You’re Rocky running up the steps, but instead of steps, it’s side dishes: You’re in your own Thanksgiving montage. The potatoes. The Brussels sprouts. Who is cooking the pies? You’ll figure out the turkey later… later… whoops! It’s November 23rd. It is indeed time to figure out what to do with that bird, as she is not, we fear, cooking herself.
Be like Rocky: Be prepared. Here are our most popular, beloved turkey preparations, plus a few secret heavy-hitters from the vault.
Our most popular roast turkey tactic, the one garnering 144 comments’ worth of excitement, is to cook your bird slowly, overnight. Think: 170 degrees or so, for the whole night. Hey, if low and slow works for BBQ, you can imagine what it does for a bird. (Spoiler alert: It’s epic.)
Are you the sort of cook who gets into a full-blown tizzy ahead of T Day? Right there with you, friend. There’s something you haven’t thought of, and it’s the make-ahead, carve-ahead turkey. Really! (Ina does it, too, if that makes you feel better.) Just cook ahead, carve that bad boy up, reheat in a bit of chicken stock, covered, and plate it alongside your blissfully hot sides.
3. Sous Vide
See that? That’s how good a sous-vide turkey can look. Because let’s remember, sous vide is one of the best ways to prepare any meat, especially something prone to drying out, as turkey can. You do need to break down the bird in advance, and then it’s a matter of slipping it into bags with the right aromatics, setting it in the sous vide bath, and letting it come to the right temperature. Love crispy skin? Just 25 minutes in the oven will deliver that. You can sous-vide days in advance of the main event.
You drive a Cadillac. You like the Beatles, Tom Petty and Bruce. You’re a classics lover. Here is your no-sweat, no-fuss approach to putting the bird in the oven for the big day. Don’t overthink it. (Hey, that’s one of your mantras, too!)
5. Perfectly Seasoned
For those who like to spend time hemming and hawing about basting versus brining, spice rubs and the like, here’s the place to get a 101 on how exactly you’re going to season your bird.
It’s the big day. You’re ready to rumble. You reach in to the fridge to find… a partly thawed bird. Get your feelings out on Instagram first, sure, but then, let’s cook: This. Is. Salvageable. It may just be as easy as adding a couple of hours to the cook time. Your bird can still end up looking as glorious as this one.
Nestled in a roasting pan over a bed a vegetables, a grill-roasted bird can easily be the way to go, and save you precious oven space. Also, when it emerges from its little bed, it’s a flavor powerhouse with turkey-roasted vegetables that add unbelievable flavor to a country-style gravy. (Think of what wood chips can do!)
Backbone removed and flattened to a manageable, evenly thick layer, a spatchcocked turkey can roast in half the time of a whole roast bird. The butterflied bird is coated with chopped fresh herbs and spices then roasts on a bed of fresh vegetables, resulting in a whole turkey that is evenly cooked and full of flavor.
OK, name us a food that doesn’t taste fantastic fried. (We’ll wait.) Add turkey to the list! You need an indoor fryer. You need a love of moist turkey meat and crisp skin. And it’s less of an investment than you’d think. Have we sold you yet?
To brine or not to brine? That is the question. Dry brines and wet brines each have their virtues, and we break ’em down over here. (TLDR: Dry-brining is a little less mess, and requires less stuff. Wet brining tends to produce a “wetter”-feeling meat… which some folks love. You do you!)
OK, now, start your engines, we mean your ovens, and get on out there and cook! And remember: No T Day is enjoyable if the cook is under the table in tears. So do something nice for yourself before and after the big hosting day.