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Turkey Talk: How to Pick Your Thanksgiving Turkey

Crisp golden-brown skin. Juicy, tender meat that yields when you carve in with your knife. Rich, meaty flavor with just the right amount of seasoning and herbs…


We probably don’t need to remind you that turkey day is just around the corner. If you’re looking for your yearly refresher on how to truss, roast, and baste your way to tryptophan-induced bliss, there’s no shortage of advice out there (we usually start with our grandma’s). But what most guides fail to tell you is how to pick a turkey, which might just be the most important part of all.

 Long gone are the days of just picking up a bird in a bag from the store—at Fairway Market, we have over ten kinds to choose from. That variety is a good thing, because there is no one turkey that is perfect for everyone. From traditional roasters to pedigreed heritage birds to pre-cooked products that you can just heat and eat, there is a turkey out there that’s calling your name. And it doesn’t take a matchmaker to figure out which one to pick. With these guidelines in mind, you’ll have one less thing to ponder as you’re gearing up for Thanksgiving.

 1. Be an early bird

Anyone who has gone the grocery on Thanksgiving eve to pick up a turkey will tell you the same thing: there are none. Although you could buy one in advance and stick it in your freezer, you probably don’t have the space for that. So how about something even simpler: reserve yours online now and pick it up at your local Fairway Market just before the big meal. It’s so easy!

 2. Count your friends (and family)

Your Thanksgiving table headcount will determine how much turkey you need, so make sure you get those RSVPs. Whole turkeys can range in size from about 8 pounds on the smaller end to around 30 pounds at their biggest. A good rule of thumb is to buy one pound per person, although you may want to up that to one and a half if you love having lots of leftovers. And don’t forget that you’ll want something that can fit in your roasting pan and oven. Sometimes, it makes more sense to buy two smaller birds rather than one big one.

 3. Find your style

Is your goal to make a Thanksgiving feast that will knock everyone’s socks off, even if it means spending days in the kitchen? Or do you just want to get it done and go straight to the eating? There’s a turkey for both situations. If you’re going the more traditional route, you’ll want to consider the fresh whole turkeys that Fairway Market offers. But for a simpler or a smaller feast, it’s worth checking out our pre-cooked turkeys or easy-to-carve breast roasts. And for a truly fuss-free holiday, we also offer Thanksgiving catering.

 4. To brine or not to brine

Brined and basted turkeys are sold with some degree of seasoning already added. Brined turkeys have been allowed to soak in a salt-containing solution. Basted turkeys have salt, broth, or other ingredients injected right into the meat. In addition to boosting the flavor of the turkey, these add-ons help prevent the loss of moisture during roasting, keeping things nice and juicy. This can be a time-saver and a convenience, since you don’t have to worry about brining on your own. But if you’d like more control over the saltiness and flavor of your meat, you’ll want to stick with a non-brined or basted turkey.

5. Decide what’s important to you

Many turkeys come with a host of special claims, like cruelty-free, organic, heritage, and so on. Although it’s up to you to decide how much these criteria matter, keep in mind that they can also have a bearing on prep and flavor. Organic, heritage, and free-range birds, for example, tend to have less fat and a more robust, gamy texture than the conventionally-raised ones that most of us are used to.  

Most of all, remember that turkey time is not about the bird as much as it is about being with your loved ones. So don’t sweat it too much: just reserve yours and then go back to thinking about all the ways that you’ll enjoy the festivities and fun.

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