I Tried Our 5 Most Popular Thanksgiving Turkey Recipes and Found a Serious Showstopper

This bronzed beauty could have won on looks alone.

<p>Dotdash Meredith Studios</p>

Dotdash Meredith Studios

Not to put the pressure on if you’re the one in charge of the turkey, but no amount of gravy can save a dry or flavorless bird. That’s why it’s essential to find a recipe you can trust—one that yields moist meat and crispy skin every time you make it.

But instead of leaving you to do all the work to find it (it’s not exactly easy to taste-test multiple 12-pound turkeys), we took the task upon ourselves. Over the course of several days, we cooked our five most popular turkey recipes, judging them on ease of preparation as well as overall texture and flavor. With the risk of spoiling the ending, we did indeed find a winner—and it’s exactly what we’ll be eating if you join us for Thanksgiving.

What Makes a Perfect Turkey?

First things first: This turkey needs star power. No matter how delicious the sides, the Thanksgiving turkey always steals the show, so you’ll want a bronzed beauty that’s worthy of all the attention. (Bonus points if it’s plattered alongside fresh lemons, herbs, or greens).

Next up is taste and texture, which is deceivingly hard to get right. The best turkeys have moist, tender meat no matter where they’re sliced, ensuring you satisfy guests who ask for breast meat as well as those who favor thighs. Crispy skin is also a plus, as is a turkey that yields enough drippings to create a flavorful gravy.

Which Turkey Recipes Did We Test?

We tested the five most popular turkey recipes on Allrecipes.com, including one that roasts in a bag, one that’s deep-fried in oil, one that cooks in a smoker, one reminiscent of grandma’s, and one that we loved the most. Here’s what we found.

<p>Dotdash Meredith Studios</p>

Dotdash Meredith Studios

Best for First-Time Hosts: Turkey in a Bag

  • Fast Facts: Developed by dyclark, has 229 reviews with a 4.8-star rating

This recipe boasts the easiest prep and shortest roasting time, making it great for beginners or first-time hosts. Despite roasting it in a bag, the skin is deliciously crisp, and the dark meat is particularly tender and moist. (In case you were curious, that’s the idea behind the bag: It keeps the bird juicy by trapping the moisture.)

Sprinkling the bag with flour does double duty, keeping the bag from bursting and assisting with browning, too. The only other additions are celery and onions, which infuse the turkey with flavor and give it that classic roast turkey taste. When the turkey’s done cooking, simply throw away the bag. How’s that for easy cleanup?

Get the recipe: Turkey in a Bag

<p>Dotdash Meredith Studios</p>

Dotdash Meredith Studios

Crispiest Skin: Simple Deep Fried Turkey

  • Fast Facts: Developed by sgtsquarepants, has 5 reviews with a 4.6-star rating

When we say crispy, we mean shatteringly crispy: This turkey is worth deep-frying for the ridiculously good skin alone. Plus, it’s easier to make than it sounds: All you need is peanut oil and a salt-and-peppered bird.

It’s also worth bragging about the speed of this technique. Whereas roasting a turkey in the oven takes about 13 minutes per pound, frying the turkey in hot oil takes just three and a half minutes per pound. Yes, you did that math right: You’ll be slicing into this bird in less than an hour.

Get the recipe: Simple Deep Fried Turkey

<p>Dotdash Meredith Studios</p>

Dotdash Meredith Studios

Most Flavorful: Turkey in a Smoker

  • Fast Facts: Developed by DOUGKOJAK, has 232 reviews with a 4.8-star rating

The hickory-smoked flavor really comes through here, making this stunner the most flavorful bird of the bunch. The skin is gorgeously dark brown, the breast meat is juicy, and the excess of drippings is perfect for homemade gravy.

While not as quick as deep frying, this low and slow method (it cooks in about five hours) ensures the smoky flavor is infused throughout. Rubbing the turkey with crushed garlic is also a major flavor win.

Get the recipe: Turkey in a Smoker

<p>Dotdash Meredith Studios</p>

Dotdash Meredith Studios

Most Classic: A Simply Perfect Roast Turkey

  • Fast Facts: Developed by Syd, has 381 reviews with a 4.9-star rating

If you’re looking for a foolproof crowd pleaser that pairs well with everything on the plate, you can’t go wrong with this recipe. Basting the turkey as it roasts makes for crisp, evenly-browned skin, and yields perfectly cooked meat that’s moist and tender through and through.

In addition to frequent basting, the secret here is lots of butter, which gets rubbed all over the turkey skin before it heads to the oven. For extra flavor, swap in a savory compound butter. Its built-in herbs and spices will perfume the turkey as it roasts.

Get the recipe: A Simply Perfect Roast Turkey

<p>Dotdash Meredith Studios</p>

Dotdash Meredith Studios

Best Overall: Spatchcocked Butter-Roasted Lemon and Herb Turkey with Gravy

With its impressive spatchcocked shape and bronzed, herb-flecked skin, this turkey swept its competition on presentation alone. But its flavor and texture is what really sealed the deal: moist, tender, and buttery through and through.

If you’ve never spatchcocked a turkey, don’t be deterred: This recipe’s step-by-step instructions  will help you nail it on your first go. The butterflied shape helps the turkey cook more quickly—and much more evenly, too. 

Get the recipe: Spatchcocked Butter-Roasted Lemon and Herb Turkey with Gravy

Read the original article on All Recipes.