12 Different Turkey Cooking Methods

Spatchcock turkey recipe

The Spruce / Diana Chistruga

The classic way to cook a turkey is to thaw a frozen bird, stuff it, then roast it. But year after year of preparing the dish in the same way can get a bit dull. If you're looking to experiment with a different method of cooking your Thanksgiving turkey, we've got you covered. Read about some favorite ways to cook a turkey below. 


Watch Now: How to Spatchcock a Turkey

  • 01 of 12

    Roast It

    Classic Thanksgiving Roast Turkey

    Claire Cohen

    The classic way to prepare a turkey is roasted in the oven. It makes for a beautiful presentation, but if prepared incorrectly, it can yield dry, flavorless meat. Be sure to follow a timetable for cooking your bird and browse the most popular roast turkey recipes for some tasty ideas. 

  • 02 of 12

    Brine It

    Turkey in pot

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

    Brining the turkey has become almost commonplace. The brining process forces liquid and seasonings into the turkey meat, making each bit flavorful and tender. You have to plan ahead for this method since the turkey has to be kept cold while it's brining. A cooler will keep the bird at the correct temperature, but the refrigerator is the safest bet. You can keep the turkey on ice if you're brining under two hours. Browse some favorite turkey brine recipes for inspiration.

  • 03 of 12

    Spatchcock It

    Spatchcock turkey recipe

    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga

    The way to get the maximum amount of crispy golden skin with perfectly-cooked tender legs and drums, and super juicy white meat is also the fastest: Spatchcocking it. Using a pair of shears, snip the spine from a turkey and flatten, then roast it with salt, pepper, and butter tucked under the skin. In just over an hour, Thanksgiving dinner will be served! 

  • 04 of 12

    Make It Ahead

    Turkey brine

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

    Coordinating the timing of dishes be a real hassle, especially if you have limited oven space. One solution is to cook the bird a day ahead of time and make a gravy with the drippings. Next, carve the turkey, slice up the meat, and store in a large pan covered with gravy in the refrigerator. The next day, all you have to do is finish the other side dishes and heat up the turkey in the gravy. Moist meat, no hassle, and a lot less work for you! 

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  • 05 of 12

    Roast the Parts

    Roasted Turkey Leg

    The Spruce

    Deconstruct your turkey and roast the parts separately. With this method, you can alter the proportions of dark to white meat so there's enough for everyone. This method also ensures that the white meat is as tender as the dark. A boneless turkey breast will cook for a shorter time period. And if you cook a bone-in, skin-on turkey breast, it will take about 2 hours to roast, about as long as the bone-in legs because of the different sizes and weights. The thighs cook for the shortest time period, so add them 30 minutes after the breast and legs have started.

  • 06 of 12

    Air Fry It


    The Spruce Eats / Leah Maroney

    If you're hosting an intimate Thanksgiving dinner, consider breaking out the air fryer. Not only will it free up your oven for other important holiday dishes, but the popular small appliance helps create the crispy, golden skin that we're all looking for when it comes to a celebration-worthy turkey.

  • 07 of 12

    Slow Cook It

    Three ingredient crockpot turkey

    ​The Spruce Eats / Julia Hartbeck

    The crockpot is a great way to cook a turkey breast. You can add stuffing or vegetables to the slow cooker for another course, which makes everything easier for you. It's easy to cook boneless, skinless turkey breasts in the crockpot, but you can cook any turkey part (except a whole bird) as long as you test the final temperature with a meat thermometer. 

  • 08 of 12

    Cook It From Frozen

    Turkey with meat thermometer

    Claire Cohen


    Sounds crazy, right? But you can actually take a turkey from frozen to fully cooked without thawing. You'll find that the breast meat is moist when the dark meat is done because of the turkey's physical structure. This is also the safest method because you aren't scattering raw turkey juices all over as you struggle with the unwieldy bird.

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  • 09 of 12

    Smoke It

    Smoked turkey
    Mike/flickr By CC 2.0

    Smoking is a slower cooking process for turkey, but yields tasty results. If you've never smoked anything before, Thanksgiving isn't the time to start experimenting, but for experienced pitmasters, a smoked bird can be a beautiful thing.  

  • 10 of 12

    Deep Fry It

    Deep-Fried Turkey Breasts recipe

     The Spruce

    Deep frying results in a turkey with super crisp skin, moist meat, and a fabulous flavor. If you want to deep fry a turkey, be very careful. Only attempt this outside, away from buildings or flammable material, and keep several fire extinguishers on hand.

  • 11 of 12

    Grill It

    Smoked turkey on the grill
    Dezene Huber/Getty Images

    Cooking the turkey on the grill is a wonderful way to free up your kitchen and give the bird fabulous flavor. Remember, you can grill in any weather—even in the snow! Just make sure that your grill keeps a constant temperature throughout the cooking process. Use a grill thermometer and occasionally add coals if you're using charcoal. 

  • 12 of 12

    Instant Pot It

    Instant Pot turkey breast plated
    Diana Rattray

    Preparing a full turkey dinner doesn't get easier than using your Instant Pot. The beloved electric pressure cooker produces a juicy, tender turkey breast in only an hour. You can even make the gravy in the Instant Pot. Just save the drippings and use the saute function.