Jody Horton

We know it’s healthy for us. We know it’s almost mandatory on Thanksgiving. But gosh darn it, turkey just doesn’t inspire us the same way as, oh say, fried chicken or a fresh bunch of collards or pasta. Turkey is also temperamental. If not kept under the correct conditions with proper pampering, it becomes dry and tough, and tastes something more akin to chewing on a Chinet plate. It’s all enough to make us throw our hands up in the air and make a casserole dish full of enchiladas.

But for those of us with family members who would find it sacrilegious to prepare anything other than this most baffling of birds, we've found the most efficient and foolproof way to prepare turkey.

Related: Spectacular Thanksgiving Sides

The first step? Let go of the societal pressure to present a whole bird. Unless you have a mess of relatives that eat nothing but dark meat or a cousin who is especially great at frying a whole one up, cooking an entire turkey ends up being more wasteful. Cooking two turkey breasts will give everyone a fight-free chance at white meat while leaving plenty for leftovers. Plus it will look just as pretty sliced up on a platter. Now how to get the perfectly seasoned and juicy results that remains elusive to all except the few turkey whisperers? Take a look at this recipe and follow our pro tips.

Brine it: While scholars, home cooks, and chefs continue to debate the pros and cons of brining your bird, Southerners always err on the side of moisture. Besides it makes for a foolproof, mess-free way to add seasoning and flavor from within, instead of leaving it on the exterior only to perish in the heat of an oven or grill.

  • Smoke it: While it may seem like a lot of fuss and feathers, smoking a turkey breast doesn’t take that much more work (or equipment) and yields results that will have you exclaiming, “I can’t believe it’s not chicken!” For those of you in the Deep South and Texas, take advantage of our warm weather and smoke your turkey breast outside. If you reside in cooler climates, you can smoke it easily on your stovetop too. For more details on how to do this, watch the video below.

  • Leave it: Make sure to let your turkey breast rest before you slice into it so its juice doesn’t leak out too fast. A typical turkey breast needs to sit for 15 to 20 minutes afterwards underneath an aluminum foil tent.  

  • Garnish it: To make up for the presentation points, you might get a whole bird, and try garnishing your platter and/or charger plate underneath with grapes, pears, apples, magnolia leaves, or citrus like satsumas with the leaves on.