It wouldn't really be a true Thanksgiving without turkey. Unfortunately, it’s often cooked poorly and is not that delicious, but if there isn’t a bird on the table there will be mutiny. So if you’re looking for something new to do to the bird, or for a fool-proof classic recipe, we've got you covered. Some add flavor, some cut down the oven time, and some are just fun to try. Just keep it classic for the first year with the in-laws. Then you can fly free.
This is the bird that is perfect to present to your table of guests. It looks great, you get to admire it through the oven glass, and no one will be disappointed. Total crowd-pleaser.
No, not the turkey disaster of ’98, this one is supposed to taste smoky. A great way to get some flavor into the bird and free up oven space, but it’s a strong statement to your guests. Also requires an outdoor grill.
Why cook a turkey one way when you can do two? A gourmet’s alternative to a plain old roasted bird: brined, roasted breast and the legs cooked confit-style. Guaranteed to impress those in-laws.
Brining a turkey yields consistently juicy, perfectly seasoned results, but the method can seem like an ordeal, hoisting the turkey into a chest cooler to cure out in the garage. Our recipe suggests using your refrigerator’s crisper drawer which makes brining virtually hassle-free.
Bacon has jumped the shark in the food-verse, but probably not in your parents' house. So why not—on a day dedicated to eating allofthethings—just go for it.
Succulent and juicy, with a perfect crispy skin, this one is worth the trouble. It’s fun, it gets everyone outside (and out of the way!) for a bit, and it’s drop-dead easy.
You know who you are, craft queens and cooking chemistry dynamos. This one’s for you. If you think you might end up with a #nailedit joke, have a backup plan. But if you do pull it off? Heroic and delicious.
8. TURKEY CAKE
I am obligated by my editors to include this one, but please, do not make this. Some creations cannot be unwrought. Have mercy.
9. SPATCHCOCKED TURKEY
For the is-it-done-yet crowd, this is the fastest way to cook your bird in the oven. And the breast stays unfathomably moist while the legs cook through. Pro tip: Get thee some kitchen shears.
Photo/Recipe: Bon Appétit
10. BRAISED TURKEY
Cook your bird low and slow in flavorful stock for a slammin’, nontraditional, but juicy set-it-and-forget-it (at least until after football) approach.
Photo/Recipe: Food Network
11. CONFIT TURKEY
Another long cooking time with miraculous results: Cook your turkey parts overnight in duck fat. Because why not? It's Thanksgiving after all.
Photo/Recipe: Amateur Gourmet
No matter which you choose, the leftovers will be the best part. Happy Thanksgiving.
Photos by Chris Rochelle for CHOW.com unless otherwise noted.
Vanessa W. Simmons is a former cook living in San Francisco, helping to run a food business. She's probably hungry, but if not she could eat.