13 Different Turkey Cooking Methods

Spatchcock turkey recipe

The Spruce / Diana Chistruga

For a classic Thanksgiving turkey, most people thaw a frozen bird, stuff it, then roast it in the oven. But cooking a turkey at other times of the year adds variety to your family menu and nearly always leaves you with a boon of leftovers. Shake things up even more and experiment with different methods for how to cook turkey. You might find one you like so much it makes it onto your Thanksgiving table next fall.

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Watch Now: How to Spatchcock a Turkey

  • 01 of 13

    Oven-Roasted

    Classic Thanksgiving Roast Turkey

    Claire Cohen

    The classic way to prepare a turkey, roasting it in the oven makes for a beautiful presentation but can yield dry, flavorless meat. Be sure to follow a timetable for cooking your bird and browse the most popular roasted turkey recipes for tips on keeping it tasty.

  • 02 of 13

    Brined

    Turkey in pot

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

    The process of brining a turkey forces liquid and seasonings into the meat, making each bite tender and flavorful. You must plan ahead to use this method so you can keep the turkey cold while it soaks. You can do it with ice in a large cooler for a dunk that lasts less than two hours, but the refrigerator makes the safest bet for a longer soaking time. Browse some favorite turkey brine recipes for inspiration.

  • 03 of 13

    Spatchcocked

    Spatchcock turkey recipe

    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga

    To get the maximum amount of crispy golden skin with perfectly cooked dark meat and tender, juicy white meat, spatchcock your turkey. Using a pair of poultry shears, snip the spine out of the turkey back and then flatten the whole bird. Tuck lots of butter under the skin, salt and pepper the whole thing generously, then roast it for about six minutes per pound. This relatively simple step cuts the cooking time dramatically.

  • 04 of 13

    Deconstructed

    Roasted Turkey Leg

    The Spruce

    To alleviate crowding in the oven, cut your turkey into parts to roast separately. With this method, you can control the proportions of dark to white meat and make sure you serve white meat as tender as the dark. A boneless turkey breast cooks for a shorter time period. A bone-in, skin-on turkey breast takes about two hours to roast. You can add the legs, thighs, and wings to the oven in increments based on individual cooking speed.

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  • 05 of 13

    Slow-Cooked

    Three ingredient crockpot turkey

    ​The Spruce Eats / Julia Hartbeck

    With just a quick morning prep, you can sit down to a comforting dinner when you prepare boneless, skinless turkey breasts in the crock pot. Cranberry sauce and dry onion soup mix add moisture and flavor.

  • 06 of 13

    Pressure-Cooked

    Instant Pot turkey breast plated
    Diana Rattray

    An Instant Pot or other pressure cooker makes cooking a turkey breast a snap and with a cooking time of approximately six minutes per pound, you can get dinner on the table without the need for extensive planning. You can even sear the turkey breast in the Instant Pot before you set the timer, and make gravy using the saute function, cutting down on the kitchen cleaning after dinner. Slice and serve the turkey as the centerpiece of a meal, or use it for turkey sandwiches, salads, or casseroles.

  • 07 of 13

    Air-Fried

    air-fryer-turkey-4775752-12

    The Spruce Eats / Leah Maroney

    For an intimate turkey dinner, break out the air fryer and cook a turkey tenderloin. It frees up the oven for cooking sides, and yields the crispy, golden skin of your dreams.

  • 08 of 13

    Grilled

    Smoked turkey on the grill
    Dezene Huber/Getty Images

    Cooking turkey on the grill frees up the kitchen for other dishes and cuts down on unwanted heat in warm weather. You need to keep the grill at a constant temperature throughout the cooking process, which may require adding briquettes to a charcoal grill.

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  • 09 of 13

    Smoked

    Smoked turkey
    Mike/flickr By CC 2.0

    To smoke a turkey, you can use an actual smoker or turn your grill into one with the addition of wood chips. Smoking takes longer, so you definitely need to plan ahead. But this makes a fun project for a relaxing day in the backyard.

  • 10 of 13

    Spit-Roasted

    Finished Turkey
    Finished Turkey. Regarding BBQ Inc.

    With a rotisserie kit for your grill, you can slow-roast a smaller turkey in the backyard. The turkey self-bastes as it rotates, yielding tender, juicy, flavorful meat. You do need to prevent flare-ups with a well-positioned drip pan and stockpile enough fuel for a four- to six-hour grill session.

  • 11 of 13

    Deep-Fried

    Deep-Fried Turkey Breasts recipe

     The Spruce

    Deep frying results in a turkey with super crisp skin, moist meat, and a fabulous flavor. But it requires care and constant attention. Do it with the proper equipment, outside, away from buildings or flammable materials, and with several fire extinguishers on hand.

  • 12 of 13

    Made-Ahead

    Turkey brine

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

    Coordinating the timing of dishes when you have a turkey in the oven can be a real hassle, especially with limited rack space. This recipe lets you cook the bird a day ahead. Make a gravy with the drippings, then carve the turkey and store it covered with gravy in a large pan in the refrigerator. Simply reheat it in the oven or a microwave when dinnertime comes around.

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  • 13 of 13

    Freezer-to-Oven

    Turkey with meat thermometer

    Claire Cohen

     

    You can take a turkey from frozen to fully cooked without thawing it first, but you do need to plan for an extended time in the oven. And since you cannot air dry it for crispier skin or brine a frozen turkey before you cook it, you definitely want to serve it with gravy or another flavorful sauce. The white meat does tend to stay more moist when you start with a frozen turkey, though, so you could score points there.