One key to happiness in the kitchen is to let go of ideas of how things absolutely should be. The image of a large roasted turkey in a roasting pan heaved from oven to cutting board looms large in the collective imagination of Thanksgiving, but it is not the only way. Not only are there more ways to cook a bird, there can be benefits to departing from the traditional. Whether that’s cutting the turkey into smaller parts so that there’s more space in the oven, opting for the decadence of the deep fryer, or making turkey on the stovetop, you can find a way outside the norm that’s perfect for your Thanksgiving holiday.
Consider these 7 methods for cooking your thanksgiving turkey that go beyond the roasting pan:
- Braise turkey until ultra-tender: If you’re a fan of dark meat that’s extra moist and juicy, then the braise could be a good option for you. Braising is great for the busy cook, since the low-and-slow method is very forgiving. It’s much harder to overcook the turkey when braising. Plus, braised turkey makes for an easy sauce. Try Serious Eats’ Red Wine-Braised Turkey Legs for a large group, or The Kitchn’s Dutch Oven Braised Turkey recipe, which provides plenty of vegetables for serving alongside the meat.
- Make use of the stovetop: If you’re in a kitchen that only has a stovetop, that doesn’t mean you can’t make turkey for the big day. Braising legs is an excellent option, infusing the meat with rich flavor and turning the meat wonderfully tender. Use a braised turkey leg recipe (like the ones above), and rather than transfer it to the oven, continue to simmer on the stovetop. That is a welcome change after the dry meat of Thanksgivings past. Or, try Bon Appetit’s stuffing-fried turkey, which transforms the turkey breast into tenders, which are then breaded and fried like chicken.
- Attempt the deep-fry (safely): If you’re looking for the crispiest bird that will have people exclaiming it’s the best Thanksgiving turkey they’ve ever eaten, then look no further than the deep fry. For the experienced fryer, try The New York Times’ recipe for deep-fried turkey. Or, if you prefer a step-by-step guide that leaves no questions unanswered, look to Real Simple’s comprehensive “So, You Want To Make Fried Turkey? Here’s What You Need To Know.”
- Spatchcock it: Cutting out the backbone and flattening the turkey, aka spatchcocking or butterflying, allows you to cook the bird both more quickly and more evenly. Even better: A spatchcocked turkey has a lower profile than the standard roast, which means you can fit more into the oven. Try Serious Eats’ recipe for Crisp-Skinned Spatchcocked (Butterflied) Roast Turkey With Gravy. Or, if you want to outsource the turkey to the grill, The Kitchn’s got you covered.
- Showcase the tenderloin: This lean piece of meat is surprisingly tender and ideal for a group of 4 to 6. Made from the turkey breast, turkey tenderloin is quick to roast, but when sliced and arranged on a platter is just as pretty as a roast bird. Delish’s recipe for turkey tenderloin will impress guests while reducing the burden on the cook.
- Or focus on just the turkey breast: When you focus on the breast, you can avoid its tendency to become dry on the whole bird. A single breast is ideal for a two-person Thanksgiving (as in The Kitchn’s Sheet Pan Roasted Garlic Turkey Breast). For a beginner’s Thanksgiving turkey, The New York Times’ Salt-and-Pepper Roast Turkey Breast is roasted in ample butter so it’s tender and impressive, without much work. Or, if you’d prefer to roll the turkey breast into a pretty, spiral roulade, try Delish’s recipe for Garlic & Herb Turkey Roulade.
- Fold turkey into a side dish: If you don’t care whether turkey is the main event, but want to have something turkey on the table, consider something carb-y and baked, like Delish’s Turkey à la King or The New York Times’s Turkey Pot Pie.
Don’t forget. It’s still Thanksgiving whether you serve turkey or not. Some people are perfectly happy forgetting the centerpiece entirely, filling their plate with stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, and cranberry sauce. The key is to choose dishes you will enjoy making and eating.