Updated: 7 days ago
The turkey is an essential part of a traditional Thanksgiving meal. The turkey is front and center of the family table. Cooking, roasting, frying, or smoking a Thanksgiving turkey is a serious undertaking.
But before you pop your dream turkey into the oven, you definitely want to read our Top 20 Thanksgiving Turkey Hacks. That's right, this is the year you deliver a Thanksgiving turkey to the table that everyone will talk about for years to come.
If you are competitive and hosting this Thanksgiving, you've come to the right place! The team at Smoked Bros plays for keeps, and the sole reason for hosting is to show off your unique culinary insights.
Let's not get too cocky yet, because a tiny error can mean disaster, and you and your family will have to deal with a dry, overcooked bird for the holiday. People will talk about you, but NOT in a good way.
Our network of expert chefs and pitmasters have delivered ingenious Turkey hacks to help you put a perfectly cooked Thanksgiving turkey on the table!
1: Buy the Right Turkey at the Right Time
Look at the breasts: Please pay attention to the shape of the turkey before you huck it into your cart. You want to look at the breasts, well-rounded, firm, and full breasts—they will turn out juicier and make jaws drop. Watch out for flat spots, indicating the bird has been thawed and refrozen. This not only increases the chances of freezer-burned meat, but it also raises the risk of foodborne illness.
Buy the right size: Once you know the exact number of attendees, use this formula: Number of guests x 1.25. You’ll want to plan on about 1.25 pounds of turkey per person attending. Nothing is worse than under-calculating the amount of turkey to serve.
Number of Guests
Buy your turkey early: If you’re buying a frozen turkey, ensure you have enough time to thaw it properly. The loose math for thawing is 1 x day for every 4 lbs. Buying early ensures you’ll be able to brine the turkey and avoid dealing with turkey shortages. Be careful with fresh turkeys. After purchasing a fresh Turkey, it can only be stored in the fridge for up to two days.
Hen vs. Tom: Hens are female turkeys, and toms are males. Toms are, on average, larger, so if you're going for a turkey over 18 pounds, you'll likely end up with a tom, whereas if you're looking for a turkey 14 pounds or under, you're likely to buy a hen. Other than size, there isn't a real difference. Some people claim toms are more flavorful.
Self-Basting or Pre-Brined: Self-basting and pre-brined turkeys have been injected with broth, salt, seasonings, beer, and/or other flavorings. Do not salt or brine self-basting turkeys; it could lead to the opposite effect, and you'll end up with an overly salted and dried-out bird.
Heritage Turkeys: As heirloom is to tomato, heritage is to turkeys. It’s a step back to how things used to taste. Strict standards apply to labeling animals “heritage.” Heritage turkeys are smaller than their commercially bred counterparts (all Broad-Breasted Whites) and have a more robust—some say gamy—flavor. Less breast meat and more highly exercised thighs and wings mean heritage turkeys benefit from longer, slower cooking times.
2: Brine your turkey:
Brining means treating your meat with salt or a salty water mixture. This process is a method to infuse flavor and break down the proteins to make them tender and juicy. Most people underestimate the power of bringing poultry. Brining your turkey will deliver a juicy and tender interior. We recommend brining your turkey for a minimum of 12 hours before baking, frying, roasting, or smoking your bird.
Smoked Bros Brine Recipe:
Add brine to a large container. Add the brining mixture –2 gallons of water, 3/4 cup Smoked Bros Hickory Smoked Sea Salt, 3/4 cup canning salt, 3/4 cup Smoked Bros White Knight, 1 tablespoon ground black pepper, and 1/4 cup low-sodium vegetable stock to a pot or container that’s large enough to hold the brine and the turkey.
Add the turkey to the brine. Submerge the turkey and transfer the container to the refrigerator for 12 to 24 hours.
Dry the turkey. Remove the turkey from the brine, let it stand for 20 minutes and pat it dry. You can let the turkey rest uncovered in the fridge for up to 1 day so the skin dries out and becomes crispier in the oven.
3: Spatchcocking is a significant time saver
A Spatchcocked turkey cooks more evenly and more quickly than non-butterflied versions. This technique isn't for appearances but for stunningly crisp skin and perfectly cooked white and dark meat.
Why does it work?
Removing the backbone makes it easy to flatten the turkey into a single plane, promoting even cooking in the oven and ensuring the light and dark meat reach their optimal cooking temperatures simultaneously.
Since the skin of a spatchcocked bird is all on top, it all crisps up beautifully, giving you more crispy skin than a conventionally cooked bird.