Do you know which turkey to pick for your big dinner? Don’t worry, we’ll make it easy to choose. Here’s the lowdown.
Short on time? This is your best choice. Fresh turkey requires no thawing, but you should cook it by the “Use By” date on the label. You can also count on fresh, rich flavor without any potential for freezer burn.
Tip: After you purchase a fresh turkey, take it home immediately and put it in your fridge or freezer. If you plan to use it right away, wait to purchase a fresh turkey until a day or two before your holiday dinner and keep it in the fridge.
Frozen turkeys are a convenient choice because they can be purchased long before your big dinner and stored in the freezer. They require a lot of time to thaw though, so make sure you have space in the fridge for several days before your event. The rule of thumb is to allow at least one day of thawing for every four pounds of turkey but refer to the turkey packaging for specific thawing directions.
Tip: Never thaw a turkey outside the refrigerator. Always follow the package directions when thawing and cooking a turkey.
Basted or Enhanced Turkey
Some frozen turkeys have the word “basted” or “enhanced” listed on the packaging. That means the turkey has been injected with a solution that makes the meat moister, but it also changes the flavor. Read the ingredients label to learn the contents of the injected solution. If you prefer a turkey without additives, make sure the ingredients label doesn’t list salt, flavorings or other ingredients.
The term “free-range” is regulated by the USDA and requires that the birds have access to the outdoors and natural pasture where they are able to spend time foraging for insects, nuts, seeds, grasses, and fruit, providing them more variety in their diet. There are no other requirements for their feeding or living conditions.
To be labeled organic according to USDA standards, turkeys must be fed a certified organic diet free of antibiotics, GMOs, and animal byproducts. They must have year-round access to the outdoors with shade and shelter as needed. Turkeys that are designated as organic can also be labeled “free-range” or “antibiotic-free.”
The “local” label isn’t regulated so each producer may define it differently. For some, “local” means the turkey is raised within 100 miles of the customer; for others, it originates in the same state.
US Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, Nutrient Data Laboratory. USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 28. Version Current: September 2015, slightly revised May 2016.