Six Variations for Thanksgiving Turkey


I’ve made turkey dinner every which way, except deep-fried, throughout the years.  It is sort of fun for me to try new methods.  My mother and sister think I am crazy because for them there is only one way to cook a turkey.  I’ve cooked it in a paper sack, with wine, breast-side down, you name it.

  They all came out tender and juicy so I am not sure why people think turkey is dry.  The only bad thing was the first time I cooked turkey with wine.  The recipe only required 1 cup, sooooooo, somehow I slid right past the kitchen, in my slipppers, and head first into metal step stool.  I came to with the third piece of frozen food my darling husband held to my head!  I still have the bump.

I know everybody has a favorite way to cook their Thanksgiving turkey, but here are some ideas I found in Rachael Ray Magazine for adding a “twist” to your turkey.  I’ve also posted her accompanying gravy recipes, but I did that separate because I think they would go great with however you cooked your turkey if you just wanted to change up the gravy a bit.

The concept for this is that for each variation there are ingredients for under the skin, in the cavity, and on the outside.  So these birds would be roasted as an unstuffed bird according to your favorite method – just not deep fried.


Classic Turkey and 6 Variations


  •  1 (12 – 15 pound) fresh or frozen turkey, thawed
  • 6 tablespoons butter, softened
  • salt
  • fresh ground black pepper
  • 2 ribs celery, rough chop
  • 1 onion, quartered
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, for brushing


Allow the turkey to rest at room temperature for 1 to 2 hours.  Place the oven rack in the bottom third of the oven and preheat to 425 degrees F..

Carefully loosen the skin of the turkey by sliding your fingers between the meat and the skin.  Start in the breast and work your way down to the top of the thigh, being careful not to tear.  Spread the butter under the loosened skin. 

Tuck the wings under the turkey and place on a rack in your roasting pan to allow air to circulate around the turkey.  Season the cavity with salt and pepper and place the celery and onion inside.  Use kitchen twine to tie the legs together.  Season the outside with salt and pepper.

Pour the broth into the roasting pan and roast for 1 hour.  Turn the pan and reduce the heat to 375.  Continue to cook until the turkey registers 155 degrees in the thickest part of the thigh, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

Transfer the roasted bird to a serving platter, being sure to reserve the pan juices to make gravy.  Brush the turkey with olive oil and season.  Tent with foil and let stand at least 20 minutes before carving.

To make any of the variations, simply follow the above recipe, substituting the ingredients as outlined below.  Be sure to still season with salt and pepper.

Buffalo Spiced

For under the skin, combine: 

  • 6 tablespoons softened butter
  • 1/4 cup chopped celery leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon celery salt

In the cavity, place:

  • 2 celery ribs, rough chopped
  • 2 carrots, rough chopped

Smear the outside with a mixture of:

  • 1 tablespoon hot sauce
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

Little Italy

For under the skin, combine:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary

In the cavity place:

  • sliced garlic
  • the rind from a wedge of Parmesan cheese

To smear on the outside, combine:

  • olive oil
  • chopped fresh oregano
  • chopped fresh thyme

Latin Lover

For underneath the skin:

  • 4 tablespoons softened butter
  • 2 ounces chorizo, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoon chopped cilantro

Into the cavity goes:

  • 2 limes, sliced
  • 1/2 bunch of cilantro
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed

Rub the turkey with olive oil and sprinkle with chopped cilantro

Cranberry Glazed

For under the skin, combine:

  • 4 tablespoons softened butter
  • 2 tablespoons chopped sage leaves

Inside the cavity put:

  • 1 orange, rough chopped
  • 1 onion, rough chopped

For the outside, reduce 2 cups of cranberry juice down to 1/2 cup.  Use 2 tablespoons of this reduction to brush on the turkey, the remainder is to make the gravy found here.

South of France

Under the skin place:

  • 8 thin lemon slices

In the cavity place:

  • 2 shallots, sliced
  • 2 lemons, sliced
  • 2 sprigs of tarragon

For the outside, combine:

  • olive oil
  • rosemary, finely chopped
  • marjoram, finely chopped

Maple-Apple Bacon

Under the skin place:

  • 4 ounces thin-sliced bacon, in a single layer

Into the cavity goes:

  • 2 shallots, sliced
  • 1 apple, sliced
  • 1/2 bunch of parsley

For the outside, combine:

  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup

Don’t forget the accompanying gravy recipes here.

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