Ask a Chef: What's Your Favorite Way to Cook a Turkey?

Michael Paley of Metropole in Cincinnati.

Sure, we've got advice on how to cook a turkey from here until next April. But how do the folks who cook for a living like to handle the centerpiece for the biggest home-cooking holiday of the year? We asked 22 chefs for their favorite way to cook a turkey, and the answers ranged from from deep-fried to split-roasted, with a few nontraditional picks thrown in for good measure (turkey ragu, anyone?). Here's what they had to say:

"I like to make a sausage out of the dark meat, like a cotechino, and brine the breast in a pastrami brine. I then rub it with pastrami spices and smoke it." —Michael Paley, Metropole, Cincinnati

"I like to break it down, and cook the breasts bone in, dry with a heavy salt crust, and cure and confit the legs. Day of, roast the confit legs with the breasts." —Jamie Bissonnette, Coppa in Boston and Toro in Boston and New York

"I do it the way Martha Stewart showed me years ago, but my recipe has been adapted for the professional kitchen to turn out a lot of dishes. I break down the bird, removing all the bones, then I tie up the legs into a round log. I season the meat heavily with salt, pepper, celery salt, cayenne, and curry. I place carrots, onion, celery, and herbs in a roasting pan, I render any leftover fat with butter and Riesling wine, then I soak cheese cloth in the liquid mixture. I place the meat on top of the aromatic vegetables, then cover the meat with the cheese cloth and roast at 425 degrees for an 1 hour. I make a rich broth with the bones, after they have been roasted well. I then sauté the innards, deglaze with Wild Turkey, cool them down and add them to finished gravy, which gets thickened with a roux made from the turkey schmaltz and toasted flour." — Joey Campanaro, Little Owl and Market Table, New York


"Deep fried! Peanut oil is my favorite way to deep fry a turkey." —Dale Talde, Talde and Pork Slope, Brooklyn

"Simple...brining overnight then basting with butter with butter the whole time it is roasting." —Stephanie Izard, The Girl and the Goat and Little Goat, Chicago

"I'd rather share the turkey breast with everyone and make ragu from the thighs. Rich flavorful turkey ragu, usually heavy on the garlic wine and rosemary." —Jay Abrams, Presidio Social Club, San Francisco

"My favorite way to cook a turkey is to roast it. I like to glaze the bird with soy sauce and serve it with grated fresh wasabi or yuzu kosho (a Japanese condiment made from chili peppers, yuzu peel and salt)." Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto

"Every year I cook the bird differently. One way that I really don't see myself revisiting is the "classic" whole bird with or without stuffing—there is just no way to cook everything to the right temperature and texture. I'm a big fan of spatchcocking the bird and grilling it whole on an wood fire, which I think will fit into our family Thanksgiving this year." —Tony Maws, Craigie on Main, Cambridge, MA and Kirkland Tap & Trotter, Somerville, MA


"I like to roast the bird. Classic. It's what I grew up with and there is a lot of technique involved. But I love to eat a fried turkey as much as the next guy!" —Justin Devillier, La Petite Grocery, New Orleans

"Separate the breast of the bone (keep that skin on) and tie the breast like a traditional roast and brine it for 24 hours. You can detach the legs, season them with salt, pepper, thyme, bay leaf, and juniper beer then cure for 24 hours. Day-of, confit the turkey at 225 F for 2.5 hours or til it's fork tender." —Joe Monnich, The Dandelion, Philadelphia

"I like to break the turkey down into the basic cuts, brine them and then slow cook them in a water bath. After they come out of the water bath, I glaze them and throw them in the oven on high heat to crisp the skin." —Richard Kuo, Pearl and Ash, New York

"If I don't have the capacity to smoke the turkey, I really like brining it and roasting in those clear roasting bags. They brown up really well and the turkey gives off a ton of really tasty clear broth, perfect for gravy making!" —Ford Fry, JCT Kitchen & Bar and The Optimist, Atlanta


"I love to pit-smoke or grill the turkey. These are both unique alternatives to your traditional turkey—the flavor, texture and aroma of the grilled and smoked turkeys are tastier than any other method, even the classic open-pan roasting method." —Elizabeth Karmel, Hill Country Barbecue Market and Hill Country Chicken, New York

"I love moist turkey that still has perfectly crisp skin. In order to achieve both, I brine the bird for 24 hours with citrus and variety of spices/herbs and then air dry it for 24 hours to make sure the skin is completely dry. On the day of, I roast the turkey in the over, skin side down and baste the bird with fat."—Shane Lyons, Distilled, New York

"I like to brine it for 48 hours, let it come to room temperature, and then cook it in a CVAP oven at the restaraunt the morning has a timer and thermometer on it and is controlled vapor oven, so it is the most moist turkey on the planet— even better than a deep fried, which I also admire. You don't get the nostalgic aroma from doing it in your house oven, but the sacrifice is well worth it!" —Brandon McGlamery, Luma Park and Prato, Winter Park, FL


"A simple roast is my favorite way to cook a turkey. I recommend a 16-18lb bird. Anything bigger becomes unmanageable. Three days before, I air dry the bird. I like to air dry rather than brine for crisper skin. Rub the bird with heavy salt and pepper inside and out, and leave uncovered in the fridge for three days. Bring the bird up to room temp for about 2 hours before roasting. Stuff both the neck and chest cavity and then blast it for 20 minutes at 425 degrees. After 20 minutes, drop the oven temp to 325, at that point add stock and 1/2 lb of butter and baste every 20 minutes for the remaining cooking time. Pull the bird out when the thermometer reads at 155 at the joints. Rest for 45 minutes to 1 hour before carving." —John Gorham, Tasty n Sons, Portland, OR

"I prefer the traditional brine first and slow oven roast. I do however also enjoy the Southern deep fried version—it's quick, dangerous, and juicy." —Frank McMahon, Hank's Seafood, Charleston, SC

"I love deep frying a turkey. It remains moist, the skin is incredibly crispy, and it takes about 35 minutes to deep fry a 16 pounder if I remember correctly. Otherwise I love a good slow roast with a good amount of butter, and either black truffles or lemon and herbs under the skin." —Anita Lo, Annisa, New York


"Applewood smoked turkey is by far the most popular of the many ways I have tried serving turkey." —Michael Anthony, Gramercy Tavern, New York

"I usually cook Thanksgiving dinner for the family and have tried just about every way to roast a turkey that I can think of; smoked, slow roasted, fast roasted, deep fried, and mashups of all of the above. (Never sous vide—never). I've arrived at brining the turkey for three days in herbs and garlic, then drying it overnight before slow roasting it, while basting with more herbs and butter." —Greg Baker, The Refinery, Tampa, FL

"Cooking the turkey is my responsibility each year, so I've tried many different ways of roasting it over the years. Hands down, the best way I've found is spice rubbed, then wrapped in bacon and roasted slowly on the grill." — Olivier Souvestre, Fast Food Francais, Sausalito, CA


"Spit-roasted is my favorite because of the smokiness you get from the wood. This year at Kapnos, we're offering a spit-roasted turkey to-go for Thanksgiving. We'll brine it with rosemary, oregano and orange then spit-roast it over hickory wood." — Mike Isabella, Kapnos and Graffiato in Washington, D.C

"The turkey I make is brined for 24 hours in beer, salt, sugar, garlic, onions, herbs, vinegar, spices and cold water.Then I tuck some cold butter between the skin and the meat, season it with salt and freshly ground black pepper and roast it slowly, all the while basting it in butter. I cook it in a low-heated oven for as long as it takes as cook time depends on bird size and oven calibration. I make the gravy from the juices. I also stuff a blue Hubbard squash and roast it the same way for my vegetarian friends. I serve it with sausage and fig dressing and oyster and cornbread dressing. I also make a blank cornbread stuffing with no oysters to stuff the Hubbard with." —Jimmy Bradley, The Red Cat and The Harrison, New York

"I don't actually ever cook turkey on Thanksgiving, but rather roasted goose or duck." —David Myers, Hinoki and the Bird, Los Angeles