Tips for Shopping for a Thanksgiving Turkey

November 4, 2015 by Kari Karch


The holidays can be quite overwhelming when it comes to cooking for a large group, planning out a sensational meal and choosing the perfect turkey for the occasion. Well I have come to the rescue to help you take the guesswork out of how to bring home the best turkey so none of those in-laws will judge your abilities. You can save that for your gravy skills.

How many pounds do I need? The saying goes “bigger is better” but that isn’t always the case when it comes to buying a turkey. The rule of thumb is usually one pound of turkey per person but that also depends on if you want leftovers to make your famous turkey pot pie the next day. In my home, we cook one turkey for business and one for pleasure. I mean, I couldn’t go one holiday without a leftover turkey sandwich or turkey noodle soup. That would ruin the holidays for me if everyone ate all the turkey in one sitting!

Consider a turkey breast: Not everyone in the family wants to eat turkey for an entire week, and there are lots of vegetarians who would love some tofurkey (high hopes), so maybe consider purchasing a turkey breast instead of the whole bird? This is a great way to save time and money so you can up your gravy skills and those pesky in-laws can stop judging your culinary achievements.

What type of bird to choose: Organic, free-range, cage-free, no hormones, antibiotic free, local, sustainable, and natural. Say what? Yes, there are lots of different labels attached to your bird but what is most important to remember is that companies use lots of labeling to increase their prices. I truly believe in buying an organic turkey, which means it is free from hormones, antibiotics, and added chemicals. I buy organic chicken all the time, so why wouldn’t I buy an organic turkey? Sure, it will cost a bit more, but the flavor of an organic turkey rather than one pumped full of antibiotics is night and day. If your budget allows, go the extra mile this season and buy an organic bird. You will be the star of the kitchen and your yogi aunt will give you a free tarot card reading for the thoughtfulness.

Frozen or fresh: It’s that time of year again when you have to completely empty out your fridge and freezer because the turkey takes up the entire space. So ask yourself, do you want to get rid of everything in the freezer or just the fridge? If you do buy frozen, remember to never let the turkey sit out at room temperature. Let it thaw in the refrigerator completely before you brine or cook it. As for a fresh bird, I like to get these about 36 hours out from serving so I can reserve 24 hours for brining and the rest of the time for dressing and cooking the turkey.

Now that you’ve got the turkey, check out some of these recipes for some serving suggestions:
Orange Juice and Herb Brined Turkey

Kari Karch

Kari Karch is a 19-year veteran of the culinary industry, creator of Kiss the Cook, and the head chef and spokesperson for the Kenmore brand. She has made many notable appearances on ABC Morning News, on WGN, on the Cooking Channel and as a judge for the World Food Championships.