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Buying Your Thanksgiving Turkey

Here's a guide to some popular varieties of turkey to help you decide what's right for your table:

• Frozen: Turkeys labeled "frozen" are flash frozen down to 0°F right after processing. They're every bit as flavorful as fresh ones. The best method to thaw the bird is for several days in the refrigerator or for up to 12 hours in the sink (or other vat-like container) in very cold water, making sure to replenish the cold water every 30 minutes. Never thaw your turkey at room temperature (like on the counter) to avoid harmful bacteria.
• Fresh: Fresh turkeys are only chilled and thus have a shorter shelf life than frozen turkeys. Because you don't have to thaw them, they are a more convenient option.
• Self-basting: Turkeys labeled "self-basting" have been injected with a solution intended to make them more flavorful and tender, which ends up saving you time, since these turkeys have been salted or otherwise seasoned. This means you can skip brining or marinating that can take several hours — plus, you're pretty much guaranteed a moist and flavorful bird.
• Organic: Organic turkeys come frozen, fresh, and self-basting, and are raised on organic feeds and without antibiotics. No matter which type of bird you choose, figure that you need 1 to 1 ½ pounds of turkey per person.
Once you've determined the type and weight range you need, find the roundest bird available. Then clear out the freezer or refrigerator to make room for the turkey!


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