It’s the first week of November, and you know what that means… time to order your bird!
The Thanksgiving Turkey is the centerpiece of any Thanksgiving Feast. It’s the main course, the entrée… the piece de resistance… the real deal… the Big Kauhuna… so don’t treat purchasing the turkey like it’s an afterthought! Take a few extra minutes to decide on what kind of bird you want, then pick one out that’s the best you can afford. Starting off with the right bird – you’re halfway there to a delicious Thanksgiving!
Picking Out a Bird:
Here are some questions to think about that might help you choose the right bird.
1) How many people are coming to dinner?
The general serving rule is 1 pound of turkey per person. This factors in for bones, too, so if you’ve got 12 people coming over, choose a bird that’s 14 – 16 pounds so you’ll get to enjoy some leftovers and second helpings.
2) How are you cooking the turkey?
Are you doing a traditional roast turkey? Deep-frying? Split-roasting or grilling? For most cooking methods, it makes little difference between fresh and frozen. A frozen bird, however, requires extra time for thawing. So keep that in mind.
3) Do your guests prefer white meat or dark meat?
Lucky you! You get to be the provider of all things delicious and bountiful! In some households (well, maybe just ours), the majority of folks prefer dark meat… which means there is never enough dark meat carved right off the turkey. Consider buying a few extra turkey legs so there will be enough of the succulent dark meat to go around. Conversely, if the household prefers white meat, buy an extra breast to make everyone happy!
4) Fresh or frozen bird?
There is no shame in purchasing a frozen bird, as long as it’s from a good-quality producer. Just keep in mind you will need time to thaw the bird. It will take a 10-pound turkey 1 day to thaw if kept in a refrigerator at or below 40°F. For every 5 pounds of frozen turkey, add another half day. See the Turkey Thawing Chart for more information.
5) Natural? Organic? Kosher? Help!!!
Regular — Plumped (or pumped!) with anything including: water, salt, chicken fat, broth, and or BUTTER.
Natural — Minimally processed and contains no artificial ingredients or colors.
Organic — Must follow strict USDA standards for organic production and processing including access to the outdoors, no antibiotics or growth hormones, and fed organic feed.
Kosher — Slaughtered in accordance with strict kosher law (Jewish rabbinical dietary laws) then soaked in water and salted inside and out (great if you don’t want to bother with brining.)
6) What the heck is a Heritage Turkey?
Ah, the Heritage Turkey…. Remember back to the illustrations from your schoolbooks depicting people dressed up like Pilgrims and Indians enjoying a Thanksgiving feast? Think about how that turkey look in the picture: smaller breast, larger wings, legs and thighs in equal proportion to the breast. Now think about the commercial ads you see for Thanksgiving Turkey in your local newspapers, magazines and television ads. Commercially-raised turkeys today have been bred to yield larger breasts, and smaller wings and legs. They are raised to be grown quickly, then processed to be available in the frozen bird bin immediately after Halloween.
Heritage Turkeys, however, are farm-raised more naturally and slowly in the exact opposite way industrially raised birds are. Heritage birds might actually be specific breeds with names like Bourbon Red or Standard Bronze and are more similar to wild turkeys. According to chefs, the meat from Heritage turkeys is tastier, a little gamier, and healthier given the ways they are fed and raised. They can also be more expensive to purchase, but since the bird is the star of the meal we allow ourselves to splurge a little more to get a better quality bird.
The Dear Martini Thanksgiving Playlist and Hotline
This week, we are announcing TWO essential tools to get your Thanksgiving Holiday off to a great start.
Dear Marini’s Homemade Thanksgiving Playlist
Our YouTube Channel is bursting with plenty of great videos that highlight every technique you need to know to cook your Thanksgiving dinner – from boiling potatoes, to making cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie… all the way to carving the roasted turkey! Be sure you subscribe to our channel so you’ll get immediate updates when we add new videos!