5 Alternative Ways To Cook A Thanksgiving Turkey
Fires need stoking, potatoes need mashing, pies need baking, football needs watching, and turkey needs… well, what does a turkey need? Roasting? Grilling? Smoking? Spatchcocking? Deep-frying?
The truth is, there are too many ways to cook a turkey, and they all sound delicious… except for maybe boiling. We’ll skip that one.
If you’re in the mood to try something new this year, why not break out the deep fryer and have your turkey crispy? Or, if you’re looking for that elusive uniform doneness, try the sous-vide method. Even if you’re set on going with a traditional roasted bird, you should at least take a gander at these novel alternative methods for cooking a turkey.
Deep-fried turkey is a Southern tradition, and many foodies cling to it as the most delicious (and most deliciously unhealthy) way to prepare a turkey. Aside from the oily, greasy, artery-clogging goodness, it’s also extremely quick.
You’ll want to use an outdoor cooker of some sort, perhaps a propane burner. (Seriously, don’t deep-fry a turkey indoors.) Alton Brown of the Food Network recommends soaking it in a brine of kosher salt and brown sugar for 8 to 16 hours. As for the deep fry, most recipes call for peanut oil, but vegetable oil will also work. Just don’t burn yourself.
When you’re ready to actually fry that sucker, you’ll be pleased to know that the actual cooking time is less than an hour; this means you’ll be able to devote more time to football and boozing.
- Propped on a beer can
You sort of have to see this one to believe it. It involves steam-infusing your bird with beer (and, optionally, herbs) by shoving a partially full 24 or 32-ounce can into the cavity and using it as a stand. It’s brilliant, obviously, and any way to combine beer and food is a worthy endeavor in our book.
The turkey is cooked on a large grill using indirect heat, with the beer-can stand ensuring mostly uniform cooking. The evaporating beer keeps the interior moist, and the herbs add flavor. In a sense, this method is like the perfect combination of grilling and smoking: You’re using an indirect heat source, but at much higher temperatures than a smoker (usually around 350ºF).
And did we mention it’s infused with beer? Just make sure you choose a decent beer—nothing too expensive, just not something like this.
- Stuffed with other birds
The infamous, all-powerful turducken is a turkey… stuffed with a duck… stuffed with a chicken. That simple three-punch avian combo is enough to capture the imagination of anyone who has ever enjoyed eating a bird.
There are a million-and-a-half recipes, and a million-and-one ways to screw up this delicate culinary concoction. We recommend keeping it simple, especially if it’s your first time making a turducken. But whatever your method, be patient—these take a while to cook.
- Immersed in a Water Bath
We’ve reported extensively on the subject of sous vide cooking, and if you know how this method works you probably understand why. While expensive and time-consuming, sous vide (French for “under vacuum”) ensures uniform cooking that’s impossible to achieve with a grill, stovetop, smoker, or conventional oven. Because foods are vacuum-sealed, it also maintains flavors usually lost through smoke or runoff juices.
However, you’ll need to invest in a vacuum sealer and high-precision, low-temperature sous-vide device (which heats a water bath to roughly 130-140ºF) to make sous vide a Turkey Day reality.
The low temperature also means the bird will take some time to finish. But hey: it’s Thanksgiving! If you’ve planned well, you should have all day.
This may not be a substitute for a Thanksgiving turkey, but it’s certainly a low-fat, long-lasting alternative to fresh-cooked turkey in general. It’s really not too difficult to make, unless you go wild with spices, but a simple salt-and-pepper shower will do. Your jerky will last a long time and can be a healthy snack many weeks after Thanksgiving.