Turkey Traditions and Innovations

Few holiday meals generate more apprehension – and conversation — than the quest for a ‘perfect’ turkey. We all have the beautiful bird in our mind’s eye and there is no doubt that a juicy, flavorful, and perfectly golden turkey is the quintessential Thanksgiving centerpiece.

But the past decade or two have brought some innovation (and controversy!) to the preparation and techniques resulting in a ‘perfect’ bird. To brine or not to brine? To roast, or smoke, or grill, or fry? Oh my! So many new variables and new thoughts on creating the most delicious of birds have made this discussion a little more flexible, but also a little more intimidating.

At Oliver’s, we want your turkey to be delicious no matter how you prepare it, so we are going to provide an overview of helpful techniques along with some recipes. We’ve gathered all the hints and tricks you need to avoid any Thanksgiving turkey woes. We are ready to talk turkey!

Fresh Is Best

Preparing a frozen turkey will give you a turkey, but not at its best. Order a fresh bird if at all possible and taste the success of your efforts! Order your turkey at Oliver’s Meat Department soon to avoid any issues and get the bird you want.

To Brine or Not To Brine?

Many a food writer and chef will tell you that brining is essential for creating flavorful, moist, juicy turkey, so if it’s possible for you to do, it’s a worthy added step in your preparation. Check out our directions and more details on the benefits of brining here.

Along with traditional brining, which can be messy and require precious refrigerator space, comes another easier technique, dry brining. Yes, you heard that right. You can create many of the benefits of traditional brining by covering your bird in salt and herbs prior to cooking. Sounds like a potential ‘win’ to us! Want to learn more? Check out this article from Epicurious.

How to Prep Your Bird

A popular trend right now is spatchcocking, which is a fancy term for butterflying a turkey. Many feel that the bird cooks faster and more evenly, though that look of a traditional turkey centerpiece is sacrificed, so it’s not the technique for everyone. If you are intrigued, you can spatchcock yourself, or let the butchers at Oliver’s do it. Just request it when you are ordering your turkey and pick it up ready to go.

How to Cook Your Bird

Roasting: The most common method begins with brining and goes to the oven. Here is our recipe. Be sure to read it all early in the week to ensure timing and planning align!

Smoking: Smoked turkey is a delicious alternative to a traditional roasted turkey – and it frees up space in your oven! Consider smoking your turkey this year to add a whole new depth of flavor to your Thanksgiving dinner. Spatchcocking (or butterflying) will also cut the cooking time of your turkey down significantly, leaving you more time to enjoy the holiday!  Check out our recipe for Smoked Spatchcocked Turkey and try something new this year.

Grilled Turkey: Another great technique that frees up your oven is grilling a turkey. Not quite smoked, but with some flavor imparted through the method, this could be an interesting option to try. Here is a great overview from food blogger Jessica Merchant, in partnership with Home Depot and Weber Grills:

Deep Fried Turkey:  This is a departure from tradition that a lot of families have happily adopted as their own in recent years. It’s fast and keeps the oven available, and results in juicy delicious turkey. On the downside, there is special equipment involved and serious safety precautions to be taken, but once you master it, you can even offer to fry turkeys for your neighbors! Alton Brown and the Food Network have a deep dive on this topic, which is a great place to start for everything you need to know!

Do You Need a Whole Turkey?

A nice way to enjoy “the bird” for a small group on Thanksgiving is to order a turkey breast and prepare that. It’s much simpler and less time-consuming, while offering many of the best parts of enjoying turkey!  Check out our recipe for Garlic and Herb Turkey Breast and see if you don’t agree!

Don’t Forget Oliver’s!

If anything is amiss with your menu, or you just want to enjoy the day and leave the cooking to others, Oliver’s has you covered! We are featuring all of your Thanksgiving favorites in our Hot Bars in the days before and including Thanksgiving (open 7-4 that day!), or you can grab everything prepared in our Grab and Go area and heat it up on your own time.

We hope that this overview, recipes, and links to further reading are helpful. Whatever way you choose to enjoy your holiday meal, we wish you a delicious, stress-free, and happy Thanksgiving!

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