4 ways to cook a turkey to clear up oven space this Thanksgiving

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Thanksgiving is a juggle! Use these 4 ways to cook a turkey that will clear up oven space this Thanksgiving

Alternative ways to cook your turkey that don't use the oven so you can save the oven for all those tasty sides!

Thanksgiving is like the ultimate test for a cook.  

At this point you’ve mastered a roux, you know how to cook meat without overcooking it, you can make a yeast bread that rises beautifully and tastes fluffy and delicious. 

But…can you do it all in one day, put it all on the table hot, get the kitchen cleaned and decorated, all while you have your kiddos around and possibly even guests??

Oh, and you only get one oven. 


That’s a challenge. 

If you listened to the podcast last year then you know that I’ve put together a complete guide (that’s completely free and includes recipes) so you can know when to do what and how you can make this logistical nightmare happen without a hitch (or at least without a big hitch). 



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(If you missed that episode find the link here)

In that episode I mention that I like to cook my turkey in a slow cooker to clear up space in my oven.  This year, where many of us will be staying home and keeping the holiday small this could be a really good solution for you. 

But, after I put that episode out last year, I thought I ought to look for other solutions for those who are hosting a big group and need to make a full turkey instead of a turkey breast. 

4 ways to cook a turkey to clear up oven space

Preparing your turkey to cook. 

Before you cooking you’ll want to season your turkey.  My favorite ways to season are using a wet brine or a dry brine. 

A wet brine involves submerging your turkey in an ice water/salt solution.  You’ll need to clear up quite a bit of fridge space for this method (or if you’re like me and the weather outside is already fridge temperatures just keep your turkey outside). You should brine for 12-24 hours. 

If you’re limited on fridge space you might prefer a dry brine.  A dry brine involves rubbing salt and seasonings over the turkey 

After your turkey is brined, you’re ready to get cooking. 

Cooking a turkey by deep-frying

To fry a turkey you’ll need a turkey fryer. 

They’re available for around $50. 

You’ll also need a propane burner to cook on outside.  

You can also find kits that include the line to hook up to propane and the pot all in one. 

You’ll also need a boat load of oil. 

You’ll also want a thermometer to check the oil temperature

Pros of this method are that it’s much faster than roasting a turkey, In fact your turkey can be finished start to finish in less than an hour. 

I haven’t actually tried this method myself, but those who have swear that fried turkey tastes more moist and delicious than an oven-roasted bird (and I believe them because what doesn’t taste better fried right?)

You also get to have the turkey cook outside which is a win to get someone out of the kitchen. 

Cons: You will probably need someone to help you smoke the turkey while you finish the inside dishes. 

With little ones, I also don’t love the idea of gallons of hot oil outside.  Obviously you would exercise caution, but it makes me pretty nervous with my kids around. 

Try this recipe from alton brown: 

Deep-fried Turkey

Cooking a turkey using a smoker

To smoke a turkey you’ll need a smoker.  There are lots of different types, here’s a link that summarizes them, but it seems like most who are enjoying smoked turkey use a pellet smoker. 

The most affordable option I could find, (with great reviews) is the campchef pellet smoker.

Pellet grills don’t come cheap, so if you’re only purpose for buying one is to make your thanksgiving turkey you might want to look at different options, but if you’re interested in getting into smoking meats than this might just be the perfect excuse to splurge! 

Again, I haven’t made smoked turkey myself (yet) but I have tasted it, and it was honestly the best turkey that I have ever tasted so if you can afford it I highly recommend this method. 

Pros are that again your turkey is cooking outside.  Pellet smoking is more hands off than frying so you can leave your turkey alone more with this option. Lastly, I can attest to the fact that it tastes amazing! 

Cons this is a longer method, in fact it will take longer in the smoker than in your oven.  The other con is the expense of the smoker if you don’t already have one! 

If you want to try it, try this recipe from Dinner at the Zoo: 

Smoked Turkey

Cooking a turkey using a slow cooker

This is the method that I use most often for cooking turkey. 

Slow-cooked turkey is so easy, and it turns out super tender and delicious. 

Cooking a turkey in the slow cooker couldn’t be easier and it’s literally a hands-off method. 

Pros of this method are that it’s so hands-off and easy, it doesn’t require special equipment, and it tastes great. 

Cons of this method:  You can’t fit a whole turkey into a slow cooker (unless you find a super tiny one) so you are limited to cooking only a breast.  This is plenty of meat for a small gathering, but a bummer to those who like dark meat.  I’ve overcome that problem in the past by grabbing a few turkey legs and throwing them in the slow-cooker with the turkey. 

Another con is that the skin is soggy in the slow-cooker.  Again, you can overcome this fairly easily by broiling the skin in the oven after it’s been cooked, but this will take up oven space and is an extra step. 

If you want to use this method but have a bigger group, try borrowing an extra slow-cooker to make two or 3 breasts.  

Try this recipe from Recipe Tin Eats

Slow Cooker Turkey Breast

Cooking a Turkey using a Roaster Oven

The last method I have for you is to use a roaster oven. 

A roaster oven would be most comparable to cooking your bird in your standard oven. 

They can be purchased for anywhere from $50-$150 and they are electric and can just plug into your wall. 

Pros of this is that you will be able to cook a standard bird with pretty standard directions using this method. It tastes very similar to oven-roasted turkey. 

Pros of this method-Like all of the methods, it clears up oven space.  Roaster ovens are also very affordable, especially in comparison to the turkey fryer or smoker options. 

Cons: Turkey ovens are large.  You likely won’t use it anytime other than thanksgiving so you may not have space to store a large one-time use type of item. 

Try this recipe from Food.com 

Perfect electric roaster oven turkey

So there you have it. 4 ways to cook a turkey to clear up oven space this holiday. I hope this has sparked some ideas for how you can put that meal on the table in the least stressful way possible.  If you want that complete thanksgiving guide (including what you can make ahead and meal prep for the holiday to save your sanity) the link for that is in the shownotes! 

With Covid-19 raging in many parts of the country (including my own) next week i’ll be sharing our families advent calendar with fun at-home ways to celebrate the holidays! 

Thanks for listening all, I appreciate and am grateful for every single listener. 

Best, and happy planning! 

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