Think Outside the Bird: Alternatives to Roast Turkey


Thanksgiving is only two days away.

I’ve been on the phone with my mom every other day to hammer out our two-day menu. Yes, we’re a family that’s added a meal on Wednesday to accommodate the appetizers and menu items we can’t fit in alongside the more traditional turkey trimmings (think Thai shrimp meatballs and Emeril’s Calypso pork pie).

We’re also the family that will occasionally venture off the beaten path and get a little adventurous with the star of the show: the turkey. We couldn’t not try a turducken the year–the chicken within a duck within a turkey was all over TV. And a few years back, we handed the reigns over to my then-partner’s father to grill the bird.

That’s right, if you’re not already considering it, maybe it’s time to think of a few other ways to cook your turkey this year that don’t involve your oven. This can save you time, space, and treat your family to a truly memorable Thanksgiving dinner. Who says you have to make your turkey a certain way? Besides, alternative ways of cooking your bird can be better at retaining moisture and assuring that your meat is tender and delicious.

So instead of roasting, try one one these alternative methods to take your turkey game to the next level.


grilled turkey

There’s no reason to shy away from grilling your turkey on Thanksgiving. It can be easier than oven-roasting the bird and it will elevate the flavors on your Thanksgiving table in a way that’s unparalleled. Since you’ll have the grill going to begin with, you could opt to use a different variety of veggies and sides on the grill that you might not have done if the grill weren’t in play; think of corn on the cobb, grilled asparagus, and cheesy potatoes. And if you stick to tradition, having the bird on the grill will free up loads of space in the kitchen for oven-baked sides.

If you really want to kick up your grilled turkey shenanigans, add some wood chips to the charcoal to impart some of that smoky flavor without using a smoker.


smoked turkey

Do you have a smoker at home that just doesn’t get enough use? Well, now is the time to put that puppy to work and smoke your turkey. Smoked meat will pair incredibly well with all the buttery, creamy sides that come along with Thanksgiving dinner.

Bear in mind, though, that smoking does take awhile, so you will want to create adequate time for the process. This recipe’s cooking time clocks in at about 20-30 minutes per pound of bird – so a 15 pound turkey would take at least 7.5 hours to cook, not counting resting time. To help juggle the time, consider getting up super early (you can nap after dinner) or even smoking the turkey the day before to cut out any doubts and worries.

Deep Frying

deep fried turkey

If you’ve never had deep fried your turkey, then you haven’t lived. But it’s important to be smart about it. You really need to follow the directions in your recipe closely and have all the proper equipment on hand.

One big tip for frying your bird is to make sure you don’t overfill your fryer with oil. This is a common mistake that can result in overflowing oil and can lead to a severe grease fire. Frying definitely requires a lot more attention and focus, but it will result in a super delicious, super-moist bird, and it is the quickest way to get a turkey finished.

Have you cooked your Thanksgiving turkey in any other nontraditional fashion? If so, we’d like to hear about it!

Article originally published November 18,2015. Article updated November 22, 2016 by Bryan Holt.