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What’s the Best Way to Cook a Turkey?

Turkey cooking in an oven inside of a pan

Oven, Fry, or Smoke: The Best Way to Cook a Turkey

There is a long-standing debate among chefs regarding gas versus electric ovens and ranges.

Thanksgiving only adds fuel to that fire (pun intended).

As the nation’s biggest eating event approaches, many Americans are debating the best way to cook a turkey. Whether your top concern is speed, flavor, or even energy efficiency, here’s the breakdown.

Oven Roasting a Turkey

This traditional method is also arguably the cheapest. According to Clearly Energy, cooking a 20-pound turkey at 375 degrees Fahrenheit (1500 watts per hour) for approximately six hours will only cost about $1.00. If you love the aroma of turkey wafting in your house, this is the way to go. Just be sure to not overcook or you’ll be left with dry, flavorless meat.

Tip: Don’t keep opening the oven door! Cracking the door to check on the bird lowers the oven temperature, forcing it to use more energy to maintain constant heat. Use the light instead and monitor your bird through the oven door window.

Deep Frying a Turkey

Cooking at about 45 minutes (roughly three minutes per pound), deep frying is certainly one of the fastest ways to cook a turkey. The average fryer uses roughly as much propane per hour as a grill, and requires an hour to heat the oil and an hour to fry the bird. But is it flavorful? If your crowd prefers a crispy skin, deep frying is the right flavor for you.

Tip: Never place an unthawed turkey in a fryer pot (any draining water could cause the oil to bubble over and catch fire). When it’s time to place your turkey in the pot, protect exposed skin with long-sleeved clothing, gloves, and goggles to prevent hot oil burns. Let the turkey cook for 3 ½ – 4 minutes per pound.

Smoking a Turkey

Smoking is a significantly slower cooking process – roughly eight hours for a large turkey. But its unique, smoky flavor might just be worth the wait! Fueled by charcoal and wood chips, smoking is the most energy-efficient and environmentally-friendly option. But unless you’re supplying your own wood chips, the cost can add up fast.

Tip: When smoked at 275 degrees, account for 30 minutes per pound of turkey. Avoid opening the smoker or you’ll have to add another 15-30 minutes to total cook time.