Thanksgiving Turkey: Here are our 12 Top Recipes of All Time

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We’re approaching Thanksgiving, which means it’s time to talk to a serious turkey. If you’re looking to serve a fresh, never-frozen turkey, there’s still time to order one. And if you’re not sure about some of the basics, we have a guide that explains exactly how much to buy, how long it takes to thaw, and answers to other burning questions (e.g. Yes, really Well worth the effort).

Which recipe to use for a roast turkey there are so many options. Over the years we’ve tried

almost any method of making Thanksgiving turkey. We made the classic oven roast, which gives a crispy brown skin. We’ve put butterflies on the parts of the bird and cooked turkey, both of which cut the cooking time significantly. We even tried a tricky, complicated recipe from one of the best chefs in the country. Some turkey recipes worked better than others, and these 12 stand out as our favorites.

Simple classic turkey roast

Simple classic turkey roast.Mike Davis, The Oregonian / OregonLive

Are you a Thanksgiving traditionalist? You can’t go wrong with this brilliant roast turkey from Portland cookbook author Diane Morgan’s “The Thanksgiving Table.” It’s simple enough to prepare for beginners, but it results in a cooked turkey with a mind-boggling taste (and moist breast meat). Morgan serves it with an equally easy-to-make sauce.

Recipe: Simple classic turkey roast; Simple classic sauce.

Roast turkey for gourmets

Gourmet's roast turkey with cider and sage sauce

Gourmet’s roast turkey with cider and sage sauce.Mike Davis, The Oregonian / OregonLive

When the venerable cooking magazine Gourmet closed its doors almost a decade ago, we got nostalgic about all of the great recipes we’d found on its pages over the decades, including some tried-and-true Thanksgiving dishes like roast turkey with cider and sage gravy. The recipe calls for a braised or kosher turkey, which makes for juicy meat. For the sauce, we recommend one of the delicious hard ciders from one of the artisanal cider houses in Oregon.

Recipe: Roast turkey with cider and sage sauce.

Easiest roast turkey

Gourmet's easiest roast turkey

Gourmet’s easiest roast turkey.Mike Davis, The Oregonian / OregonLive

Here’s another winner from the Gourmet website, and it couldn’t be easier. Only 4 ingredients: a whole turkey, butter, salt and pepper. The secret is the high heat roasting method that locks in juices and gets the bird ready in no more than 2 1/2 hours. This method will not work on turkeys larger than 16 pounds (the meat will dry out in larger birds). But if you’re feeding a smaller crowd, this approach is hard to beat for simplicity.

Recipe: Easiest roast turkey.

Grilled turkey

Grilled turkey

Grilled turkey.Motoya Nakamura, The Oregonian / OregonLive

Ivy Manning came up with this great way to cook turkey over a gas or charcoal grill. Not only does it free up your oven to prepare other Thanksgiving dishes, it also gives you a deliciously smoked-flavored bird. If you’re using a gas grill, Manning’s tip is to have an extra can of fuel ready – just in case you run out on vacation after the store closes.

Recipe: Grilled turkey.

The butterfly bird

Simple butterfly turkey

Simple butterfly turkey.Mike Davis, The Oregonian / OregonLive

Would you like to cook a whole turkey in a fraction of the time it normally takes? Try a butterfly bird (aka “spatchcocked”). Chefs swear by this method because the turkey cooks more evenly. Before roasting, use kitchen scissors to remove the spine, then split the turkey along the sternum. You won’t get this turkey put on Pinterest, but you will be pleased with how good it tastes.

Recipe: Simple butterfly turkey.

Fried turkey parts

Fried turkey pieces with sauce

Fried turkey pieces with sauce.Ross William Hamilton, The Oregonian, OregonLive

This quick turkey recipe comes from Cook’s Illustrated and the folks at America’s Test Kitchen. It might not give you the perfect roast turkey, but we’re not trying to be Noman Rockwell. The nice thing is that after cooking, you can take the breast out of the oven and let the thighs and drumsticks keep cooking longer.

Recipe: Fried turkey pieces with sauce.

The low-and-slow approach

Turkey breast en coccote with gravy

Turkey Breast en Coccote With Pan Gravy, from “The Make Ahead Cook” by the editorial staff of America’s Test Kitchen.LC-

The recipe developers at America’s Test Kitchen turned to a French technique called “En Cocotte”, in which the bird is cooked with flavorings over very low heat without adding any liquid in a Dutch oven with a tight-fitting lid. This intercepts the steam released by the meat as it cooks and essentially braises it in its own juice. It’s a good approach if your Thanksgiving dinner is for four – you still have leftover leftovers for the next day’s sandwiches.

Recipe: Turkey breast en cocotte with gravy.

Turkey for only two

Italian-style fried turkey breast

Italian-style fried turkey breast.Matthew Mead, The Associated Press

Here’s another recipe that’s perfect if you’re not serving a large crowd. Sara Moulton toast a turkey breast with a mixture of zucchini and ricotta under the skin that keeps the meat moist and gives it flavor. Since the turkey has Italian flavors, leftovers are perfect for Black Friday casseroles.

Recipe: Italian-style fried turkey breast.

Turkey with a touch of barbecue

Barbecue-flavored turkey

Barbecue-flavored turkey.Matthew Mead, The Associated Press

What would happen if you carried the flavors of the summer barbecue to the Thanksgiving table? That’s exactly what we want with this recipe, which features cumin, chili powder, garlic, onion, thyme, and smoked paprika.

Recipe: Barbecue seasoned turkey.

The dry-salted bird

Dry cured turkey and pan sauce

Salted dry turkey and gravy.Gregor Torrence, Special on The Oregonian / OregonLive

We’re fans of salted turkeys – they really make a moister, tastier bird. But some people are put off by the mess. This recipe from Ivy Manning cleans things up with a dry brine of flavored sea salt that is generously rubbed all over the turkey inside and out the night before Thanksgiving. No messy salt bags or liquid to pour down the drain.

Recipe: Salted dry turkey and gravy.

A touch of sweetness

Roast turkey with maple glaze, apples, and ginger butter

Roast turkey with maple glaze, apples and ginger butter.Matthew Mead, The Associated Press

Maple syrup is a flavor associated with many Thanksgiving side dishes and desserts. But it gives this roast turkey a touch of sweetness that is accentuated with the apple and ginger sauce.

Recipe: Roast turkey with maple glaze, apples and ginger butter.

The CRAZY recipe

Bryan Voltaggio's Thanksgiving Turkey

Bryan Voltaggio’s Thanksgiving Turkey.Ed Anderson, Little, Brown and Company

Bryan Voltaggio is one of America’s finest chefs and has cooked many turkeys over the years. Since different parts of the bird cook differently, it breaks everything apart and cooks things in different ways, braising the thighs and wings, smoking the drumsticks and roasting the breast. Yes, it’s an insane job, even for seasoned chefs. But Voltaggio claims it’s worth it. For an easier way, you can just buy whole turkey breasts and make them with its unique mayonnaise-based marinade, which is thick enough to keep the marinade in place rather than losing the meat.

Recipe: Bryan Voltaggio’s Thanksgiving Turkey.

More Thanksgiving recipes

– Grant Butler

[email protected]

503-221-8566; @grantbutler



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