Turkey is the traditional Thanksgiving dinner bird and most folks choose it for the Christmas table, too. As a vegetarian, I don’t care what the meat is, but my family does. So here are three ways to cook that poor turkey besides sticking it in the oven. But, first … if you’re tired of turkey, what about the turducken on your Thanksgiving menu?
What? Never heard of a turducken? It’s a combination of a turkey + duck + chicken. A de-boned chicken is stuffed into a de-boned duck, which is then stuffed into a de-boned turkey. You can then stuff the chicken’s cavity (awful word!) with your favorite stuffing.
I don’t like duck at all and would never eat this concoction, but there is definitely a historical tradition for stuffed birds within birds within birds (“four little blackbirds baked in a pie”). A famous English dish was the Yorkshire Christmas Pie which was made of “a turkey, a goose, a fowl, a partridge, and a pidgeon”. It isn’t clear to me what bird was referred to by the term ‘fowl’ but the original recipe calls for FOUR POUNDS OF BUTTER!
A historical note: to avoid “husbandry” taxes, farmers in the Middle Ages hid birds and animals inside each other.
The modern turducken, which is steadily growing in popularity, is generally attributed to the specialty meat shops in the southern United States, specifically Hebert’s Specialty Meats in Maurice, Louisiana. Creation of the turducken is often associated with the famous Cajun chef Paul Prudhomme, who created this dish as part of the festival Duvall Days in Duvall, Washington, in 1983. These claims are mostly unverified, and many people simply agree it is an idea that is centuries old.
Other variations of the modern turducken replace the turkey with a goose, creating what is known as a gooducken. Or, you can wrap the turkey in bacon and create the bacon-and-bird-lover’s dream: a turbaconducken.
But if you’re like me, and are planning an ordinary turkey for your Thanksgiving menu, yet want to do something besides throwing it in the oven, here are three turkey recipes you might consider.
Smoking Turkey On a Propane Grill
With this method you’ll need to prepare several smoke packets in advance. Smoke packets are wood chips that have been soaked overnight and wrapped in aluminum foil. Poke a few holes in the foil to allow the smoke to escape the packet.
You’ll be cooking your turkey using indirect heat, which means you’ll need a propane grill large enough for the turkey to be on one side of the grill, leaving the other side open. You will be using the burners on the open side. Bring the temperature of your grill to about 250 degrees and place one of the foil packets near one of the flames, but not in direct contact with it. Close your grill and wait.
When the smoke begins to billow, place your seasoned turkey breast-up on other side of the grill (the unlit side). Close the lid and keep an eye on the smoke. If it begins to die down, toss in another prepared smoke packet. The results are an incredibly juicy, smoked turkey with beautiful pink turkey meat near the surface, caused by the penetration of the smoke.
Roasting Your Turkey On a Charcoal Grill
With summer just beginning to fade from memory, chances are good that your outdoor grill is still easily accessible. This is a good thing, because preparing your bird on a grill – charcoal or propane – creates a juicy, delectable dish that’s sure to please.
For a charcoal grill, you simply bake your turkey in a grill prepared with briquettes that have been heated until the flame dies down. Place your seasoned turkey breast-up on a grill over the briquettes and cover with the grill lid. Throughout the cooking process, you’ll need to add a few charcoal briquettes every now and then.
Cooking Turkey In A Crock-Pot
Another way of preparing a juicy, delicious turkey is in a large crock-pot. Suitable for smaller birds (10 pounds or less), place the seasoned turkey in the crock-pot with some butter and let it cook for about ten hours on low, or five hours on high. It’s fall-apart delicious and sure to be the star of your Thanksgiving menu!
I’ve heard about fried turkey but have never eaten any so I’m not sure what it would taste like. But if you’re up for experimentation, do something new with that old bird.