Choosing the Perfect Thanksgiving Turkey

For many families, Thanksgiving just wouldn’t be the same without the bird. Choosing, preparing, and serving the perfect turkey can be a challenge, even for the most seasoned chef. Fortunately, it all starts with the shopping. Here are some tips for choosing the perfect Thanksgiving turkey.

The Perfect Thanksgiving Turkey Size

The first thing you’ll want to think about is the size of your turkey, and this will vary from family to family. The number one rule of thumb here is to figure about a pound and a half per person. No, people aren’t likely to eat a pound of turkey in a sitting, but bear in mind that some parts of the bird are inedible. What’s more, some folks will want seconds, and you’ll probably want leftovers for your soups, salads, and casseroles, as well. The perfect Thanksgiving turkey size varies based on the number of people you’re serving.

Fresh or Frozen?

Is the perfect Thanksgiving turkey fresh or frozen? Well, it depends on who you ask. Most people across the country cook a turkey they bought frozen, but there are some who swear by only a fresh bird. Frozen turkeys are widely available, but you may have to special-order a fresh one. If you go with frozen, make sure you pull it out of the freezer and put it on the bottom shelf of your refrigerator at least two days before you plan to cook it.

Kosher or Pre-Basted?

A kosher turkey is one that has been soaked in a salt brine, which intensifies its flavor – but in the best possible way. Choosing a turkey that has already been brined may save you time, but be very careful about adding salt to any recipe – including your stuffing recipe. A kosher bird is already quite salty, and there’s likely enough there to completely salt your stuffing, too. A pre-based turkey, on the other hand, is one with broth and/or flavorings just under the skin. Though it may not do much to add moisture to your turkey per the experts, it can certainly add some additional flavor. Many people believe a kosher turkey is the perfect Thanksgiving turkey simply because it eliminates a step.

Organic or Free Range?

If you’re concerned about things like hormones, antibiotics, or the way the animals were treated, then you will likely want to consider organic or free-range turkeys. These usually come in all the same forms as a regular turkey – kosher, pre-basted, fresh, and frozen. An organic turkey is grain-fed and free from antibiotics and hormones, and it must have access to the outdoors, but it may or may not be considered free-range. On the other hand, a free-range turkey is one that was never kept in tight quarters with other turkeys. It was allowed access to the outdoors and a yard at all times. A free-range turkey may not necessarily be organic, and an organic turkey doesn’t have to be free range. You can find birds that are both, however.

Now that you understand the variety of turkeys you’ll find in your local supermarkets, it should be easier for you to decide which bird you want to buy. As always, check the quality with a quick visual once-over, and make sure the turkeys are being stored appropriately, too. The perfect Thanksgiving turkey is out there just waiting for you to take it home, stuff it with your favorites, and roast it to perfection.

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