When To Buy Turkey Breast For Thanksgiving?

Fresh: A fresh turkey has never been chilled below 26 degrees. These can be held for quite a while before they make it to the store, so they might not be as fresh as you think! Always check the sell-by or use-by date, and try to purchase these within one or two days of Thanksgiving.

Its that time. For Thanksgiving turkeys, farmers markets and butcher shops have begun taking orders, and soon—like next week—you’ll start seeing fresh turkeys at the supermarket.

If you’ve been chosen to handle the turkey this year, your thoughts may begin to race with questions like: Fresh, frozen, or fancy heritage bird? How big should I get? When should I buy this?

Stop the madness and the Googling. We’re available to support you as you make the largest food purchase for the year’s largest food holiday (no pressure, though).

A fresh turkey is just as good as one that has been frozen. The National Turkey Federation claims that the difference is in the manner in which the birds leave the processing facility.

After packaging, frozen turkeys are quickly flash-frozen to 0 degrees (or even colder). More perishable fresh turkeys are “deep-chilled”—but never below 26 degrees.

Only turkeys that have never dipped below that 26-degree threshold are permitted to bear the “fresh” label, according to law. To put it another way, frozen birds cannot be thawed and sold as fresh.

Many supermarket birds have the labels “self-basting” or “basted” on them. This indicates that a mixture of broth, stock, or water, melted butter, spices, and additional flavorings like wine, juice, or maple syrup have been injected into them. The ingredients and the amount of solution added will be listed on the label; according to the USDA, this amount cannot be greater than 3% of the turkey’s overall weight.

“Some think it adds to the flavor,” said Dr. Jesse Grimes, a professor and extension turkey expert at the Department of Poultry Science at North Carolina State University

The Turkey Federation claims that because the solution is directed directly under the skin of the bird, it also adds moisture, improving the “succulence” of the meat and producing a darker, crispier bird.

Kosher-certified poultry has been killed and processed under rabbinical supervision. It also comes pre-brined, reducing the possibility of a dried-out bird.

Turkeys raised on organic, pesticide-free feed and given access to the outdoors (though how much time they spend outside isn’t exactly known) are USDA certified organic.

The USDA only defines “free range” as the birds being “allowed access to the outside,” so it is impossible to know how much time the turkeys actually spent outside.

The USDA defines “natural” as minimal processing of turkeys without the addition of artificial ingredients or colors. Its basically a meaningless term.

Grimes adds one more point that pertains to all turkeys: Hormone administration is prohibited. Look for the terms “antibiotic-free” or “raised without antibiotics” on the label if you are concerned about the use of antibiotics.

There is a good chance that the turkey you purchase at a farmers market or directly from a farmer is either a pastured or heritage bird, or even both. Additionally, even though it might not bear the USDA organic seal, it was probably raised using organic principles.

According to Epicurious Mindy Fox, a heritage turkey refers to particular breeds of poultry that have been around for several generations.

A turkey that was pastured, also known as pasture-raised, was raised primarily outside on an open pasture. (However, “pastured” is not legally defined in the same way that “free range” is. ”).

Therefore, while pastured birds and heritage birds are not identical, they are similar in some respects. Traditional turkeys tend to grow more slowly, be smaller, older, and leaner than heritage and pastured turkeys, according to Grimes.

According to Fox, heritage turkeys have larger legs, thighs, and breasts than commercial turkeys, as well as richer, gamier-tasting meat.

Some say pastured birds are more flavorful, too. Flavor may come from the food that birds consume, according to Grimes.

In order to prepare either type of leaner bird, Mindy advises changing your method. To increase the fat surrounding the breast meat and keep it moist while roasting, try spreading softened butter under the skin or covering the breasts with a layer of bacon strips (a process known as “barding”). The turkey can also be removed from the oven at 160°F, which is before it reaches the USDA-recommended 165°F, and covered with foil to continue cooking it without drying it out. Or, she said, consider braising instead of roasting.

Some commercial turkeys have an integrated pop-up timer, a spring-like device made of food-grade metal or wax that is supposed to pop up when the meat temperature reaches the desired 165°F.

Don’t rely on the pop-up timer, is his advice, as well as that of the USDA, National Turkey Federation, Butterball Turkey Talk-Line staff, this website, and pretty much everyone else. Use a meat thermometer to double-check.

Small turkeys weigh less than 12 pounds. Large ones can weigh up to 20 pounds and may even be larger.

For generous leftovers, figure 1 1/2 pounds of turkey (uncooked) per person, according to Nicole Johnson, co-director of the Butterball Turkey Talk-Line.

Additionally, take into account whether your oven and roasting pan can accommodate a larger bird, which is more difficult to handle and requires more time to cook than a smaller bird.

If youre buying from a farmer, order it now. These turkeys are frequently delivered frozen but can also be picked up fresh very close to Thanksgiving Day. Orders for fresh turkeys are typically accepted by specialty butcher shops, with a similar pickup window.

Ask your store about its supply if you’re purchasing fresh items from the grocery store. You should purchase it as close to Thanksgiving as you can. The turkey should be kept in the freezer if you purchase it earlier and are unsure whether your refrigerator is cold enough (use a thermometer to check; it should be no warmer than 40 degrees inside).

And if youre buying frozen, buy it now or soon. Give yourself enough time to stress, er, plan the rest of Thanksgiving dinner while the meat is thawing—24 hours for every four pounds of meat, Johnson advised.

Don’t choose a kosher turkey if you want to brine

You really don’t want to brine a kosher turkey, just like self-basted or enhanced turkeys. These turkeys are a good alternative if you don’t want to brine and want to avoid the additional fat and spices of self-basted birds because they are salted as part of the processing, so brining them would make them way too salty.

When To Buy Turkey Breast For Thanksgiving?

Turkeys come in two varieties: male tom turkeys and female hen turkeys. A tom turkey is most likely the one you purchase if it weighs more than 18 pounds. The only real difference between the two, aside from size, is that toms have bigger bones and less edible meat. If you specifically want a hen turkey instead of a tom, you should shop at a nearby farm or speak with your butcher.

When To Buy Turkey Breast For Thanksgiving?

When should I buy a fresh turkey for Thanksgiving?

You must pick it up a day or two before Thanksgiving if you want a fresh bird that just left the farm for your family meal.

When To Buy Turkey Breast For Thanksgiving?

When properly stored, a fresh turkey can last for up to two or three days in the refrigerator.

Of course, you’ll probably need to place an order for a fresh turkey with your neighborhood rancher or butcher at least a month before you intend to pick it up.

Shopping for a turkey should be easy! Here are some tips from a professional chef that will make finding and buying the perfect turkey a breeze.

When To Buy Turkey Breast For Thanksgiving?

Although some claim that fresh turkeys taste better, we hardly notice the difference (aside from price). The National Turkey Federation’s consumer education specialist, Norma Farrell, claims there is no discernible difference in quality between the two. In order to preserve them, frozen turkeys are flash-frozen after processing, and “fresh” turkeys may already be several days old when you purchase them. Additionally, you can cook a Thanksgiving turkey straight from the freezer in case you forget to defrost.

When To Buy Turkey Breast For Thanksgiving?

Before placing the turkey in your shopping cart, think about its shape. Find one with a well-rounded breast above all else; it will be more juicy. Watch out for flat spots, which may be a sign that the bird has been defrosted and then refrozen. This increases the likelihood of freezer-burned meat and the risk of contracting a foodborne illness.

When planning your shopping, it’s important to know how much turkey to buy per person, but keep in mind the differences when choosing between a large or small turkey. Smaller turkeys cook more quickly (and thaw more quickly if you buy frozen), and the meat usually comes out more tender. Instead of purchasing a larger bird if you’re feeding a large group, think about cooking two smaller birds. Just be certain that your roasting pan will fit.

When To Buy Turkey Breast For Thanksgiving?

When To Buy Turkey Breast For Thanksgiving?


When should I buy a turkey breast?

The USDA advises purchasing a fresh turkey one to two days before you intend to serve it in order to ensure maximum safety. Fresh turkeys are extremely perishable, just like other fresh meat and poultry. To prevent spoilage, you must be cautious when purchasing and storing them.

How many days in advance can you buy a fresh turkey for Thanksgiving?

One to two days prior to the day you intend to cook, purchase a fresh turkey. You can store fresh poultry, unopened, in the refrigerator as long as it hasn’t passed its “best-by” or “use-by” date, which can be found on the manufacturer’s label.

What is the best turkey breast to buy for Thanksgiving?

Which Turkey to Buy
  • DO: Seek out a frozen natural or organic turkey that has been “pastured,” or given permission to roam outside.
  • DON’T: Purchase a turkey that has been “basted,” “self-basted,” or “injected,” as these birds are typically factory-farmed and given additives to make them bigger.

Can you buy a turkey 2 weeks before Thanksgiving?

A fresh, raw turkey shouldn’t be kept in the fridge for more than two days. Therefore, if you want to buy fresh and keep it that way, you must do so just before Thanksgiving. Don’t wait to reserve a fresh, local bird if you’re still looking for one.

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