My Turkey Recommendation: Frozen for the future; Fresh for Thanksgiving

I’ve done many Thanksgiving turkeys over the years.  Here is my shortlist of tips:

  1. Take advantage of the deals on frozen turkeys but stick them in your freezer for future use.   For Thanksgiving spend the extra dollars and get a fresh turkey.  I speak from experience: not having to worry about thawing alone makes it worth the price.  Most of our local grocery chains carry them.
  2.  If using a fresh bird, plan on either dry or wet brining.  If wet brining see if the butcher counter can provide you a turkey size box.  If you line the box with a food grade bag (like a Reynold’s turkey bag) it will give you a nice compact structure for brining that has a chance of fitting into a refrigerator.
  3. If using a frozen turkey don’t bother brining.  The solutions they inject it with make brining less effective.  Just thaw, season, and cook,
  4. Make sure you have a sturdy pan for the bird.  If using foil pans, stack two for added support AND use a sheet pan underneath, otherwise you run the risk of the pans bending and bad things happening.   Again I speak from experience, but even after a few years it is still too painful to think about–move along people, nothing to see here.
  5. Don’t over season, don’t over smoke.  Your bird should taste like turkey, not like seasoning or a cigar.  Use a moderate touch when seasoning and don’t use a lot of smoke wood.  When in doubt, use less.  We carry a lot of rubs that will work but our top three recommendations are “John Henry’s Tammy’s Herbal Rub”, Dizzy Pig’s “Mad Max Turkey”, and Dizzy Pig’s “IPA”.

Have a great Thanksgiving everyone!!

One thought on “My Turkey Recommendation: Frozen for the future; Fresh for Thanksgiving

  1. Excellent tips! While freezing a Turkey does boosts the convenience factor, I gotta think one pays a “flavor” price. I do have a quick question, are there any other factors besides “over cooking” that affect the moistness of the turkey meat?

    1. Yes, and for the record, target 165 degrees as the final temp for the breasts. For every degree over your turkey will begin to dry out.

      For the remainder of this discussion let’s lump moistness and toughness together. Smaller turkeys (thus often “hens” v. “toms”) typically yield better results as does younger turkeys (again, younger implies smaller). I recommend always staying at or below the 17 lb mark with 15 lbs being a good working number to remember. If you need more food, cook a second turkey or turkey breast.

      Too much acid in your brine/marinade will toughen a bird.

      Since we are concentrating on smaller size birds, too long of a cooking cycle (low and slow) can actually work against you and cause the bird to dry out. I smoke turkey near typical oven roasting temperature (325 F). It is safer and makes timing easier.

      Finally, and most importantly, how you slice the bird really matters. Using the breast as the example, remove each breast intact and slice AGAINST THE GRAIN on a cutting board. If you do only one thing, do this.

      Good Question! Thanks!

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