Choosing a Perfect Turkey
by Lee Wyatt
(last updated November 13, 2019)
Have you ever wondered how you can choose the perfect turkey? Despite what many people would like to think, there is more to it than simply picking up a random bird from the local grocery store. Rather, there are a few things that you need to stop and consider first. While many of these may appear to be rather random, this couldn't be further from the truth. Each of these items will have a great impact on whether you end up choosing a bird that is simply OK, or you choose one that is down right perfect.
- Fresh or frozen? This is perhaps the single most important part of choosing an outstanding bird. Just as with any meat, or even vegetable, there is a huge difference between a turkey that is fresh and one that has been frozen for a long period of time. If you absolutely want the best tasting turkey that you can possibly get, then you need to get it as fresh as possible. If at all possible, get it freshly prepared from your local butcher. However, if you need to go with a bird that has been frozen, then go with one that was frozen as recently as possible. You can usually tell this by seeing how far out the "best used by" date is from now.
- Bone in, or not? Whether you are going to have the bones in your bird, or going with a processed turkey roast is largely a personal one. That being said, while there are some decent tasting turkey roasts, they do not compare to the actual turkeys that still have the bones. If you are looking for a quick meal then simply go with a boneless turkey roast. However, for the best possible meals then go with the real bird.
- Size. Despite what many people would like to say, this is definitely a case where size really does matter. For example, if you are having a Thanksgiving meal where there will be about 4 adults and 6 children (often there are many more at a Thanksgiving dinner) you will need a bird that is at a minimum 14 pounds. This will ensure that there is enough meat for everyone. However, keep in mind that the larger the bird, then the larger the oven you will need.
- Preparation time. Preparation time can be a hassle in and of itself. If you use the same example as listed above, a 14 pound turkey can take up to 3-1/2 days to thaw out in the refrigerator (if you are using a frozen bird), or 7 hours of sitting in cold water. This is on top of the average cooking time of 15 minutes per pound at 350 degrees Fahrenheit (for a 14 pound turkey that would be about 3-1/2 hours of straight cooking.
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