Thanksgiving turkey
Photo: Claudio Schwarz / Unsplash

The 11 Most Edible Thanksgiving Meats, Ranked

Another year, another dry turkey

11. Fish

Peace to the pescatarian gang, but unless you’re Italian and it’s Christmas Eve, don’t bring no cotdamn fish to any holiday dinner. Have you lost your mind? Talmbout “pass the tilapia” while the Cowboys are on.

10. Turkey

Turkey is almost always dry and many cuts lack a full robust flavor. And when you actually do cook a deliciously moist turkey, it seems to dry out in 30 minutes, turning into chalk that disintegrates inside your gullet. This isn’t all your fault—it’s a challenge to cook white meat really well. The only reason turkey is ubiquitous during Thanksgiving is because it’s so damn big. Still, turkey is a bottom-tier meat. Let’s normalize keeping this out of Thanksgiving platters.

9. Ham

I know you’ve got that uncle who every year, without fail, says you need to “stop eating that swine” when you start cutting into ham, but that ain’t gonna stop you. Pork is delicious. (I hope he knows there’s ham hock in the greens.) But Thanksgiving ham doesn’t extol the virtues of bacon or ribs; it’s always too salty or too sweet and sort of rubbery. It seems the theme of Thanksgiving protein is really quantity over quality, for good reason.

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8. Chicken

Controversial, I know. But as another white meat, chicken is extremely overrated. Chicken suffers from the same pitfalls as turkey. On a normal day, the line between under-seasoned salmonella and Lawry’s flavored cardboard is slim, but a roasted chicken is on the more foolproof side (as long as it’s brined for 24 hours). Turkey is much more practical, but chicken tastes at least 40 times better.

7. Seafood

On second thought, maybe some shrimp as a side would be good. But still, if you’re thinking of fish, relax.

6. Beef Roast

There’s a reason people love steak so much. Beef really is a magical meat. A good beef roast is tender, moist, and packed with a range of flavors. It’s not surprising that this isn’t a more popular part of tradition—the price and size make it impractical for larger gatherings. But it’s perfect for an intimate Friendsgiving; whoever pulls up with some will be the night’s most valuable player.

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5. Roast Lamb

I’ma brag on myself right quick. A few years ago, I made a huge bone-in lamb roast for a Friendsgiving and it was an absolute hit. Lamb is fatty and mouthwateringly good. It’s a slightly left-field choice, an absolute people-pleaser. You can’t go wrong with thinking out of the box with this one. Thank me later.

4. Duck

Duck seems like it was engineered in a lab. A bird that has red meat? The waterfowl is light years ahead of chicken and turkey in terms of texture and flavor. Whenever I’m eating chicken, I’m always wishing it was duck instead. The only thing duck has against it here is its scarcity—you ain’t finding this at Kroger or Walmart—and size. At the end of the day, a couple of ducks acquired at a specialty grocer are better than one big-ass deep-fried turkey.

3. Goose

Never had goose, but all reports say it’s a bigger and badder version of duck. You just have to respect that. Good luck finding this rare bird though, you’ll probably have to order it online.

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2. Turducken

Turducken is what you get when you take a turkey and stuff a duck inside of it, then stuff a chicken inside the duck. I find the gaudiness here to be very *chef’s kiss*.

1. Leftover Turkey

Look, some may refer to Thanksgiving as Turkey Day, but the real magic with the dinner centerpiece happens in the holiday’s aftermath. That’s when you undo the refrigerator Tetris, sort through those leftovers, and slap some cranberry sauce, gravy, stuffing, and greens on a turkey sandwich. That’s a real winner you’ve got there. A lot of the tradition around Thanksgiving sucks, but you simply can’t go wrong with repurposing leftovers to make something even more delicious than the main event. Just get used to it—you’ll be eating this s**t for the next five days, minimum. The law of diminishing returns has never been more applicable.

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