With Thanksgiving just around the corner, you might already be in host mode and planning the dishes that will crowd your holiday table. Maybe you live in a city apartment and don’t have an oven. Or you have too many dishes that require oven usage, and you can’t have a 20-pound bird hogging space for hours. Or, perhaps you just want to forge a different path and forego having to douse your bone-dry oven-baked turkey breast with gravy this year. If you can’t or don’t want to use an oven for your bird this year, there are many cooking alternatives that can produce delicious results. Tie on your apron – here are some methods to cook a turkey that will make you thankful you tried them.
Barbeque that bird
If you’re looking for a turkey cooking method that produces very similar results to that of an oven but with more crisp, try barbecuing the turkey on an outdoor grill using a roasting pan or a rotisserie. Either a charcoal or gas grill should work just fine, but keep in mind that the lid must be high enough to offer clearance. If you’re going with the rotisserie option, make sure your turkey is on the smaller side, preferably less than 12 pounds. For best results, take care to completely defrost the turkey before placing it in a barbecue. Also, avoid filling the turkey with stuffing, as this may hinder your ability to cook the bird evenly throughout (and could get messy). You may have to brave the chilly winter weather to make this cooking method a go, but what’s a little chill when we’re talking turkey?
It’s all about the slow cook
Yes, that slow cooker you use so much for stews and chilis can make a mean Thanksgiving turkey. If you have a small enough turkey and a very large slow cooker, you can use this appliance to cook a whole bird, but in many cases, you’ll need to chop it like you would a chicken. Most people have experienced dry, bland turkey at some point in their lives, but rest assured that slow-cooked turkey is incredibly moist and juicy. Don’t expect to get the nicely browned, crispy skin that you might get from other methods, but if maximum juiciness and fall-off-the-bone meat is what you’re after, give slow cooking a try. You can even make the stuffing in the slow cooker as well to let the appliance do double duty. Prepare the slow cooker and just let it simmer away – you’ll have tasty turkey and stuffing in less than five hours
Deep-fry it (just don’t catch your house on fire)
This option is definitely not for the faint of heart, and it requires following many safety precautions. But if you’re confident in your deep-frying abilities, this method can produce a Thanksgiving turkey that’s as juicy as it is crispy. Before the holiday, make sure you have the necessary equipment, be it a stockpot, electric fryer, or a pot and propane. Whatever method you use, make sure you set up the equipment on a flat surface away from the house and car, and not on a wooden deck or in the garage. Also, be sure to completely and thoroughly defrost and dry off the turkey before cooking it to ensure the oil doesn’t boil over or burn you. Safety is of the utmost importance with this cooking method. If you’re looking for a sweet-and-spicy deep-fried turkey, try out this recipe, which takes about an hour.
Sous Vide that sucker
Want to produce Thanksgiving turkey that’s restaurant-quality in its texture and taste? Try a sous vide cooking method that uses a precisely controlled temperature to get amazing results. Best of all, it takes all the guesswork out of traditional Thanksgiving turkey cooking methods. No more poking around with a meat thermometer and peeking under the foil tent. Sous vide cooking may seem daunting if you have little experience with it, but the approach is actually more hands-off than other methods, thus freeing you up to make your famous green bean casserole or Mom’s delicious mac and cheese in the oven. The entire process of making the turkey is 24 hours, starting the night before Thanksgiving, but the vast majority of that time is just letting the sous vide machine do the work for you. Need a machine that gets the job done perfectly? These are the best sous vide machines on the market to try out the craft.
Stovetop turkey, anyone?
If you’re working with just turkey breasts or thighs, try sautéing on the stovetop. You’ll get juicy results, without the overwhelming mass of a whole turkey to deal with. This is also a great option if you’re hosting a small group for Thanksgiving night. Simply cook the meat with fragrant herbs and aromatic veggies, and use a meat thermometer to monitor the cooking process. Try to get your cuts of meat ahead of Thanksgiving week, as the frozen meat section can get sparse as the holiday gets closer. If you’re looking for a smaller, but still delicious, centerpiece for your Thanksgiving table, this method is one to consider. It’s also quicker than most of the other options on this list, as you’ll have ready-to-eat turkey in under two hours. Keep in mind that you’ll have to add on time to cut up the bird unless you buy pre-chopped turkey pieces.
Smoke it up
For a unique smoky flavor, try using a smoker sprinkled with hickory, apple, or pecan wood chips. Make sure the wood chips are soaked in cold water for at least four hours and up to two days before you use them. This method does require more monitoring than some of the other options on this list, as the turkey needs to be basted every 45 minutes, but the results are well worth the effort. The whole process takes around four to five hours, depending on the size of the bird. Try this recipe for delicious smoked turkey.
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