Thanksgiving Turkeys & More
Find the perfect turkey, ham, or pork recipe to anchor your holiday meal.
To prevent a top-heavy turkey breast from tilting onto its side, use kitchen shears to trim the bony lower portion of the rib cage—just enough to level the underside of the breast so it rests securely in the pan or on the grill.
- Recipe: Citrus-Grilled Turkey Breast
Southerners love to fry their food, and there's no stopping us when it comes to our Thanksgiving turkey. Give this fried turkey recipe a try and enjoy the flavors that only deep-frying can create.
- Recipe: Creole Deep-Fried Turkey
This recipe, with its Paprika-Brown Sugar Rub, yields a turkey with dark crusty skin. That’s good—it will remind you of the crispy outside pieces of barbecued meats.
It's worth purchasing a meat thermometer for this recipe. We used an instant-read version, but a standard one would work equally well. Cook the roast to 180° to 185° for incredibly tender but sliceable meat, making a pretty holiday presentation.
Add additional moistness and flavor by replacing the wire roasting rack with a colorful rack of carrots and celery ribs. Tuck in a few sprigs of fresh herbs, some unpeeled whole shallots, and apple slices to enhance the flavor of the chicken.
- Recipe: Garlic-Herb Roasted Chicken
Take a break from the traditional turkey meal and try a relaxed, lively cookout complete with ribs, cheese grits, and butter beans. You’ll enjoy all the warmth and spirit of the holiday as well as food so good you won’t even miss the turkey and dressing.
The cornerstone dish for the holiday meal is turkey, and this recipe is a winner. Its unusual method, which comes to us from reader Elizabeth Heiskell, produces a crisp exterior with incredibly juicy meat.
For a nutty twist on traditional turkey, add toasted hazlenuts or pecans to your dressing. Garnish with fresh collard greens, nuts, kumquats, and pomegranates.
Any brined, smoked supermarket ham will be welcomed on your holiday table in addition to (or in lieu of) the turkey. If you're using a spiral ham, there's no need to score it and stud with cloves. For the Spiced Plum Conserve, experiment with your favorite seasonal fruit, including muscadines.
With a turkey this simple and with so few ingredients, focus on the techniques that matter most. First, pat the turkey very dry, which will help it achieve a crispier skin in the oven. Then season liberally with kosher salt. Season the cavity, gently under the skin, and again on the surface of the skin to enhance the flavor from the skin to the bone.
While cooking a whole bird is traditional, most chefs smartly cook the white and dark meat separately to achieve the best flavor and perfect level of doneness. Brining and smoking the breast and curing and roasting the legs yields the most succulent results.
- Recipe: Herb-Roasted Turkey Legs
Seasoning with a citrus-salt rub and stuffing the cavity with lemons and oranges imparts fresh flavor and citrus fragrance and keeps the turkey extra juicy.
Chris Lilly, one of our favorite pit masters and four-time Memphis in May grand champion, taught SL recipe tester and developer Pam Lolley this cool technique. The key? Mounding herb butter on top of the breast, covering the bird with aluminum foil, and cutting a slit in the foil. The butter will slowly melt and baste the turkey as it cooks and the smoke will permeate the bird through the hole. Find out more techniques in Chris' book, Fire and Smoke.
Recipe: Smoked Self-Basting Turkey
Skip the cumbersome wet brines that call for soaking turkey and making the skin flabby. This classic overnight dry brine—a simple herb, salt, and sugar mixture—gives the turkey deep flavor and a crackly crust. Be adventurous and create your own signature dry brine using our sugar and salt ratios as a guide, or try one of our three variations.
Follow this recipe for two delicious takes on your holiday bird. Start with black pepper bacon or any bacon to flavor the peanut oil. For serious spice hounds, take the Pepper Bacon Fried Turkey a step further and try our Nashville Hot Turkey (pictured)—our ode to the city's incendiary fried chicken.