Thanksgiving Turkey Buying Guide

Everything you need to know to pick out the perfect turkey for your Thanksgiving feast
Related To:
119905711

119905711

Turkeys in winter field

Photo by: Maxim Petrichuk

Maxim Petrichuk

Turkeys in winter field

When you set out to buy a turkey, plan for one pound of meat per person; this means you'll have enough for everyone to take home leftovers. If you're hosting a sizeable crowd, you're better off roasting two smaller turkeys than a giant one –– bigger birds tend to be less flavorful. If your family loves turkey breast, roast an extra breast alongside your turkey so there's enough white meat for everyone.

Once you've determined how much turkey you'll need, you must decide what type of turkey suits your style:

Free-Range/Free-Roaming/Cage-Free
These birds have access to the outside and the ability to move about a yard. Therefore, they have more muscle mass, which means more flavor.

Organic
No antibiotics, no growth enhancers and only organic feed, as well as access to the outdoors.

Natural
This can be put on a label if nothing artificial was added or used to process the meat.

Basted or Self-Basting
Whole birds that are injected with or marinated in a water/broth/fat/spice solution. They possess more moisture and less natural flavor.

Kosher

Salted inside and out, and left to drain before soaking and washing. More dense, flavorful flesh; it shouldn’t be brined.

Heritage

Refers to the breed of turkey. Old-fashioned varieties like Narragansett, Standard Bronze, Black Spanish and Bourbon Red have a lot of flavor and are smaller than popular standard breeds, with a more balanced dark-to-white ratio. Their meat is firmer and chewier.

Make sure you plan for plenty of cook time on the big day.

There are a few different ways you can roast your turkey. A spatchcocked turkey (cut to lie flat, with the backbone removed) will take about 8 minutes per pound at high heat (450 degrees F); on the other end of the spectrum, a stuffed bird will take about 20 minutes per pound at 325 degrees F.

Find a Thanksgiving turkey recipe that suits your style and fire away.

Keep Reading

Next Up

Thanksgiving Turkey Fixes

Hit a snag with your turkey? Don't reach for the takeout menu! Here are 5 ways to fix common turkey mishaps.

Extreme Alternatives to Roasted Turkey for Thanksgiving

This Thanksgiving, why not try a new spin on the same old roasted turkey? The flavor in these recipes is definitely something to be thankful for.

Top 5 Thanksgiving Food Safety Tips

Abide by these food safety rules for peace of mind during Thanksgiving, from prepping the feast to packing up the leftovers.

How to Brine a Turkey

Learn the basics of brining and you'll be guaranteed the top turkey in town.

Leftover White Turkey Chili

Turn leftover Thanksgiving turkey into a rich, spicy chili with this recipe from Cooking Channel.

Top 10 Tips: How to Cook a Turkey

Serve your best bird yet — and make the turkey the centerpiece of your Thanksgiving table — with our tried-and-true top 10 turkey tips.

Feeding Guests During the Thanksgiving Holiday

Some smart preparation makes feeding your Thanksgiving houseguests a cinch — even if they're staying the whole holiday weekend.

Should You Stuff the Thanksgiving Turkey?

Cooking Channel culinary experts hash out the great stuffing debate: Is it better to stuff the turkey or serve the dressing on the side?

On TV

Food's Greatest Hits

7:30am | 6:30c

Food's Greatest Hits

8:30am | 7:30c

Food's Greatest Hits

9:30am | 8:30c

Cake Hunters

10am | 9c

Cake Hunters

10:30am | 9:30c

Cake Hunters

11am | 10c

Cake Hunters

11:30am | 10:30c

Food: Fact or Fiction?

12:30pm | 11:30c

Food: Fact or Fiction?

1:30pm | 12:30c

Good Eats

2pm | 1c

Good Eats

2:30pm | 1:30c

Burgers, Brew & 'Que

3:30pm | 2:30c

Burgers, Brew & 'Que

4:30pm | 3:30c

Man Fire Food

5:30pm | 4:30c

Man Fire Food

6:30pm | 5:30c

Man Fire Food

7:30pm | 6:30c
On Tonight
On Tonight

Man Fire Food

8pm | 7c

Man Fire Food

8:30pm | 7:30c

Man Fire Food

9:30pm | 8:30c

Cheap Eats

10pm | 9c

Cheap Eats

10:30pm | 9:30c

Good Eats

11pm | 10c

Good Eats

11:30pm | 10:30c

Man Fire Food

12am | 11c

Man Fire Food

12:30am | 11:30c

Man Fire Food

1am | 12c

Man Fire Food

1:30am | 12:30c

Cheap Eats

2am | 1c

Cheap Eats

2:30am | 1:30c

Good Eats

3am | 2c

Good Eats

3:30am | 2:30c

So Much Pretty Food Here