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Can't Get a Turkey? This Is Better Anyway

Maybe not getting a Turkey this year is the best thing that ever happened to your Thanksgiving.

By Hannah Selinger
Nov 16, 2021
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The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently released some sobering data just in time for the Thanksgiving holiday. According to a Turkey Market News Report, published on November 12, turkeys—those ubiquitous holiday birds—are now 30 percent more difficult to find. That means that even if you have everything like a roasting pan, or all of the cookware you need, you might be missing the main event. But fear, not, we spoke with Tracy Malechek-Ezekiel, chef and co-owner of Austin, Texas’ Birdie’s, who says that  If all that news feels crushing as we roll into the season, fear not. Read on for a last-minute guide for hosting a holiday without the big bird.

Flip the Bird

Although turkey is the traditional poultry of the holiday, it’s not the only bird that can amaze guests, says Malechek“If you’re having a lot of people over, I recommend goose,” she  says. This rich, dark-meated bird traditionally weighs in around 10 to 12 pounds, and can feed up to six. For smaller gatherings, Malechek  suggests Cornish hens, which can be plated individually for guests. Pheasant, she says, which offers delicate white meat, is also a great alternative (these birds average around two to three pounds and can serve one to two people).

Skip the Bird

But don’t feel beholden to poultry just because you’re giving up turkey. Meat roasts are also a great way to provide a show-stopping entrée for your nearest and dearest. “Porchetta feels celebratory, and isn’t as hard as it looks,” Malechek  says, referring to the Italian-style, boneless, stuffed pork roast. For red meat lovers, she suggests a timeless classic: prime rib with horseradish sauce, which she calls  “a personal favorite.”

Shop the Butcher

If you can’t quite commit to your turkey-less feast, consider visiting your local butcher shop for inspiration, Malechek says. The butcher shop can be a window into a wide and wonderful world of unexpected cuts. “I always recommend going to your local butcher shop and seeing what they have available,” she says. “It’s a great relationship to develop and an exciting way to try new cuts of meat.”

Break with Tradition

A move away from turkey can be freeing in terms of the rest of this meal. Don’t feel obligated, Malechek  says, to make that stuffing, cranberry sauce, or even gravy. Part of expanding beyond turkey means expanding the roster of sides, too. “Just pick a theme and embrace it,” she says.

Try a New Technique

Whereas cooking turkey can be limited, if you mix up your protein, there are new, fun ways to cook it, too. Malechek-Ezekiel suggests brining birds like capon, goose, and pheasant, and drying them overnight in the refrigerator. “If you have an immersion circulator, you can cook that way as well, which is a smart way to avoid drying out the meat,” she says. And although you may not be able to sous vide a 16-pound bird, this method is much more plausible with some smaller fowl. With extra-small birds, like Cornish hen, you can infuse flavor into the meat via marinade. “If you find yourself down to the wire on time and didn’t plan for brine and dry process, Cornish hen is a good option,” she says. “Make a quick marinade and simply roast. Plus, it still feels celebratory.”