 5.0 hrs. 15 lbs. 3.75 lbs. 18.75 lbs. 5.5 hrs. 17 lbs. 4.25 lbs. 21.25 lbs. 6.0 hrs. 19 lbs. 4.75 lbs. 23.75 lbs. 6.5 hrs. 21 lbs. 5.25 lbs. 26.25 lbs. 7.5 hrs. 23 lbs. 5.75 lbs. 28.75 lbs. 8.0 hrs. 25 lbs. 6.25 lbs. 31.25 lbs. 9.0 hrs.

    All weights and times are approximate.

    Carving: Carefully place the turkey on a carving board. Drumsticks should be to carver’s right. Carve the side toward guests first. Note: Using a sharp knife will allow you to do a much better job of carving and will reduce the risk of cutting yourself due to a slip of the blade. Hold the leg with your fingers, pulling it away from the body. Cut the skin between the thigh and body down to the back. Separate the thigh from the body at the joint, using the tip of the knife. Slice thigh meat parallel to the bone. Separate thigh bone from drumstick at the joint. Make a deep horizontal cut into the breast, just above the wing joint. Cut thin even slices down to the horizontal cut. As you get closer to the rib cage, follow the contour of the body as you slice. Cut an opening in the thin meat where the thigh was removed to reach the stuffing. Repeat each step for the other side of the bird, removing the wings last by severing at the back joint. Enjoy!
    BBQGuide notes that a digital meat thermometer to check for doneness is required.
    References :

  • scrappykins

    Maple Roast Turkey and Gravy

    2 cups apple cider
    1/3 cup real maple syrup
    2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
    2 tablespoons chopped fresh marjoram
    2 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
    3/4 cup butter
    salt and ground black pepper to taste
    14 pounds whole turkey, neck and giblets reserved
    2 cups chopped onion
    1 cup chopped celery
    1 cup coarsely chopped carrots
    2 cups chicken stock
    3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
    1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
    1 bay leaf
    2 tablespoons apple brandy (optional)


    Boil apple cider and maple syrup in a heavy saucepan over medium-high heat until reduced to 1/2 cup (about 20 minutes). Remove from heat and mix in 1/2 of the thyme and marjoram and all of the lemon zest. Add the butter, and whisk until melted. Add salt and ground pepper to taste. Cover and refrigerate until cold (syrup can be made up to 2 days ahead).
    Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Place oven rack in the lowest third of oven.
    Wash and dry turkey, and place in a large roasting pan. Slide hand under skin of the breast to loosen. Rub 1/2 cup of the maple butter mix under the breast skin. If planning on stuffing turkey, do so now. Rub 1/4 cup of the maple butter mixture over the outside of the turkey. With kitchen string, tie legs of turkey together loosely.
    Arrange the chopped onion, chopped celery, and chopped carrot around the turkey in the roasting pan. If desired, the neck and giblets may be added to the vegetables. Sprinkle the remaining thyme and marjoram over the vegetables, and pour the chicken stock into the pan.
    Roast turkey 30 minutes in the preheated oven. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C), and cover turkey loosely with foil. Continue to roast, about 3 to 4 hours unstuffed or 4 to 5 hours stuffed, until the internal temperature of the thigh reaches 180 degrees F (80 degrees C) and stuffing reaches 165 degrees F (75 degrees C). Transfer turkey to a platter, and cover with foil. Reserve pan mixture for gravy. Allow turkey to sit about 25 minutes before removing stuffing and carving.
    To Make Gravy: Strain pan juices into a measuring cup. Spoon fat from juices. Add enough chicken stock to make 3 cups. Transfer liquid to a heavy saucepan and bring to a boil. In a small bowl, mix reserved maple butter mixture with flour to form a paste, and whisk into the broth. Stir in thyme, bay leaf, and apple brandy. Boil until reduced and slightly thickened. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
    References :

  • Antoinette O

    For a juicy turkey you can brine it the night before. Anyway that you decide to cook it your turkey will be moist. Here is a recipe for brine two quarts of vegetable stock/broth, cup of salt, half a cup of sugar. Put the vegetable stock in a pan on the stove heat it up put the salt and sugar in to dissolve. Let it cool. Large bucket or pan that has enough room to complete cover the bird. Pour the stock in add cold water put the bird in and ice on top and make sure the bird is covered with the liquid. Store in a cold dark place like garage leave over night. In the morning drain the bird and cook it.
    References :

  • askthechef

    Welcome to North America : If you want to get the Turkey on Turkey I sugges you go to the Natianal Turkey Fedration. They have everything that you need to know about them on food safety, handling, preparation and recipes.
    References :

  • Belle

    Depending on the size of the turkey, it needs to thaw out in the REFRIDGERATOR for a few days ahead of time. Cooking times will also depend on how many pound the bird is. The bigger the bird in pounds, the longer it’ll take to cook. You’ll want to cook the bird in a roasting pan, not one of those roasting bags. The best time to start cooking the turkey is around 6 am. This will ensure that the turkey is fully cooked by 1 or 2 pm. The oven should be about 350 degrees. Rub butter or margarine lightly on the bottom of the pan. Make a foil strip about 2-3 inches wide & lay it on the pan, leaving about 4 inches on each side. Season your bird on the top with garlic powder, black pepper, seasoned salt. Dressing, aka stuffing, goes inside the bird to cook while the turkey’s in the oven. You can cheat & buy Mrs. Cubbinson’s or Stove Top, or make your own. If you make your own, you can use day old bread, chopped celery, chopped onion & sage seasoning. Some people make it with cornbread & the same ingredients. If you’re using Stove Top, it doesn’t need to cook inside the turkey. Place the stuffing/dressing inside the bird & use cooking twine to lace its legs together to hold the stuffing/dressing inside during cooking. Place bird over foil strip, cover with lid & place into preheated oven. Use a meat thermometer to check the temperature of the turkey. When done, it’ll be nicely golden brown on the outside. During baking, use a baster to drizzle the grease over the turkey for added flavor & seasoning. Don’t discard the drippings after removing the turkey from the pan. Use it to make gravy. The foil strip is used to remove the turkey from the pan. Be careful!! This foil strip will be hot!! Use potholders to lift turkey onto an extra large platter. To carve turkey, use an electric carving knife. Cut off legs first, then set aside. Continue carving with front to back gentle movements.

    I made my first turkey the above way Thanksgiving of 2005. My grandmother was leery as she or my mother have always made the turkey. It came out just like theirs & both were available for questions & guidance. We’ve never had a dry turkey either & mine was juicy & delicious like theirs has been in the past.
    References :
    Personal experience, watching & helping make the Thanksgiving turkeys ever since age 5 (current age 33).

  • yellow_jellybeans_rock

    When you get the turkey home, rinse it out and make sure you take the little packets of kidneys, giblets and the neck out of the cavities. If you buy a frozen one, it will need to defrost in your refrigerator for a week. If you buy a fresh one, it’s ready to use as soon as you get home.

    Mix together 2 cups of salt, 1 cup of sugar and 4 cups of water. Boil so that the salt and sugar dissolve. Then let it cool.

    Put your turkey in a very large, deep pot and pour the brine mix over it. Add more water until it’s totally covering the bird. Then cover and refrigerate (or if you’re way up north and there’s snow outside, put the bird outside) and let it soak overnight.

    In the morning, remove the turkey from its bath and put in a heavy, deep roasting pan that’s much larger than the bird. You can make a stuffing/dressing to go with it and either put it in the larger cavity of the bird, or just put it in a baking pan and cook it the last hour with the bird. (There are THOUSANDS of good recipes out there, from cornbread to oysters, savory/sage to chestnut…they’re ALL good!)

    Cut some large pieces of celery, carrots, a couple of potatoes and a large onion, and slice one lemon into quarters. If you don’t stuff the bird, put these inside the bird to flavor it. Otherwise, put them around the bird to flavor the juices that drip out. Add 2 cups of water to the bottom of the pan. Cover and slide into the oven, preheated to 350 degrees.

    Roasting will take about 15 minutes per pound if the turkey is not stuffed. Stuffed turkeys require an additional 1/2 to 1 hour cooking time.

    8-12 pounds……2 3/4 – 3 hours
    12-14 pounds….3 – 3 3/4 hours
    14-18 pounds….3 3/4 – 4 1/4 hours
    18-20 pounds….4 1/4 – 4 1/2 hours
    20-24 pounds….4 1/2 – 5 hours

    When it’s done, let the turkey sit in the pan about 15 mins to rest. Then transfer to a serving tray. Surround with the roasted vegetables, if you’d like. Otherwise just toss them.

    Strain everything from the pan juices and stir in a mix of 2 tablespoons cornstarch and 1/2 cup of milk that you’ve shaken til there are no lumps. Put the pan over medium heat and stir the milk/cornstarch into the pan juices, season with some salt and pepper; stir until thickened and smooth. This is the gravy for your dinner.

    You can add side dishes like mashed potatoes, mashed sweet potatoes or a sweet potatoe casserole, green beans or asparagus, a nice salad with cranberries and chopped apples that’s dressed with Raspberry Vinaigrette, and a cooked cranberry sauce. The traditional desserts are apple and pumpkin pies with either vanilla ice cream or whipped cream on top.

    Hope you have fun and enjoy it. Good luck!
    References :

  • heatherraemccoy

    I’ve got an easy method for cooking a turkey and it ends up looking really elegant.
    I start off using a big bag to cook the turkey in and then towards the end I tak the bag off so the turkey gets nice and brown. Be sure your turkey is completely thawed and dry it well with paper towels. I use my fist to seperate the skin from the breast, rub oil and salt and pepper in there and arrange fresh sage and bay leaves under the skin- just remind your guests not to eat the bay. Then I stuff lemons, onions, garlic, etc (anything fragrant) into the cavity, put the turkey into a bag put it in your roasting pan and place that into a 300 degree oven. Keep tabs on the internal temperature and when it reaches 170 degrees remove the bag and baste the turkey with butter until the internal temp reaches 185, and you have a nice golden brown skin. You should be able to see the sage and bay leaves through the skin which will look really special when you bring it to the table. Good luck!
    References :

  • Swirly

    It may not be authentic, but it’s the easiest since there’s some many other dishes to prepare for dinner…I use a oven roaster bag, it takes less time to cook and has jucier meat…..we have 3 different types of stuffing made by different guests, (milk cracker, sausage and stove top stuffing) so the turkey doesn’t get stuffed at all….For the most part, I follow the directions that come with the bag for a 22 lb. bird using more spices though.(poultry seasoning, pepper, garic powder)
    Gravy—that’s a different story, homemade never comes out right, so i buy it pre-made.

    Thanksgiving Turkey
    1 Reynolds Oven Bag, Turkey Size
    1 tablespoon flour
    2 stalks celery, sliced
    1 medium onion, sliced
    12 to 24 pound turkey, thawed
    Vegetable oil
    PREHEAT oven to 350°F.
    SHAKE flour in Reynolds Oven Bag; place in roasting pan at least 2 inches deep. Spray inside of bag with nonstick spray to reduce sticking, if desired.
    ADD vegetables to oven bag. Remove neck and giblets from turkey. Rinse turkey; pat dry. Lightly stuff with your favorite stuffing recipe, if desired. Brush turkey with oil. Place turkey in bag on top of vegetables.
    CLOSE oven bag with nylon tie; cut six 1/2–inch slits in top. Insert meat thermometer through bag into thickest part of inner thigh, not touching bone. Tuck ends of bag in pan.
    BAKE until meat thermometer reads 180°F, 2 to 2 1/2 hours for a 12 to 16 lb. turkey, 2 1/2 to 3 hours for a 16 to 20 lb. turkey, and 3 to 3 1/2 hours for a 20 to 24 lb. turkey. Add 1/2 hour for stuffed turkey. For easy slicing, let stand in oven bag 15 minutes. If turkey sticks to bag, gently loosen bag from turkey before opening oven bag.
    References :

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