In most American households, a full-blown turkey dinner with all the fixings is only featured a couple times a year. This means that many of us lack the muscle memory required to remember what size turkey we need, how long it will take to cook, and what needs to happen between buying and basting our bird. This lack of experience can cause a lot of stress if you are the lucky one stuck in the kitchen.
In order to help you pick the turkey that is perfectly suited to you and those seated around your table, here are our best turkey selection tips.
One of the most commonly asked questions around this time of year is what size turkey is needed to feed X number of people. A good general rule is to plan for 1 pound per person. This doesn’t mean there will be 1 pound of edible cooked turkey per person, but it is a solid starting point that should feed everyone and leave you with some leftovers. However, the answer can change depending on your goals and who you are feeding. If you are going to have a table of teenage boys that love turkey, you may want to bump that up to 1.5 pounds per person. If you loathe leftovers, you might want to knock it down to ¾ pound per person.
The next question that often comes up is what kind of turkey is the best. Again, the answer will depend on you and the people you are feeding. There are a wide variety of turkeys available in today’s grocery stores including free-range turkeys, self-basting turkeys, organic turkeys, kosher turkeys, and heritage turkeys, to name a few. There are a couple guidelines you can use to decide which is the right type for you. First, if you have anyone coming to dinner with a food allergy, you should avoid self-basting birds. Second, you need to decide how much you want to spend. Specialty turkeys like those raised organically or on a free-range farm are going to be more expensive. If you don’t feel strongly about going with a specialty bird, stick with a standard turkey for the best result.
3. Fresh or Frozen
Next you need to decide if you want a fresh turkey or a frozen turkey. You might immediately think fresh, because fresh things are generally considered to be better. However, keep in mind that fresh, in this circumstance, really means unfrozen and your ‘fresh’ turkey may actually be less ‘fresh’ than a frozen one. If you are buying fresh, arrange for your purchase ahead of time so you can pick it up within a day or two of when you will be cooking it and buy it from someone who can tell you how ‘fresh’ it is. If you buy frozen, make sure you plan adequate time to safely defrost it.
Once you know what turkey you need, check to make sure you have the necessary tools to roast it at home. You may find that your roasting pan, refrigerator, or even your oven isn’t actually big enough to accommodate your bird.
As you are planning the rest of your Thanksgiving meal, be sure to check out our Thanksgiving recipes on Fill Your Plate.