The tradition of preparing and feasting on a Thanksgiving meal dates to the 17th century, when the first European settlers arrived on these shores. Although Turkey Day celebrations vary by region, family, and personal preference, eating turkey is a custom shared by 95% of the population, according to the National Turkey Federation. Follow this slideshow to learn about the different ways Thanksgiving turkeys are prepared in the U.S.
The roast turkey is a simple and traditional dish that many Americans prepare for their Thanksgiving feast. Roast turkeys are often flavored with a rub, typically a wet or dry mixture of ingredients, which can vary from region to region in the United States. In the Northeast, salt-encrusted roast turkey and savory herb roast turkey are common. In Hawaii, coffee rubbed and pineapple mustard roast turkey is popular.
Marinating the Turkey
To enhance the taste and tenderness of the Thanksgiving turkey, many people place the meat in a marinade before cooking. Marinating is a technique in which a spiced liquid soaks the bird, penetrating the meat to add flavor. Marinades can contain a variety of herbs, spices, and acids, such as lemon juice, wine, or vinegar.
Brining the Turkey
Brining is another pre-cooking treatment traditional in preparing a Thanksgiving turkey. Placing the entire bird in a salt and water solution known as brine produces a moist and well-seasoned turkey. After brining the turkey for up to 24 hours in the refrigerator, the bird can be placed in the oven. This technique often produces a moist bird that's hard to overcook.
Photo source: sizzleonthegrill.com
Fried Turkey is often called "New Orleans fried turkey" because the tradition originated in Louisiana. Small turkeys, usually eight to ten pounds, are used for frying. The entire bird is lowered into a vat of hot oil and cooked until crispy and golden brown. It won't take long; fried turkeys typically cook fast, about three minutes for each pound.
In recent years, TofurkeyTM has become a vegetarian alternative to turkey on Thanksgiving. Made of vegetarian protein such as tofu, TofurkeyTM can be prepared as other meat turkeys, including roasting, grilling, frying, brining, and using marinades for added flavor.
Turducken is a unique variation of preparing a Thanksgiving bird. Its origin is not clear, but it is thought to have Cajun-Creole roots and has been traced to Louisiana history. A turducken is a partially boned turkey stuffed with a boned duck, then stuffed with a boned chicken. Layers of stuffing, spicy and flavorful, are spread between each bird. The three meats making up the turducken tend to make this option more expensive-and certainly complicated-than meals involving a single bird.
Grilled turkey for Thanksgiving combines two American traditions: barbeque and turkey. After marinating the bird overnight in the refrigerator, cut it into four sections, remove the breast bone, and place it on the grill, flipping occasionally until it is cooked through and ready for a delicious Thanksgiving meal.
Stuffing a Turkey
A long-standing tradition is to fill the turkey's body cavity with stuffing. The stuffing is prepared separately and placed inside the bird just prior to cooking and after removing the giblets, which are located in a bag in the abdominal cavity. There's no limit to what flavors, fruits, vegetables, spices, and meats you can include in your stuffing. Some popular choices include sausage, onion, cranberries, rice, carrots, cornbread, apples, prunes, and even oysters.
Smoked turkey is a more flavorful and tender way to prepare turkey than roasting. There are plenty of recipes for smoking the perfect bird, but a good rule of thumb is to choose a turkey in the 12 lb range; larger birds will take much longer to cook, which can be detrimental to tenderness and flavor.
Photo source: BBQ Junkie