6 alternatives to the traditional Thanksgiving turkey

Spatchcock turkey
An undated courtesy photo of a spatchcock turkey.

(WOOD) — The Thanksgiving tradition of baking a turkey takes at least three to four hours, which is a challenge if you’re short on time.

Here are six alternatives to free up more real estate in your oven on Thanksgiving Day.

  1. Frying. Frying a turkey can take as little as an hour and leaves the skin nice and crispy. It’s important to follow the directions exactly to avoid a fire, but this has become a popular choice. There is a misconception that it is not as healthy to cook a turkey this way, since you must submerge it in oil, however if you cook it at the right temperature, the oil will seal the skin almost immediately, preventing it from seeping into the bird. It’s extremely important that the turkey be completely thawed (preferably fresh rather than frozen) and dry before you begin frying.20121108-spatchcock-turkey-food-lab-12-thumb-1500xauto-422453
  2. Spatchcocking. It may sound strange, but this method is also fairly quick and easy. You won’t be able to stuff your bird, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns against anyway because of food poisoning concerns. You will need poultry shears to accomplish this dish, which involves removing the backbone from the turkey, and pressing the bird down flat.  This method gives  the breast and thighs the same exposure, making it less likely that the white meat will be dry. Follow these instructions to cook  a 14-pound bird in about 80 minutes.braised-turkey
  3. Braising. An inherent challenge to cooking turkeys is that they are naturally dry, which is why this method is so effective. Braising retains the moisture in the meat, however it also goes against tradition because instead of a full bird as the centerpiece of the table, this requires hacking apart the main dish.
    grilling-turkey
  4. Grilling. Unless you have more than one oven, this can be a great way to free up space for those delicious side dishes. Grilling takes roughly as long as baking (about three hours,) but it also delivers a nice crisp skin with a smokiness you can’t get from the oven. It is important to use a meat thermometer throughout the process, since grills are not as precise as ovens with heating.beer-can-turkey
  5. Beer can turkey. This is something fun to try at least once, since it is such an eye-catching way to cook a bird. Beer can turkey involves shoving a partially full can into the cavity of the bird and using it as a stand, then putting it on the grill. The beer evaporates as the bird cooks, which keeps the inside moist. It takes the turkey about two hours to reach the desired 165 degree temperature.sous-vide-turkey
  6. Immersing in a water bath, a.k.a. “sous vide.” This method is delicious, but will not save any time on your Thanksgiving day. “Sous vide” is French for “under vacuum”, and it gives more uniform cooking not possible with an oven, grill or fryer. It requires vacuum-sealing the turkey, which means you’ll need a vacuum sealer and a high-precision, low-temperature water bath device, which heats the water to roughly 140 degrees. The turkey can take as long as 6-12 hours to cook, although much of the preparation can be done ahead of time. For those who prefer to have a whole turkey as the centerpiece of the table, this is not a good option, but it does taste more moist and delicious than any oven-baked turkey.

If you run into a turkey disaster this Thanksgiving, help is just one message away.  Text your questions to Butterball’s Turkey Talk-Line anytime between Nov. 17 and Nov. 24 at 844.877.3456.