Degree column: Tasty tips for turkey

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 18, 2011

SALISBURY — Thanksgiving is next week and many of you are finalizing your menus, shopping and prepping for the big day, while others are still pondering. How you are going to prepare the turkey this year? Since traditionally, turkey is synonymous with Thanksgiving and nearly 90 percent of Americans eat the bird — whether roasted, baked or deep-fried — on Thanksgiving, according to the National Turkey Federation.
And, if you are like most people, you have had your turkey one of the aforementioned ways for years and this year you want to try something different. Keep reading for some options and/or upgrades that you might consider making this Thanksgiving to make this your most memorable and yummiest ever.
Better Homes and Gardens has a holiday guide called “12 Mouthwatering Ways to Cook a Turkey” that I thought was awesome and provides many options to cover even the pickiest of guests.
1. Glazed — For a bird that glistens and is bursting with flavor, brush on a sticky glaze when the turkey is almost done cooking. Try a mixture of apple cider, cinnamon, butter, brown sugar and thyme.
2. Infused — Injecting your turkey with seasoned liquid is a fantastic way to flavor the meat itself; consider a flavorful mixture of honey, sage, garlic and olive oil.
3. Deconstructed — If carving a whole turkey is intimidating, cook your bird in pieces. Fans of white meat may want an easy preparation for juicy turkey breast. For guests who prefer dark meat, braise the turkey legs with pan gravy.
4. Brined — Another way to ensure a juicy, flavorful bird is to brine your turkey. Most recipes call for brining the turkey for 8-12 hours, so make sure to plan ahead. A basic brine recipe is a mixture of water, salt, sugar, thyme, bay leaves and peppercorns.
5. Crusted — A homemade “crust” gives your turkey crunch and juiciness. Try brushing the turkey with orange marmalade, then coat it with a mixture of spices and hazelnuts before roasting.
6. Grilled — Grill your turkey to infuse it with a distinct smoky flavor. For a festive Thanksgiving twist, rub butter, citrus peel and garlic under the turkey skin before grilling.
7. Roasted — Roasting your turkey is the most traditional cooking method; when done correctly the turkey comes out a beautiful golden-brown with juicy meat. This year try roasting your turkey with onions and garlic inside the cavity.
8. Marinated — Marinating makes turkey extra moist; try this delectable marinade of cilantro, citrus juice, garlic, olive oil and cumin.
9. Smoked — If you love the ease of grilling outdoors, this cooking method is worth a try. Whether you have a smoker, charcoal grill or gas grill, the simple directions provided will give your turkey a smoky flavor. This recipe will also provide you with directions on how to make stuffing on your grill, too.
10. Butter under skin — Massaging butter under the skin of your turkey keeps the meat moist and juicy. Add herbs or spices for extra flavor.
11. Rubbed — For turkey your guests will fight over, brush your bird with oil, and then rub a homemade spice mixture into the skin,such as a combination of coriander, paprika, black pepper and chipotle pepper, which enhances the flavor of the smoked meat.
12. Deep-fried — If you crave extra crispy turkey, you can’t beat deep-frying. To avoid splatters, make sure your turkey is patted dry before lowering it into the hot oil. And, of course, rub spices under the skin and in the cavity for extra flavor.
If any of these flavorful options spark your interest you may visit Better Homes and Gardens on line at: to find these recipes and many more.
Also, remember that safety is very important, so if you have questions this Thanksgiving about turkey preparation, storage or any other questions, the USDA Meat & Poultry Hotline is only a phone call or click away. The hotline is open year-round Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; there are also recorded food safety messages available 24 hours a day in both English and Spanish. Call toll free 1-888-674-6854, or you may check the Food Safety and Inspection Service web site at You can even send email questions to
I wish you all a safe and Happy Thanksgiving.
Toi N. Degree, family and consumer education agent, North Carolina Cooperative Extension, Rowan County Center, 2727-A Old Concord Road; phone, 704-216-8970; fax, 704- 216-8995; email:;