Thanksgiving Turkey Buying Guide

Everything you need to know to pick out the perfect turkey for your Thanksgiving feast
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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.

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