Talking turkey: 7 methods for serving your very best bird this year

Mackensy Lunsford
Southern Kitchen
Linton Hopkins basting a turkey with drippings and butter.

With Thanksgiving nigh, it's time to get down to the nitty-gritty of dinner prep. And perhaps no item on the Thanksgiving table causes more stress than the turkey, the symbolic heart of the meal.

Will you roast or fry? To baste or not to baste? How do you carve this behemoth anyway? Here, we've rounded up some expert tips on how to properly brine, roast and serve your bird.

These bird methods are the word

A classic Thanksgiving spread, Biltmore style

IF YOU'RE A PURIST : Executive Chef Sean Eckman of the 4-star Dining Room at The Inn on Biltmore Estate created this updated turkey recipe based on the 1904 menu book in the opulent estate's archives. 

This is a classic method for a traditional turkey that involves a long, slow brine — you'll need a heavy-duty brining bag and some ice for that. The extra soaking time is worth it; it will make your bird extra succulent. 

Get the recipe: Biltmore’s brined turkey

More:Calves brains and consommé: What Biltmore Estate Thanksgiving dinner looked like in 1904

A spatchcocked turkey will cook faster.

IF YOU'RE PRESSED FOR TIME : What's spatchcocking, you ask? It's the process of butterflying a bird, basically, and it makes cooking your turkey a relative breeze.

You'll need sturdy kitchen shears for this and a stomach that won't mind cutting away a spine. But for a little work upfront, you'll be rewarded with a fairly quick cooking time.

Get the recipe: How to Spatchcock a Turkey

IF YOU'RE A DAREDEVIL : It takes a certain kind of person to fry a turkey, and by that we mean a very, very brave person. There are inherent risks to cooking a large bird in a larger pot of bubbling oil. That being said, if you're up to the task and have a good safety plan, a tender bird with crisp and crackling skin awaits.

Get the recipe:How to deep fry a turkey

Oven Roasted Turkey

IF YOU'RE SHORT ON FRIDGE SPACE : This classic oven-roasted turkey is easy to make and guaranteed to be moist after spending a night rubbed with dry brine. Dry-brining a turkey ensures the salt has plenty of time to penetrate the meat, yet allows the skin to become ultra-crisp. It also saves space, with no giant pots or bags to wrangle.

Get the recipe: Oven-roasted dry-brined turkey

Shrouding the bird.

IF YOU LOVE BUTTER : Here's a chef's trick well worth every second of extra effort.

Chef Linton Hopkins of Hopkins and Co. swears by dipping cheesecloth into white wine butter and then shrouding his turkey with the dripping, buttery cloth.

Then, he bastes on even more wine and butter throughout the roasting process. When he peels back the butter "shroud" after two hours of basting, the skin crisps up beautifully. 

Get the recipe: Linton Hopkins' turkey-roasting method yields a moist yet crisp bird

Removing a turkey leg.

WHEN YOU'RE READY TO SERVE : How long should I rest my bird? Should I carve at the table? Do I remove the wings? How do I slice the breast? The National Turkey Federation is here to answer your deepest turkey-serving questions. 

Get the method: Step by step carving tutorial

DON'T FORGET : The gravy is to the Thanksgiving table what that Persian rug was to the Dude: It really just ties everything together.

Gravy is not only great for your bird, but it's also perfect when poured on mashed potatoes. It even has a place at brunch — biscuits and gravy anyone?

Get the recipe: Classic sage gravy


Mackensy Lunsford is the food and culture storyteller for USA TODAY Network's South Region. She's the editor of Southern Kitchen and a correspondent for The American South.

Sign up for my newsletter here.

Reach me: