I Never Eat Turkey on Thanksgiving

This year, we're having lobster.

I'm thankful for many things on Thanksgiving, but roast turkey on the table isn't one of them. To clarify, it's not that I've never had turkey on Thanksgiving. I've had it when other family members host the holiday or when I spent Thanksgiving at a friend's house during college. But when it's been a choice, I've avoided it at pretty much every turn. Some years, we've had sushi while on others, it's been steak. Last year, we had some delicious (and easy!) oven-baked salmon, as well as a side of these potato stacks my mom fell in love with.

My mom and I have occasionally floated the idea of trying to do a proper turkey, but it usually falls by the wayside for the following reasons:


Photo by: JMichl ©JMichl

JMichl, JMichl

1. Turkey is intimidating.

Turkey isn’t the easiest meat to cook. Even in my limited Thanksgiving turkey experience, I've eaten my fair share of dry, overcooked meat. I know that done right, a classic roast turkey can come out beautifully done and moist, but this calls for anywhere from hours to days of preparation and cooking.

Subpoint to the tricky turkey conundrum, my mom (the actual Thanksgiving host) is an amazing cook, but other than baked desserts, she isn't big on anything too complicated when it involves the oven. (I also can't vouch for myself being much help in that department.)

Expertly searing a filet mignon, brewing tamari soy sauce or making broth on the stove? No problem. Roasting a turkey for 3 hours? Nightmare-fuel for my mother.

2. It's too big

This is basically a logistical issue. We don't have much extended family so Thanksgiving is a small affair. A turkey on the smaller end is about 10 to 12 lbs., which is twice as much as we want or need.

Of course, there are some reasonable alternatives to roasting a whole bird, like Thanksgiving on Two Sheet Pans, but that leads me to my next point.

3. No one in my family particularly likes turkey.

My childhood was filled with turkey cold cut sandwiches, which I'm not opposed to but don't go out of my way to eat anymore. I can say that I prefer the mildness of a turkey meatball to beef when it's drizzled in gravy. But even if we ended up making the best turkey imaginable (see reason #1), based on some basic cost-benefit analysis (i.e., how much work goes into a dish versus how much we'll like it), I've come to the conclusion that we wouldn't enjoy the meal or the leftovers as much as we would of literally any other meat. Chrissy gets it.

4. It's kind of become a tradition to not eat turkey.

I get it, the turkey with its glorious tail feathers is the symbol of Thanksgiving. I loved making handprint turkeys as much as the next kid in elementary school. And I fully accept our appreciation of the bird during this holiday, down to these adorable turkey-shaped treats. To that point, hosting my own grand Thanksgiving affair, turkey and all, is definitely on my bucket list.

But growing up in a second-generation Korean-American household (or just mine in particular, I can't speak for others), Thanksgiving turkey was never a tradition to begin with. As I started to think about why this was a case, I came to the realization that turkeys are native to America. I mean...I was aware of this fact before now, but I've belatedly connected the dots and recognized that this means turkey isn't as widely available in other countries. So, there's a good chance my Korean grandparents never knew what turkey was and my mom has confirmed that her childhood was in fact turkey-free. Grandma Ok-In never passed on any turkey tips because she never had any to start.

Having gone so many years of Thanksgiving sans turkey, it seems fitting to make that the tradition in my family instead. Which brings me to the star of this year's Thanksgiving dinner table in my household...lobster.

Lobster is the new turkey (or it should be).

Although many species of lobster exist throughout the world, the American lobster has as storied a history in North America as turkey. Once used as crop fertilizer and considered a "poor man's protein" according to History.com, it's now a luxury menu item!

As it may be obvious from our past turkey alternatives of sushi and salmon, my family is partial to seafood. This year, we're using Bobby Flay's recipe (pictured above) for a simple preparation of lobster tails with a lemon-chile flavored butter sauce, that takes just 30 minutes from start to finish. It's easy, delicious, fit for a special occasion and calls for zero oven time.

Food stylist: Anne Disrude
Prop Stylist: Pamela Duncan Silver


Food stylist: Anne Disrude Prop Stylist: Pamela Duncan Silver

Photo by: Con Poulos

Con Poulos

Also, just think of the leftovers! I'll admit there's some pretty fun stuff you can do with leftover turkey outside of a sandwich like Thanksgiving Leftover Hand Pies and Turkey Frittata, but we're already planning on Lobster Rolls and Creamy Lobster Linguine to start.

Giada de Laurentiis's dish, Creamy Lobster Pasta, as seen on Food Network’s Giada’s Holiday Handbook, Season 1.

Giada de Laurentiis's dish, Creamy Lobster Pasta, as seen on Food Network’s Giada’s Holiday Handbook, Season 1.

Photo by: Eddy Chen ©2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Eddy Chen, 2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

And as turkey-free as my Thanksgiving will be, it won't be without classic sides like cornbread, anything with potatoes in it, and boatloads of gravy. (I have some feelings about stuffing too, but I'll save that story for another time.) Whether you're springing for lobster or sticking to a classic turkey, Thanksgiving tradition is something you make your own with family, friends and full stomachs. Happy feasting!


Next Up

The Best Wines to Pair with Thanksgiving Turkey

Our expert sommelier provides several affordable picks that’ll highlight your bird's beautiful roasted flavors.

How to Cook Lobster

Here, the two easiest ways to cook whole lobsters.

Everything You Need to Know About America's Favorite Canned Pumpkin

There's a reason everyone grabs Libby's for the holidays.

Food Network Magazine: November 2012 Recipe Index

143 recipes (plus 35 side dishes!), including make-ahead breads, 50 easy appetizers, and an Iron Chef-worthy Thanksgiving spread

I Hated Pumpkin Pie Until I Tried This Brand-New Recipe

Trust me — this is the one pie you definitely want to bake for Thanksgiving.

How to Make a Lattice Pie Crust

Follow this step-by-step guide the next time you need an impressive pie crust and lattice top.

You Won't Want to Skip These Mini Thanksgiving Desserts

Why choose between pumpkin or pecan pie when you can have both.

Our Test Kitchen Staffers' Favorite Thanksgiving Recipes

Food Network Kitchen chefs, stylists and recipe developers share their go-to dishes for Turkey Day.