Thanksgiving Turkey Guide

As Turkey Day approaches, here's a down & dirty guide to help make sure all your plates are covered.

What size turkey do you need?

The general rule of thumb is to plan for 1 pound per person. Taking into consideration a whole turkey's bones, neck, and giblets we recommend 1 1/2 per person just to be on the safe side.

For families with big eaters and for those who plan on having leftovers for the world's best turkey sandwiches and casseroles the following week, 2 pounds per person is perfect.

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1 Large or 2 Small Turkeys?

Smaller turkeys cook more evenly and tend to be more tender. If you get up to the 15+ head count, 2 smaller turkeys will make for a more flavorful and enjoyable feast.

pasture raised turkey guide

Fresh or Frozen Turkey?

This one comes down to personal preference based on a few factors. The biggest one being the most practical, is thaw time. With frozen turkey, you'll add 3-6 days of prep time to ensure your turkey is fully thawed. With a fresh turkey you'll just need a few hours to bring it to room temperature before going in the oven.

Does freezing effect quality and flavor? The answer is not really. If meat is properly flash frozen the quality and flavor should be preserved. If not properly frozen though, ice crystalls that form can cause damage to the cell structure and cause a noticeable difference in quality.

Benefits of Buying Your Turkey Locally

The most important factor for fresh vs. frozen in our opinion is the association of fresh turkey with a more rewarding experience of buying food form local producers. This is more of a local or store-bought turkey question, but a local provider will most likely offer fresh turkeys. Buying a fresh turkey from a local farmer provides a different experience for you and your guest, creating a sense of appreciation for the food you'll share and the (hopefully) natural methods used to raise it.

Fresh Pasture Raised Turkey

Thaw Time for Frozen Turkey (in a refrigerator)

For a 12-16 lb. turkey, plan on 3 days to thaw.
For a 17-20 pound turkey, plan on about 4 days.
For 20+, plan on about 5 days.

What's the difference? Pasture Raised Turkey vs. Commercial Turkey

Pasture raised turkeys are very different than turkeys raised on a commercial farm.

Commercial turkeys are typically raised in a confined factory-farm setting, administered antibiotics to promote growth, and injected with artificial fillers and salt solutions to protect the turkey from overcooking and drying out. This very unnatural approach to raising commercial turkeys has many ethical, environmental, and health consequences. Commercial turkeys are also known to have a saltier flavor and less enjoyable texture/eating experience.

Pasture raised turkeys on the other hand are typically raised on small farms, and have the freedom to run around, doing things turkeys like to do. They're not given antibiotics to promote growth and take longer to develop into a healthy bird. They eat a natural, nutritious diet of wild insects, grasses, seeds, berries, nuts, and worms. Pasture raised turkeys are known for having a richer flavor imparted by their natural lifestyle, and much more enjoyable texture/eating experience.

Because they're not fattened with antibiotics and get much more exercise, they're leaner, and therefore require less cooking time on lower heat. Because they aren't injected with artificial fillers they require a closer eye while cooking to avoid the possiblity of drying out. Pasture raising also creates far less waste than factory farm operations and contribute to a natural and sustainable ecosystem.

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