There have been great debates throughout history. While How to Cook the Turkey isn’t as big as, say, Abraham Lincoln vs. Stephen A. Douglas, getting it right can result in a Thanksgiving dinner for the ages. Getting it wrong leaves you as the sad story told at every Thanksgiving to come. Here are our thoughts on this age-old discussion. Choose wisely.
Injecting vs. Brining
Injecting: Using a syringe or a turkey baster, liquid (butter, duck fat, olive oil, cognac) is injected into the turkey, filling the bird with juices. It’s a fast process, creates a moist bird with crispy skin. On the downside, it can be messy, and the liquid distribution isn’t terribly uniform.
Brining: Soaking the entire turkey for 24 hours in a salt-water bath adds moisture to the bird, and if you’re using herbs, can add flavor and nice aromatics. The result is a tender, juicy bird. However, it’s a time-consuming process, and finding fridge space for a turkey in a large pot can be a challenge.
Winner: Injecting. Put on an apron and juice that bird. With the time you’ve saved you can bake a pie.
Frozen vs. Fresh
Fresh: Buying a “fresh” turkey normally means a free-range, naturally and humanely raised turkey. The bird has a meatier texture and a deeper, “gamey” flavor. Do note, since the turkey isn’t frozen, it will only last 1–2 days after being butchered.
Frozen: These are your standard turkeys, the ones that go on special at the grocery store just before the holiday. A frozen turkey is flash-frozen immediately after being butchered retaining all their natural juices. More than likely, these are not free-range birds, and their taste may reflect that.
Winner: Let’s support the local farms and purchase a fresh turkey.
Roasted vs. Fried
Roasted: Traditionally, turkeys are roasted. It’s the safe, old-fashioned way to do it. That Norman Rockwell painting? We’re almost certain that bird was roasted. This method is pretty much foolproof and edible every time. On the flip side, if not basted well, it could be dry, and roasting is a long, slow process that can tie up your oven on a day when you need it for other dishes.
Fried: Get out your welding mask, because this method involves a large pot, a frying basket, oil and an open flame. (Google “frying turkey disasters video” for a bunch of YouTube “best-of” hits.) But if you know what you’re doing and use an electricturkey fryer (no flame), it’s a fast process that seals in moisture for a deliciously juicy turkey that won’t cost you your garage. Yes, it can be dangerous if done the old-fashioned way, where grease fires and undercooked turkeys gave the process a bad rap. But don’t discount it.
Winner: Roasted. We’re saving face (literally?) and going with tradition