Ideally, the perfect Thanksgiving turkey is plump, overflowing with moist stuffing and cooked to a lovely shade of caramel brown. Like a scene from a Norman Rockwell painting, it’s placed in all its glory on a platter in front of the person at the head of the table to be ceremoniously sliced and served to the watering mouths of family and friends. But oven-roasted and stuffed isn’t the only way to cook a turkey. If you want to try something a little different this year, give one of these less traditional methods a try.
Braising means to slowly cook meat in some sort of hot liquid. When you braise a turkey, you actually cut it up first, separating the leg quarters, breasts and wings. With this method you won’t have a beautiful whole bird to grace the center of your table, but it will probably be the most moist turkey you’ve ever eaten. If you’re one of those folks who doesn’t care for turkey, because you feel it’s too dry, give braising a try.
Oh, deep-fried turkey! This method comes straight from America’s southern roots. If you can ignore the unhealthy qualities of deep-frying, i.e. oil and grease, you’re in for a most delicious treat.
Deep-frying is fast. You can do a 20 pounder in just about an hour. Traditionally it’s fried in peanut oil in a special propane contraption made just for this task. You have to do this outdoors and be very careful.
Every year at least a few people suffer serious burns from turkey frying gone wrong. The biggest mistake is dropping a frozen turkey into hot oil. DON’T. It causes the oil to explode and scald everything in range. If you plan on deep-frying your turkey, thaw it out completely first.
A grilled turkey will be crispy on the outside and have just the right touch of smoky flavor. If you assign the task to the men of the house, you’ll get them out of your hair while you make the stuffing and mashed potatoes in the kitchen.
Grill the turkey low and slow, so it doesn’t dry out. Since you can’t be sure of the temperature of your grill, you’ll need to use a meat thermometer, so you know when it’s cooked to just the right temperature. You also have to figure out a way to catch the drippings in some sort of pan, if you want to make gravy.
If you really want to impress your dinner guests, you can always smoke your turkey. You’ll have to purchase a special piece of equipment just for this. Most people use water smokers for turkey. You can add flavor to your turkey with the type of wood chips you use, such as hickory or applewood. You might want to brine the turkey first as well. Besides adding flavor, brining creates a more moist bird.
Spactchcocked means you remove the backbone of the turkey and slice it so that it remains whole, but lays flat in the roasting pan. This will give you the best result, closest to the traditional roasting method. However, by flattening the bird out, it actually helps it cook more evenly. You end up with a juicy and perfectly browned bird. You can’t stuff it like this, but you can arrange vegetables in the roasting pan around the bird to impart flavor.