Unique ways to cook a Thanksgiving turkey

Published 12:50 pm Monday, November 22, 2021

Thanksgiving is a beloved holiday. Families may have their own unique Thanksgiving traditions, but one staple of this kickoff to the holiday season is bound to make its way to Thanksgiving dinner tables no matter how unusual families’ holiday celebrations may be: turkey.

Much effort goes into picking and preparing a Thanksgiving turkey. Depending on the size of the bird, turkeys can take many hours to cook. Thanksgiving celebrants are no doubt familiar with oven-roasted turkey, which is the most traditional way to cook turkey. But this year hosts who want to expand their horizons and think beyond the oven can consider two popular alternative methods to cooking a Thanksgiving turkey.

1. Deep frying

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Deep frying is a popular way to prepare foods at outdoor events. For example, stroll through the parking lot on game day and you’re liable to find football fans deep-frying their favorite foods at their tailgate parties. Turkey can be deep-fried and this method makes for an ideal option for hosts who want to enjoy the great outdoors while welcoming friends and loved ones to their homes. Deep frying imparts a juicy flavor that can be hard to replicate when roasting a turkey. Deep frying is a much faster way to cook a turkey than cooking it in the oven. However, deep frying also can be more dangerous, so it’s imperative that cooks remain attentive when setting up the fryer and while the turkey is frying.

Where to deep fry the turkey also bears consideration. The turkey experts at ButterballĀ® recommend deep frying the turkey outside on a flat surface that’s far away from structures, including your home, garage, deck, etc.

The time required to deep fry a turkey will depend on the size of the bird, but experts note that it typically takes about 3 to 3.5 minutes per pound. Electric fryers may take significantly less time and they typically require less oil, so this is another option to consider. Many experts note that it’s best to deep fry turkeys that are 15 lbs. or less, as the turkey will need to be completely submerged in oil when frying. In addition, turkeys larger than 15 lbs. may cook unevenly, which can affect flavor.

2. Smoking

Smoking has grown in popularity in recent years as grills that make this method possible have become more affordable. Smoking is a “low and slow” method of cooking, so this option is ideal for people who intend to be home all day on Thanksgiving and want to infuse their birds with a smoky flavor. However, even busy hosts can still consider smoking, as electric smokers now allow cooks to remotely control the temperatures in their grills. That’s important, as smoking requires cooks to periodically check the temperature on their grills to ensure it has not dropped too low or risen too high.

Smoking a turkey typically requires maintaining a temperature between 225 and 250 F. Cooking times for smoked turkeys are typically around 30 minutes per pound, though it can take longer if the temperature is lower. Because of the extended cooking time, hosts may want to pick a turkey that weighs around 15 lbs., especially if they don’t have much experience smoking.