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I have been hosting Thanksgiving dinner for 20 years, and I have tried literally everything when it comes to cooking turkey. I’ve brined it, deep-fried it, marinated it, injected it, buttered it, dry-rubbed it, butterflied it, smoked it, and stuffed it. I’ve tried Kosher turkeys, organic turkeys, free-range turkeys, and self-basting turkeys.
A few years ago, I even bought an oil-less outdoor propane turkey fryer called “The Big Easy,” which freed up my oven and actually made a wonderfully crisp-skinned and juicy turkey. (If you want to spend $160 on a large piece of equipment that will likely sit in storage collecting cobwebs 364 days a year, I highly recommend it!)
From all this fussing with turkeys, I’ve come to realize that my turkey will never be perfect.
Let’s face it: turkeys, on their own, just aren’t very good. That’s what gravy and cranberry sauce are for.
As Mary Risley from Tante Marie’s Cooking School humorously points out in the video below (which you should definitely watch, especially if you have any turkey-cooking anxiety), “I have never had an outstanding turkey.”
(Heads up: This video contains some foul language.)
Short of purchasing a special turkey cooker (this is the one I have), it is near impossible to cook a turkey perfectly: the white meat always cooks before the dark meat is done, and the skin on the bottom is never crisp (unless you flip the hot, sputtering bird mid-way through cooking…ummm, no thank you).
So is it really worth it to go to great lengths — brining in big coolers for days in the garage, risking life and limb deep-frying in the driveway, pre-icing the breast of the turkey so it cooks more slowly (I swear, there’s a very respectable cooking magazine that wants you to do this) — to make that be-all-and-end-all turkey?
It’s up to you, but I’m not interested in babysitting my turkey for three days to get only marginally better results at the end.
My advice to you on Thanksgiving is to keep it simple. Make an easy roast turkey recipe, like this dry-brined roast turkey, with an over-the-top delicious gravy and some cranberry sauce to go with it. (Or, if you really don’t want to stress, go ahead and buy your turkey already roasted!) Serve lots of wine (you’ll love this food and wine pairing guide) and focus your time and creativity on the side dishes and desserts because that’s what everyone really looks forward to anyway.
Wishing you a happy and stress-free Thanksgiving! ❤️