12 Best Ways to Make Thanksgiving Turkey
Let's talk turkey!
So, you're in charge of cooking the Thanksgiving turkey this year. We know it can be a bit intimidating, so we're here to set you up for delicious success with 12 of the best Thanksgiving turkey recipes as rated by our Allrecipes community of home cooks. We're confident any one of these recipes will have your dinner guests praising your turkey for years to come. But first, let's go over some turkey basics.
Tips for Cooking the Perfect Thanksgiving Turkey
- What size? Plan on about 1-1 ½ pounds of turkey per adult guest. If you're serving 6 adults, purchase a bird that's at least 6 pounds (or 9 pounds if you want leftovers). Refer to our guide on purchasing the right size turkey to ensure you have enough.
- How long does it take to thaw a frozen turkey? Plan on 1 day in the fridge for every 5 pounds of frozen turkey. For example, a 15-pound turkey will take 3 days to defrost in the fridge. Read up on how to safely thaw a frozen turkey.
- How do I know when it's done? Using a food thermometer is the only way to be sure the turkey has been cooked to the minimum safe internal temperature of 165 °F (at the thigh). Relying on the color of the meat is not a safe method. You'll also want to check the temperature of stuffing, which should read 165 °F (at the center). Bookmark our handy turkey cooking time guide.
To get more of your turkey-cooking questions answered, here's everything you need to know for how to cook a turkey.
12 of the Best Turkey Recipes for Thanksgiving
Whether you're looking to keep things traditional or surprise guests with something a little different, we've got you covered with a round up of 12 show-stopping Thanksgiving turkey recipes for every taste. A word of warning: You may be assigned permanent turkey duty after bringing one of these to the table!
1. The Traditional Turkey: Perfect Turkey
If you're in the market for that classic Thanksgiving turkey recipe everyone is sure to love, you can't go wrong with this fan-favorite recipe. Roast the turkey breast-side down for the majority of cook time to keep the white meat juicy and tender. How perfectly smart!
Because you'll be flipping the turkey about two-thirds of the way through, use a shallow roasting dish so it's easier to handle. A number of recipe testers recommend flipping the turkey with your hands while holding clean folded kitchen towels or pot holders inserted into gallon zip-top bags.
2. The Brined Turkey: Lauren's Apple Cider Roast Turkey
A wet brine is the best way to ensure your turkey will be juicy and succulent on the big day (Because we can all agree there is nothing worse than a dry bird!). Recipe creator Lauren notes that brining reduces overall cooking time by 20 to 30 minutes, so keep that in mind as you're checking for doneness.
Pan drippings from a brined turkey can be salty, so you might not have to add any salt at all to your pan gravy.
Be sure to use a nonreactive stockpot or enameled pot to brine your turkey. A brining bag or food-grade plastic bucket work well for larger birds. Avoid using trash bags, trash cans or anything not considered food-grade.
3. The Stuffed Turkey: A Simply Perfect Roast Turkey
For those looking to stuff their turkey with stuffing or dressing, this is the 5-star Thanksgiving turkey recipe for you. Any stuffing recipe will work here, which means you can use your family's favorite recipe, or browse our collection of stuffing and dressing recipes for one that's sure to please (NATTYRO suggests using Elegant Turkey Stuffing!).
When you're stuffing a turkey, it's very important to check the temperature of the stuffing when the turkey is done. Insert a food thermometer into the center of the stuffing to ensure it has reached a minimum internal temperature of 165 °F.
4. The Classic Turkey with Gravy: Chef John's Roast Turkey and Gravy
Some would argue the gravy is the best part of a turkey dinner. Make sure there's enough to top all the things with this easy turkey and gravy recipe. While the turkey roasts you'll get ahead by making a flavorful stock using the giblets (you could also make gravy the day before). After the turkey is done, add in the flavorful pan drippings to make the perfect gravy. Allrecipes home cook Hempman suggests doubling the turkey fat and flour if you prefer a thicker gravy.
5. The Herb Roasted Turkey: Rosemary Roasted Turkey
Nothing pairs better with turkey than fresh herbs. The secret to big herb flavor in this recipe is rubbing the homemade herb oil underneath and over top of the skin. If you're not stuffing the bird, fill the cavity with additional sprigs of rosemary. We love reader Dana's suggestion to make the herb oil the night before to really infuse the flavors (be sure to store it in the fridge). And bonus: Less for you to do on the big day!
6. The Glazed Turkey: Orange and Maple Glazed Turkey
Nothing says fall holiday season quite like a citrusy maple glaze. Basting the bird every 30 minutes creates an irresistibly crispy skin that's worth fighting over. Reduce the drippings along with dry vermouth for the easiest, most flavorful pan sauce ever.
A few recipe testers recommend reducing the oven temp part-way through cooking to prevent the skin from browning too much. Caitlin says, "Really, really good! We covered it with foil, and turned down the temp for the last hour and a half. Other than that it was fabulous and a big hit!!!"
7. The Spatchcock Turkey: Roast Spatchcock Turkey
If you're looking for a faster way to cook a turkey, we have one word for you: spatchcock. (Some people call it "butterflied" turkey.) By removing the turkey's backbone—made easy with kitchen shears—and flattening the bird, you can significantly cut down total cooking time (without sacrificing flavor, we promise). Plus, it makes carving a whole lot less complicated.
We're onboard with Sue's suggestion for building even more flavor. She says, "I love making a turkey this way! I place my turkey on a bed of thickly sliced onions and celery placed on the bottom of the baking sheet instead of on a rack. I also add just a bit of chicken broth to the pan. This not only imparts a bit of flavor but also keeps the pan moist and eliminates any burning or smoking from the pan drying out during cooking time."
8. The Grilled Turkey: Grilled Whole Turkey
Your oven is prime real estate on Thanksgiving day. Free it up by cooking the bird on the grill. Yep, it can be done! After searing the turkey on both sides (for flavor and those appealing grill marks), you'll continue grilling it in a covered roasting pan to keep it juicy and delicious.
We promise it's good—maybe even life-changing. We think Twinschick feels the same. She says, "Is there a 10 star button on this? I will NEVER cook another turkey in the oven!"
9. The Smoked Turkey: Turkey in a Smoker
You'll need at least 10 hours to smoke this turkey, but don't let that scare you away. Nearly all of it is hands-off time, freeing you up to focus on the all-important side dishes. You can then take Allrecipes home cook Susi Matthews' lead and transform the juices from the drip pan into a bold gravy. She says, "When it's done, I take the pan drippings and reduce them, add that to my gravy stock and then a roux and get a nice smoky gravy. I'm drooling just thinking of it." We are too, Susi!
10. The Fried Turkey: Erick's Deep Fried Rosemary Turkey
One of the fastest ways to cook your bird is in the deep fryer, which has gained popularity in recent years (We're thinking it's that irresistibly crispy skin.). Just be sure to follow the rules here. Read your fryer's instruction manual, only deep-fry outdoors and keep pets and children at a distance. In addition to marinating, readers mommys3 and jennifer_95 suggest also injecting the turkey to enhance flavor.
11. The Non-Traditional Turkey: Turkey Mercedes
If you're looking to switch up your turkey game this year, why not try one with a Cuban twist? With ingredients that include three heads of garlic (yes, heads), cumin, oregano and lots of fresh lemon juice, this may just be the boldest turkey you've every tasted.
We think you'll love this fresh spin, but don't take our word for it. Take it from recipe tester Lollygirl, who says, "I've been cooking Thanksgiving dinner for 26 years and was bored with the same old bird. This was flavorful and very moist. I followed the recipe exactly and it is awesome."
12. The Easy Clean-Up Turkey: Turkey in a Bag
Family members on dinner clean-up duty will be grateful for one less pan to scrub when you cook your turkey in a bag. Not to mention this cooking method results in a perfectly moist and juicy turkey without needing to baste!
Give it a try. It may just become your go-to recipe, like it has for SANIBEL444, who shares this feedback: "I'll never cook a turkey any other way!! This was the first year I used a bag, and it was super easy. Just put it in the bag and forget about it until it's time to come out!! If you sprinkle paprika over the turkey, it helps to even the browning. I'd recommend this to anyone, novice or pro."