The Turkey Whisperer

18 Turkey Recipes to Gobble up on Thanksgiving

Whether you’re roasting a turkey or using more unconventional cooking methods for your bird, make this Thanksgiving your most delicious one ever.

October  6, 2021
Photo by Rocky Luten

Maybe you’re the family’s go-to turkey whisperer. Or maybe this is the first year you’re in charge of cooking the perfect turkey for Thanksgiving dinner. You’re looking to roast, smoke, fry, or grill a meal to remember, and don’t want to let your fans (aka your friends and family) down. Look no further! I’ve gathered Food52’s best turkey recipes for Thanksgiving, from traditional to dark horse favorites. If this is your first time cooking a turkey, you’ll be amazed at how far herb butter, salt, and pepper can go.

A brined turkey is a must to seal in those good juices, but whether to wet or dry brine it is up to you. Most of our recipes are traditional methods for roasting a whole turkey, but you may want to spatchcock it for speedier service. Or maybe the deep-fryer that you saw in your neighbor’s backyard last year is calling your name this time around. The world is your oyster and these 18 recipes will put you on the right track. Once you remove the turkey from the oven, let it rest, and carve it, you’ll feel a huge sense of accomplishment...then grab the wishbone and pray to the turkey gods that you’ll nail it next year, too.

Classic Roast Turkey Recipes

1. Dry-Buttermilk-Brined Turkey

You’ve heard of a dry brine with fresh herbs and salt. You’ve heard of a wet brine with herbs and spices in water. But a dry buttermilk brine seems like an oxymoron! Not so much. Recipe developer brined a whole turkey in seasoned buttermilk powder, so that you get the tenderizing benefits of buttermilk without the mess of a wet brine.

2. Honey and Sage Brined Roast Turkey

Your best-ever wet brine starts with honey, garlic, a bunch of thyme, plenty of peppercorns, and a handful of fresh sage. “The result is a crispy-skinned, tender, subtly earthy bird fit for any holiday meal,” according to our editors.

3. Compound Butter & Herb Roast Turkey

The secret to a golden-brown turkey with crispy skin is butter and lots of it. But the trick to an even more flavorful turkey is roasting it with compound butter, which is softened butter mixed with fresh herbs and spices (in this case, garlic, thyme, sage, and lemon zest). The butter is spread underneath the skin of the turkey, which infuses the meat with bright, earthy notes.

4. Russ Parsons' Dry-Brined Turkey (aka The Judy Bird)

It doesn’t get simpler or easier than this dry-brined Thanksgiving turkey. This dry brine is made with salt. That’s it! Sure, you could add fresh herbs and spices but you could also keep it easy and no one would be the wiser.

5. Slow-Roasted Turkey

If you have a small kitchen, only one oven, or are crunched for time, move on to the next recipe. But if you are blessed with a double oven and a large kitchen island, this slow-roasted turkey recipe may just be the one for your holiday meal. It takes a whopping 11 hours to cook (plus four days of air-drying the bird so it gets super crispy in the oven). Serve dinner on the later side this year and you may just have a winner. Can I come over?

6. Torrisi's Turkey

I’ll be honest—this isn’t Food52’s most basic turkey recipe or the easiest. It’s for the home cook looking for a bit of a creative challenge on Turkey Day. For crispy (not dry) skin and juicy meat, the trifecta of brining, glazing, and roasting the bird is worth the effort.

7. Herb-Rubbed Roast Turkey

On the other hand, if you’ve never roasted a turkey before or are looking for a low-key method, this is the recipe for you! It calls for a basic dry brine with salt, rubbing the bird with butter and herbs, and roasting the turkey for about 2½ hours.

8. Gin Brined Turkey

It’s happy hour all day on Thanksgiving with this gin-soaked turkey that brings notes of juniper berries and crisp cucumber to the holiday table. Gin skeptics should grab a few slices of the breast meat; our test kitchen editors say that the flavor of the liquor was more pronounced in the turkey thighs.

9. Barbara Kafka's Simple Roast Turkey

Barbara Kafka’s high heat-roasting technique ruffled feathers in the 1990s (500 degrees! No rack, no trussing, no basting!)—until everyone realized it gives you crackly-skinned turkey in no time at all. There's no salt, which isn’t a typo. The bird is so juicy you won’t miss it,” according to our editors.

10. Roast Spatchcock Turkey

Cut the cooking time of a traditional Thanksgiving turkey in half by spatchcocking it, a method that calls for breaking the backbone of the bird in half (sounds violent, but it won’t fight back!) and cooking it in a large roasting pan with a flat rack inserted inside.

Non-Traditional Thanksgiving Turkey Recipes

11. Stuffed Turkey Breast Marsala (or Poor Man's Veal)

Maybe you’re hosting a low-key Thanksgiving this year, or maybe you’ve just grown tired of the usual roast turkey. Either way, stuffed turkey breasts with Marsala wine will still be a festive upgrade for dinner.

12. Thanksgiving Osso Buco

Instead of the usual beef or veal shanks, turkey drumsticks braised with dried cranberries, Turkish apricots, hard cider, and a trio of warm spices make for a Thanksgiving-worthy stew.

13. Turkey Pot Pie

Do away with endless sandwiches and make this savory dinner pie instead. This pot pie is a great way to use up leftover cooked turkey, turkey broth, and vegetables from Thanksgiving.

14. Spicy Turkey Meatloaf

Ground turkey isn’t always the most exciting on its own, but leave it to the combination of soy sauce, ketchup, spicy brown mustard, rice vinegar, Worcestershire sauce in the loaf (plus the Spicy Sriracha Glaze on top) to make it something that I want to eat every night of the week.

15. Turkey Shawarma Pitas

Leftover cooked Thanksgiving turkey takes on an entirely new life with half a dozen shawarma spices and a quick, homemade tzatziki sauce.

16. Best Ever Turkey Chili

Recipe developer KMartinelli wasn’t intending to make a turkey-based chili, but it’s significantly cheaper than beef in Israel. Lucky for us, she turned the economical protein into something flavorful, comforting, and mild enough for anyone who is intolerant to serious heat.

17. Turkey Pho

“Anyone who knows pho knows that it's all about the broth. WinnieAb uses turkey leftovers (meat and stock, which should really be homemade for this) to coax the most out of this soup,” according to our editors.

Who's the turkey professional of your family? What's the best turkey they've made? Let us know in the comments below!
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Katie is a food writer and editor who loves cheesy puns and cheesy cheese.

1 Comment

AntoniaJames October 7, 2021
May I respectfully point out that when you spatchcock a turkey or any other bird, you don't break the backbone in half as the text set forth above suggests. Rather, the backbone is cut out on both sides and removed, using the toughest poultry shears you can get your hands on - along with a sharp heavy chef's knife, if necessary. It also helps to cut into, if you can't remove altogether, the keel bone (so aptly named! though it's not really a bone, but hard cartilage). ;o)