And The Early Show offered a heaping helping of help Monday to anyone getting set to make a turkey for the big day -- as three great chefs shared their secrets for making the perfect turkey.
Each of the culinary stars uses a different method to achieve delicious results.
CLASSIC ROASTED TURKEY: John "Doc" Willoughby, of Gourmet magazine
The recipe is officially called "Extra Moist Roast Turkey." The secret to this succulent bird? A cheap roasting pan! That's right. When you cover the pan and roast at a high heat, you are essentially roasting AND braising the turkey at the same time which means it stays incredibly moist. You take the cover off during the last 15 minutes of cooking to crisp up the skin.
The great thing about this recipe, besides the fact that the results are tasty, is that the turkey cooks so quickly and with so little work. You stuff the cavity with an onion and some thyme. You tie the bird up, brush with melted butter and put in the pan. About halfway through the cooking process you add some water to the pan to help the braising along. And that's it!
The turkey is served with a gravy made from the pan drippings. The recipe is straight-forward. Doc just reminds us that you need to make the turkey stock for the gravy the day before.
SMOKED TURKEY: Alex (Alexandra) Guarnaschelli, of Butter restaurant and the Food Network's "The Cooking Loft"
This recipe because is quite simple, but very unique. Alex roasts the turkey using a very traditional method. During the last 10 minutes or so of roasting, you soak some woodchips - she prefers apple wood or cherry wood. You drain the wood and put it in the bottom of a pan that's large enough to hold your turkey. (You can use the same roasting pan if you wish, just clean it first) Place an oiled rack on top of the wood and place the pan on your stovetop over medium-high heat. Soon, you'll see the woodchips begin to smoke. At this point place the roasted turkey on the rack and either put a lid on the pan or cover the bird with foil. Allow it to "smoke" for 10 to 15 minutes. This recipe not only brings a unique flavor to your bird, it makes your kitchen smell incredible, and leaves you with wonderful leftovers for sandwiches.
CAJUN FRIED TURKEY: Kent Rathbun, Abacus restaurant in Dallas
Fried turkey has certainly become more popular lately. Kent recommends frying turkey because the bird winds up quite moist, and with really crisp skin. Some people mistakenly think that fried turkey is very unhealthy; he says it's actually less fattening that roast turkey because the method renders so much of the fat out of the skin ... Kind of like very crispy bacon ultimately has less fat than limp bacon because much of the fat has been cooked out. Kent brines his turkey for a day or two before Thanksgiving in cajun spices. This infuses the whole bird with flavor. Some people avoid brining because a turkey takes up a lot of space in the fridge. Kent recommends dumping all of the brine ingredients into a cooler, then you don't even have to worry about refrigerator storage. After pulling the bird from the brine and drying it well, he then fries it for 2-point-5 to 3 minutes a pound. While frying a turkey makes for a tasty turkey, it can be dangerous. Be sure to set the fryer up in an open space, not under your eaves or a low hanging tree. Don't put too much oil in - you don't want it to overflow once you place the bird in the fryer. Finally, be sure to fry the turkey in a basket, don't just toss it in the oil because you want to be able to pull it out safely and securely and not worry about it splashing back down into the hot oil. They do make indoor electric fryers, but of course Kent prefers the real deal outside, over an open flame.
GO TO PAGE 2 FOR THE RECIPES