4 Easy Ways to Elevate Your Thanksgiving Turkey

Why we embrace the dry brine but not always the whole bird

Slow-Smoked and Spice-Brined Turkey Recipe, thanksgiving turkey recipes
Turn Your Oven into a Smoker
Our tips for better turkey.Matt Taylor-Gross

Skip the Water in Your Brine

Brining makes for a juicier turkey that’s harder to overcook, but it’s also a pain: it takes up lots of space in your fridge and if the bag leaks, you have a mess on your hands. Plus the biggest thing you’re adding to your turkey is water, straight from your tap.

Instead, dry-brine your bird: mix together salt and seasonings, rub it well into the skin, and refrigerate for a few days. You get tender meat, flavor all the way through, and crispy skin (isn't that what we all want?)—without the water weight.

And Maybe Skip Doing a Whole Turkey

Want to pare down your Thanksgiving prep? Forego the whole-bird Rockwellian moment for a bird you actually want to eat: serve turkey breasts and separate drumsticks. They don't take up that much room in the fridge, are decidedly less tricky in the oven, and you can much more easily control the cooking temperature. If you want to be fancy, you can always turn the breasts into a stuffed turkey roulade. It's easier than it looks.

A Better Way to Gravy

Most gravy recipes call for decanting the drippings from your roasting pan, skimming the fat, then cooking a roux of butter and flour for 10 minutes, then making your gravy. Our faster solution? Beurre manie, a paste of equal parts flour and softened butter that you can whisk right into stock for a perfectly thickened gravy with no lumps and no roux pre-cooking. Skim the fat out of your roasting pan with a wide spoon, place it over a couple burners, then stir in your beurre manie and make your gravy right there. By the time your turkey has rested, your gravy is ready to go.

We Don't Hate Oven Bags

Haters gonna hate, but those Reynold's Oven Bags have always done wonders for our family Thanksgiving. They keep the bird juicy, cut roasting time dramatically, and minimize time spent in the dreaded food safety Temperature Danger Zone (always a real concern with a stuffed bird!). We slice the bag open and crank the heat for the final ten minutes to crisp up the skin. Roast the neck separately with some aromatic veggies and chicken fat to fake a proper pan gravy.