Think Outside the Oven: Alternatives to Roast Turkey for Thanksgiving

sliced turkey

Roast turkey has been a Thanksgiving tradition for so long, most people would consider it sacrilege to forego the four hours in the oven for another cooking option. But you’re not most people.

This year, instead of the classic, but oh-so-boring, normal turkey recipes everyone has, maybe it’s time to think outside of the box (or oven, as it were). Save you time, space, and treat your family to a truly memorable Thanksgiving dinner by dressing up the ole turkey in a new cooking-style.

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 barbecue

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.


braised turkey

Braising a turkey still involves the use of the oven, but it eliminates the possibility of the bird driving out by cooking it partially in liquid. Cook for Your Life offers a simple recipe for braised turkey breast (meaning you don’t have to buy a whole bird this time around). Since you’re using just the breast for this situation, this is a great option for smaller dinners of only two to four people and for holiday cooks who don’t want to spend all day basting. Braising allows you to actually get out of the kitchen and into the living room where you can enjoy a nice holiday cocktail with your guests as you wait for a pot of stock to work its magic. The outcome will be moist, flavorful, and totally worth the minimal effort.


how to deep fry a 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. For a complete how to, check out our guide to deep frying a turkey without killing yourself.

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! And if you’re skimping for side dishes, try out our suggestions. While you’re working your culinary magic in the kitchen, listen to our delicious cooking playlist.

Article originally published by Liz LaBrocca on November 18, 2015. Article updated November 15, 2017 by Chase McPeak.

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