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Adrienne Wolter shares local restaurant reviews, day trips and cooking adventures

7 Ways to Prepare a Turkey Day Showstopper

Written by Adrienne Wolter, Community Blogger | Nov 24, 2014 9:13 AM

This time of year, we are serious about our turkeys. In fact, Americans are going to eat about 46 million turkeys this Thanksgiving, and we eat about 20 percent of all of the turkeys sold on Thanksgiving Day.

When most people say they want to “talk turkey” they mean they want to get down to business and have a frank, open conversation with you. When I say that I want to talk turkey with you, I mean I want to literally talk about turkey. 

Since Thanksgiving is just a few days away, now is the time to decide which method you will choose to cook the bird that will be the centerpiece of your Thanksgiving table.  Here are seven ways to prepare a turkey that will have your guests asking for seconds and thirds. And don’t forget to check out the 7 mouthwatering side dishes I wrote about last week.


Photo by Rob Marquardt

The Traditional Roast

If you want a Norman Rockwell scene at your dinner table, there is no better approach than roasting your turkey. This method requires only a roasting pan (lately I’ve been using the disposable pans at the grocery store for easy clean up) and ingredients that you keep in the pantry.

This recipe gives step-by-step instructions, but be sure to adjust the cooking time based on how big your bird is, and pair it with giblet gravy for extra flavor.


Photo by Adam Gessaman

Deep Fried

Outdoor deep fryers have appeared on the Christmas lists of a few of the men in family as deep frying has become more popular in recent years. Fans of deep frying swear the skin is crispier and the meat is juicier, just be sure to take all of the necessary safety precautions that come with 3 gallons of hot oil, like never placing a frozen bird into the hot oil. For you visual learners, here’s a demonstration as to why.

Deep frying is best for birds no more than 13-15 or so pounds, so that they cook evenly and fit nicely into the deep fryer. This recipe for a Rosemary deep fried turkey  is a crowd pleaser.

Turkey Breasts

If you are on a strict diet for health reasons, the dark meat and crispy skin of a whole bird might be a no-no. Or maybe you are cooking for two or three people this year, and a whole bird would be too much meal for your intimate gathering. 

Turkey breasts are a tasty alternative to cooking a whole bird, and can be ready in a fraction of the time. This recipe includes potatoes and green beans for a complete feast in one place. This is also a great recipe if you are having a smaller get-together with another side of the family on a day other than Thanksgiving Thursday.  It will taste like the holiday without all the extra preparation time.

And if you weren’t convinced turkey breasts are worth including in your holiday, keep this recipe on hand for Friday or Saturday, when you still have side dish leftovers but no more bird.  This recipe can make those leftovers last a few days longer, and will be the perfect finishing touch to the Thanksgiving season.

Grilled Turkey

If backyard barbeques are your favorite meal and you love the taste of charcoal-grilled meat, this grilled turkey recipe is for you. Since the recipe calls for apples and oranges, be sure to serve with the citrus cranberry sauce I wrote about last week!


Photo by Mike Willis

Smoked Turkey

If that classic roast turkey is becoming a bore, guests will be wowed by the flavors of a smoked turkey.  Because it is slow cooked over many hours over hickory or mesquite wood chips, the meat retains a rich, moist flavor. 

But if your family swears by cooking stuffing in the bird, this method will be a no-no. The inside doesn’t get hot enough to safely cook the stuffing.

Cider Brined Turkey

If you’ve ever cooked a turkey and been disappointed by its dryness, try brining your bird this year.  Brine is usually a mix of salt and water, but this recipe spikes the brine with apple cider, herbs and other delicious flavors.  Brining will guarantee a juicy bird, meaning your leftovers won’t be dry and overly chewy. And the leftovers are the best part, right? Given the cider brine, serve this turkey with a seasonal cider cocktail.

If you want to try a locally created brine, the chefs at Smoke on Linglestown Road in Harrisburg published their sweet tea turkey brine recipe. Serve it with the sweet potato and pecan casserole I posted last week for a southern feel to your holiday.


Photo by Chef John

The Boneless Bird

Carving up the turkey at the dinner table is hard. There's a lot of pressure to do it right - to look good in front of your in-laws, to prove to mom that you're really nailing this cooking thing. What if you could take away the pressure of having to carve the meat off the bone, while also having something fancy and worth feasting upon?

Chef John from Food Wishes posted the answer on his YouTube channel just two days ago. By cutting the turkey off the bones before you cook, you are making things way easier on yourself when it comes to presenting the finished dish to your relatives. And the result is a pretty sweet turkey roll filled with your favorite stuffing. Impressive!

So these are seven ways to prepare a turkey that will have all of your guests talking. How do you like to prepare your bird on Thanksgiving? Please share recipes and tips in the comment section below!

Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family and friends!

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