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12 of our best Thanksgiving turkey recipes, from classic to big, bold flavors

Tarragon-Butter Roasted Spatchcocked (Butterflied) Turkey. (Scott Suchman for The Washington Post/food styling by Lisa Cherkasky for The Washington Post)

No day is more associated with turkey than Thanksgiving. Talk about pressure. Given how infrequently it’s cooked the rest of the year, it’s no wonder that preparing turkey can stress out even experienced home cooks. Oh, and it’s often the centerpiece of the entire meal.

Because of its rare appearance on the table (and the resources it takes to raise, slaughter and stock it), we need to make sure to do turkey justice. That starts with a good recipe. Don’t worry, there isn’t one definitive option. You can cook a whole bird or parts. Decide whether you want to roast, braise or even pressure-cook. Go for simple seasoning or something bolder. (Need some meatless main ideas? We have those, too.)

You can take comfort that turkey is a versatile meat that can be cooked a variety of ways depending on your skill set, time frame and crowd size. It can even be cooked from frozen! Here are a dozen recipes from our archives to consider.

(And don’t forget to brush up on your carving skills ahead of the big day. Here’s our visual step-by-step guide.)

Tarragon-Butter Roasted Spatchcocked (Butterflied) Turkey. Prepare to wow your guests with Aaron Hutcherson’s recipe from his pulling-out-the-stops menu for this year. Dry-brining the turkey flavors the meat and guarantees crispy skin, while spatchcocking (removing the backbone and flattening the breast) ensures even, more efficient cooking. An herby compound butter spread under and on top of the skin is another wonderful touch.

Choose your Thanksgiving menu: Simple or show-stopping recipes for your holiday meal

Cider-Braised Turkey Thighs With Potatoes and Apples. Here’s the main course from Becky’s simpler Thanksgiving menu this year. This recipe won’t give you a showstopping whole bird to carve at the table, but what you will get is amazingly succulent, flavorful and easy-to-cook turkey thighs made in your Dutch oven. The built-in juices from braising are worth the price of admission alone.

Extremely Slow-Roasted Turkey Breast. There are plenty of things to love about this recipe — its foolproof nature, thanks to a low (175 degrees) and slow (for 8 to 9 hours) cooking method; the amazing aromas in your house; the manageable size. Really, all you need is time, not only to cook but also to let the seasoned meat air dry in the refrigerator for 12 to 24 hours before roasting. If you would rather use your slow cooker for a turkey breast, try Turkey Breast and Gravy, from America’s Test Kitchen’s 2011 book “Slow Cooker Revolution.” Both recipes use bone-in turkey breasts.

How to cook a turkey breast in an oven, Instant Pot or slow cooker

Sheet Pan Turkey Breast Roulade With Sweet Potatoes, Green Beans and Shallots. Ellie Krieger offers an elegant solution for a boneless turkey breast, featuring a filling that is basically a cranberry sauce with pecans, maple syrup, thyme and orange zest. The plethora of veggies turns this into an ideal all-in-one meal.

The Thanksgiving sheet-pan plan

Sheet Pan Harissa Turkey Legs With Sumac Sweet Potatoes. There will be no fighting over dark meat when everyone gets a spicy, sweet and slightly sticky turkey leg, one of the best budget cuts of meat out there.

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Chile-Rubbed Roast Turkey. If you’re looking for an absolute showstopper of a turkey, something exciting and different, this bird from Toni Tipton-Martin’s book, “Jubilee,” is the one you need. It’s beautiful and juicy, with a spicy, powerful rub that proves turkey should never be boring.

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Tamarind and Honey-Glazed Roast Turkey. Here’s another boldly flavored turkey that is anything but bland. Tart, mouth-puckering tamarind is a perfect foil for the sweet honey.

Simply Seasoned Turkey. No brine. No fuss. Just rub and roast this bird and you’ll end up with a nicely browned turkey and pan juices that are flavorful enough to serve on their own.

Instant Pot Thanksgiving Turkey. This method significantly cuts back the cooking time for a whole bird and helps guarantee the meat is not dried out. The prep is even easier if you ask your butcher to break down the turkey into parts. Just budget some time for letting the salted pieces rest in the refrigerator.

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Herb-Slathered Turkey. Don’t knock it until you try it — a layer of mayo mixed with chopped fresh herbs will produce one of the moistest, most flavorful birds you’ve ever had.

Roast Turkey With Garlic Cream. Plenty of people swear by roasting in an oven bag, which has the double advantage of speeding along cooking and softening the garlic. Plus, cleanup is easy. The creamy garlic spread can be saved for turkey sandwiches later.

Simple Roast Turkey With Simplest Gravy. It could hardly be easier. Rub some salt on the turkey, roast on a bed of celery stalks and stir sour cream into the strained juices for a gravy.