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Different Ways to Cook a Turkey for Thanksgiving

Cooking Turkey for Thanksgiving

With Thanksgiving right around the corner, it will soon be time to start planning the feast.

And what is more important than the main course, the turkey?!

When it comes to preparing the bird there are so many different ways you can go with it.

You have your traditional way of cooking but their are endless possibilities as well.

What I have done is pulled together some of the best and easiest ways to cook a turkey.

The recipes below will walk you through the ingredients you need and how to switch up your typical

Thanksgiving meal for the better! 

1. Traditional Turkey:

Juicy Butter Herb Turkey Recipe is a tender, buttery turkey stuffed with slices of citrus, a crisp apple and fresh herbs coated with a buttery herb mixture all baked until golden brown. Thanksgiving turkey just got easier with these step by step instructions!

Prep Time: 20 Minutes 

Cook Time: 4 Hours

Recipe Difficulty:

What you need to make a Traditional Turkey

  • 1 12-20 pound turkey thawed
  • Stuffing ingredients
  • 1 onion quartered
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2 sprigs rosemary
  • 1 apple quartered
  • 1 lemon sliced
  • 2 sprigs thyme

Herb Butter

  • 1 cup butter softened
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 Tablespoon thyme finely chopped
  • 1 Tablespoon oregano finely chopped
  • 1 Tablespoon rosemary finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper

How to make a traditional turkey HERE 


2. Slow Cooker Turkey:


Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 8 hours 

Recipe Difficulty:

What you need to make a slow cooker turkey

  • 1 5-6 pound turkey breast (make sure it will fit into your slow cooker)
  • ½ C orange juice
  • 1 14 oz can whole cranberry sauce
  • 1 package Onion Soup Mix
  • salt and pepper to taste

How to make a slow cooker turkey HERE 


3. Brine Turkey:

Turkey Brine creates a tender, moist and juicy turkey with sweet citrusy flavoring and a hint of spice all submerged in a water bath for your turkey to soak from the inside-out. Make your turkey irresistible this holiday season!

Prep Time: 5 Minutes 

Cook Time: 1 Day and 5 Minutes 

Recipe Difficulty:

What you need to brine a turkey

  • 1 gallon warm water
  • 1 cup salt
  • 1 orange sliced
  • 1 medium sized onion quartered
  • 1 lemon sliced
  • 2 sprigs rosemary
  • 2 sprigs thyme
  • 3 tablespoons peppercorn
  • 1 turkey

How to brine a turkey HERE


4. Smoked Turkey:

This Smoked Turkey is the perfect turkey to serve on Thanksgiving or other special occasions. If you haven’t had the opportunity to try the tender delicacy that is the perfect smoked turkey, now is the time to try it out. It takes the ol’ turkey to the next level.

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 7 Hours

Find out how to smoke a turkey HERE


5. Deep Fried Turkey:

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 8 hours

Recipe Difficulty:

What you need to make a Deep Fried turkey

  • 13 lb Turkey (thawed)
  • 2 tsp minced garlic
  • 2 Tbsp seasoned salt
  • 24 oz pop (cola flavored)
  • 1 large onion (quartered)
  • 1 large apple (quartered 
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 Tbsp ground pepper
  • 1 Tbsp salt 

Find out how to make a Deep Fried Turkey HERE 

6. Roast Turkey:

Prep Time: 30 Minutes

Cook Time: 2 Hours

Recipe Difficulty: Intermediate

What you need to roast a turkey

  • 1 stick of unsalted butter
  • 1 tsp fresh chopped thyme leaves
  • 1 lemon zested and juiced 
  • 1 fresh turkey (10-12 lbs)
  • Ground black pepper
  • Salt
  • 1 whole lemon halved
  • 1 large bunch of fresh thyme 
  • 1 head garlic, halved 
  • 1 spanish onion quartered 

How to roast a turkey

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit
  2. In a small saucepan melt the butter,  then add the juice and zest of lemon and 1 tsp of thyme leaves to the butter mixture and set aside.
  3. Remove the giblets out of the turkey and wash inside and out. 
  4. Take off and excess fat and leftover feathers and pat the turkey dry.
  5. Place the turkey in a large roasting pan and generously salt and pepper the inside of the turkey cavity.
  6. Stuff the cavity with the bunch of thyme, halved lemon, quartered onion, and garlic.
  7. Spread the butter mixture and sprinkle salt and pepper on the outside of the turkey then tie the legs together with a string and tuck the wing tips under the turkey
  8. Let the turkey roast for about 2 ½ hours or until the juices turn clear when you cut between the leg and thigh. Let the turkey sit covered with aluminum foil for about 20 minutes before slicing

7. Turducken Turkey:


Prep Time: 30 Minutes ( Inactive for 8 hours)

Cook Time: 5 Hours 

Recipe Difficulty: Advanced 

What you need to turducken a turkey

  • 1 gallon of water
  • 1 cup salt
  • 1 cup brown sugar 
  • House seasoning (1 cup salt, ¼ cup black pepper, ¼ cup garlic powder)
  • Cornbread( 1 cup self rising cornmeal, ½ cup flour, ¾ cup buttermilk, 2 eggs, 2 tbsp vegetable oil) 
  • Cornbread dressing ( recipe follows) 
  • Paprika 
  • 18-21 lb turkey skin intact and boned except for drumsticks
  • 3-4 lb chicken, boned
  • 3-4 lb duck, boned 

Cornbread Dressing

  • Cornbread
  • 7 slices white bread, dried in the oven
  • 2 cups chopped celery
  • 1 large onion chopped
  • 1 sleeve saltine crackers
  • 8 tbsp butter
  • 7 cups chicken stock
  • ½ tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp dried sage
  • 5 eggs, beaten
  • 1 tbsp poultry seasoning 

How to make a turducken turkey here


8. Grilled Turkey:

Prep Time: 15 Minutes 

Cook Time: 4 Hours 

Recipe Difficulty: 

What you need to make a grilled turkey

  • 2 cups water
  • 12 lb turkey
  •   2 tsp garlic powder
  • 3 Tbsp chicken bouillon powder
  • 1 tsp poultry seasoning 
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp onion powder 
  • 1 tsp paprika 
  • ½ tsp chopped parsley 

How to make a grilled turkey HERE


9. Crockpot Turkey:

Prep Time: 10 Minutes 

Cook Time: 7 Hours 30 Minutes 

Recipe Difficulty: 

What you need to make a crockpot turkey

  •  ½ cup water
  • 8 lb whole turkey
  • 2 tsp seasoning salt
  • ½ black pepper
  • ½ cup unsalted butter
  • 2 tsp italian seasoning
  • 2 tsp garlic powder

How to make a crockpot turkey

  1. Make garlic butter by mixing together the garlic powder, butter, seasoning salt, black pepper, and italian seasoning. Set aside 1-2 tsp of the garlic butter.
  2. Loosen the skin of the turkey and spread the garlic butter under the skin as well as on top. If possible, try to do this the night before and let turkey sit with seasoning overnight.
  3. Pour the water into the crockpot and cook the turkey for 3-4 hours on high or 7-8 hours on low. Once done the internal temperature in the thickest part of the thigh should be at 180 degrees fahrenheit and 170 degrees farenheit in the breast. 
  4. Drain some of the liquid from the crockpot. Melt remaining garlic butter and brush onto the turkey and let that cook on high for about 30 minutes until you see the skin brown up. 
  5. Once done remove turkey from crockpot and let sit for 10 minutes before serving.

10. Frozen Turkey:


Prep Time: 5 Minutes

Cook Time: 6 Hours

Recipe Difficulty: 

Temperatures for cooking a turkey

Cook times can vary:

  • 8- to 12-pound turkey: 4 to 4 1/2 hours
  • 12- to 14-pound turkey: 4 1/2 to 5 3/4 hours
  • 14- to 18-pound turkey: 5 3/4 to 6 1/4 hours
  • 18- to 20-pound turkey: 6 1/4 to 6 3/4 hours
  • 20- to 24-pound turkey: 6 3/4 to 7 1/2 hours

What you need to cook a frozen turkey

  • 1 14-16 lb turkey
  • 1 cookie sheet
  • 1 cooling rack
  • 1 instant read or probe thermometer 

How to cook a frozen turkey

  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees fahrenheit
  2. Line a rimmed cookie sheet or short walled pan with foil and place a cooling rack on it. Remove the plastic covering from the turkey and place it on the rack breast side down. Since the turkey is frozen you will not be able to remove the giblets just yet. Check the chart above to see how much time it needs to be cooked for depending on the size. (keep in mind this recipe is for a 14-16 lb turkey)
  3. Let the turkey cook for 2 ½ hours and then remove the giblets and flip the turkey breast side up.
  4. After about 3 hours the turkey should be well thawed out so if wishing to stuff the turkey do so at this point.
  5. At the 4 hour mark start checking the internal temperature of the turkey every 20-30 minutes. In order for safe consumption make sure the thickest part of the thigh/breast reaches 165 degrees fahrenheit.
  6. Once the turkey is at the correct temperature, remove the bird from the oven and cover it with foil. Let it sit for about 15 minutes before carving.

Which turkey recipe will you make?

Hopefully some of these recipes were able to spark some interest.

There are so many different ways to prepare a Turkey and it never hurts to try something new!

Keep in mind some of the basics when it comes to Turkey cooking; do not forget to take the giblets out! It is not that they cannot be consumed but typically may be wrapped in a bag or such that could be harmful if melted and cooked into the turkey!

Also make sure when preparing to make the turkey you have access to a thermometer so that you can accurately check the temperature to ensure that it is fully cooked.

The recipes will tell you the highly suggested cook times but it can vary due to how big of a turkey you have so you’ll always want to make sure that the safe temperature for consumption has been reached. 

About Alyssa Rivers

Alyssa Rivers is the author of 'The Tried and True Cookbook', a professional food photographer and experienced recipe-developer. Having a passion for cooking, her tried and true recipes have been featured on Good Morning America, Today Food, Buzzfeed and more.

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