Turkey can be one of the more virtuous foods on our plate: Plain-roasted and skinless, it’s a low-fat, high-protein meat that partners up nicely with a modest kale salad, say, or some grilled asparagus with a twist of lemon. But that’s not quite the kind of turkey we’re talking here. When it’s time to set the table for a family get-together or a holiday feast, you’ve got to bring the flavor with a whole bird, skin-on, that’s been brined, rubbed, glazed, and/or basted into glistening deliciousness and ready to be surrounded by equally mouthwatering side dishes. And we’ve put together a collection of our favorite Thanksgiving turkey recipes to help you do just that.
Brined Bourbon-Pecan Turkey and Gravy | Favorite Turkey Recipes
FAVORITE TURKEY RECIPES FOR THANKSGIVING
This recipe was inspired by a November 1980 Yankee food feature on Arilla St. Laurent, a Navy wife then living in Bath, Maine. She and her husband and two children had spent years stationed on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts as well as in Japan, and that steady exposure to new cuisines had led to some inspired cooking in her kitchen. We love the rich Southern flavors in this turkey recipe as well as its touch of New England — maple syrup in the basting liquid — that brings everything together.
Roast Turkey with Cornbread and Sausage Stuffing | Favorite Turkey Recipes
As far as handling the bird goes, this has all the basics you’ll find in most turkey recipes. The real star of this recipe is the stuffing: an extra-meaty version that balances sweet cornbread against spicy, savory sausage. Further upping the flavor intensity is the use of fresh herbs — sage, rosemary, and thyme — that can stand up to all that richness.
Roast Brined Turkey | Favorite Turkey Recipes
Portland, Maine, culinary pro Sam Hayward, a James Beard Award winner who made his name as chef-partner at Fore Street, strongly recommends brining turkey because no other method does such a good job of creating moist and flavorful meat. If you haven’t brined before, make this the one new thing you try for your holiday meal this year.
Dry-Cured Turkey | Favorite Turkey Recipes
Even though brining is a great technique in turkey recipes, it admittedly can be messy, what with a huge turkey and all that brine. Also, soaking the turkey for hours in salted, seasoned water can sometimes make the breast meat a wee bit spongy. As an alternative, you can try “dry curing” or “dry brining,” a technique that was first popularized in California by chef Judy Rogers of San Francisco’s Zuni Café. You simply put salt, herbs, and spices directly onto the skin of the bird, then wrap it in plastic and let it sit. The downside? It takes time. While you can fully wet-brine a turkey in 12 to 24 hours, the dry method often takes up to three days (you can cut that down a little, but the results aren’t as tasty).
Maple-Sage Dry-Brined Turkey | Favorite Turkey Recipes
If you try your hand at dry-brining, remember that many frozen and kosher turkeys come pre-brined; what you need instead is a “natural,” untreated turkey. Another take on dry-brining, this recipe is a celebration of warming, autumnal spices, especially that Thanksgiving classic, sage. Here it’s used two ways: fresh sprigs and dried. The latter comes in whole leaves, rubbed, and powdered. We like the flavor and ease-of-use of rubbed sage, but you can substitute powdered sage if you prefer.
Classic Roast Turkey | Favorite Turkey Recipes
Giblets are the turkey’s neck, heart, gizzard, and liver, which are usually found tucked, like a prize, inside the cavity. Be sure to remove before brining and certainly before roasting. Giblets make a terrific gravy, but you may want to omit the liver, as it adds a bitter flavor; instead, save it in the freezer for another use.
“NEW” TURKEY RECIPES FOR THANKSGIVING
Try this method and you may never use your oven again. The turkey cooks in half the time recommended for oven roasting, and it remains moist and juicy with just one basting. But stifle the impulse to open the grill lid for a peek — the heat in the grill will drop significantly and slow your cooking.
Turkey doesn’t figure into Mexican cuisine the way that pork, beef, and chicken do, but the same spices and cheeses that elevate the better-known proteins can do wonders for the traditional American Thanksgiving bird. A recipe sure to please unconventional cooks (and their hungry guests), Gobble Olé is a boned turkey stuffed with corn tortillas and enchilada sauce that draws on the heat of green chilies and the creamy dairy flavors of Monterey Jack, cheddar, and sour cream.
What are your favorite Thanksgiving turkey recipes?
This post was first published in 2017 and has been updated.