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New Twists on the Traditional Thanksgiving Turkey

If you need a new recipe for your Thanksgiving turkey, give one of these non-traditional twists a try.

There are many ways to cook everyone’s favorite holiday bird. Each family has its own special technique for cooking a turkey, whether it's using an old family recipe, adding a secret ingredient or shopping at a certain store in town that helps make the turkey taste all the better.

Editor's tip #1: check both cavities in the turkey when you're getting out the yucky bits. Sometimes the neck is on one end, and the bag of giblets is in the other!

If you're hosting Thanksgiving this year, you can try any of the recipes below to add a new kick to your feast. If you're attending someone else’s dinner, hopefully their turkey will taste as good as one of these!

But first, the basics:

  • It's-my-first-time-hosting-Thanksgiving-and-I'm-scared-to-try-anything-fancy Turkey

For a simple turkey that's moist inside and crispy on the outside, grab a roasting pan (a disposable one from Walmart, around $3, or a metal one, around $10), a box of oven bags (available at most Thanksgiving meal displays in grocery stores, $3), butter and your favorite seasoning. Get the yucky bits out, pour a half cup of melted butter over the turkey and sprinkle on the seasoning. (I use Greek seasoning.)

Sprinkle a little bit of flour into the oven bag, then pick up that monstrous bird and place it in the bag. This can get messy if you're uncoordinated, like me. Pick up the bag, plop it in the roasting pan and cook it at 325 degrees. A 20-pound turkey should be in the oven for 4 1/2 hours, according to the USDA.

Now, on to more interesting turkey recipes. (Even though this one will get your guests going "mmm, great job! I can't believe you've never made a turkey before!")

Just the name of this recipe makes my mouth water. An Allrecipes.com user contributes this Greek take on turkey, which combines ground beef and pork with tangerine juice, rice and other ingredients for an in-bird stuffing. This one requires no pre-made brine.

Editor's tip #2: I've heard that if you cook a turkey breast-side down, it comes out very juicy. I tried that, but apparently don't know the anatomy of a turkey and did it the traditional way. 

Emeril Lagasse’s recipe for a Cajun-spiced turkey is not for those looking for a simple roast bird this Thanksgiving. It calls for the equipment and safety precautions necessary to deep-fry a good-sized bird, but for those looking for a little extra flavor and adventure this year, this may be the perfect alternative to the oven. The results will undoubtedly be delicious, but be sure to heed the safety tips at the bottom of the recipe before attempting. If you want the Cajun flavors without the hassle, risk and calories of deep-frying, try this recipe from Jimmy Bannos.

This recipe calls for the use of a turkey breast roast, but variations can be worked out fairly easily for a smaller whole bird or even diced meat for a stir-fry or bake. I’ve made chicken dishes with a very similar yogurt marinade to this one and the key is letting the meat soak up the sauce overnight. The flavors are intense and aromatic, and will definitely lend themselves to a unique Thanksgiving meal.

This recipe’s name—and its use of whiskey—intrigued me. A flavorful blend of unconventional ingredients make this dish sound delicious and feasible, and it requires fairly simple preparation. Check out the chef’s note to see how you can use a crock pot for a quicker, easier version of this recipe. Some of the user comments also have great ideas for stuffings that use the same components.

If you're in the mood for something more traditional this year, try this recipe:

The Food Network’s Alton Brown brings us this fairly simple (for a whole turkey) and by-the-book recipe, which uses a brine peppered with allspice berries and candied ginger. It takes about 10 hours of total cooking time, not including defrosting.

TELL US: What is your favorite way to cook a turkey on Thanksgiving? Do you use special ingredients? 

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