Fresh or Frozen Turkey

Fresh, frozen or somewhere in-between. There are so many choices for picking a turkey.

In this article, we ask the question, “Fresh or frozen turkey?’

For most people, it doesn’t always matter what they did last year. It seems every year this is the new dilemma cooks have to face.

Is there anything wrong with either choice? Not really, but there are some differences, and we’ll lay them out for you here so you are an informed shopper and can make the best decision for your family. We’ll also look at some of your other options as well.

Fresh Turkey

  • A turkey is labeled fresh ONLY if it has never been chilled below 26°F.

Frozen Turkey

  • Turkeys chilled below 0°F are labeled frozen.

Hard Chilled or Not Previously Frozen Turkey

  • Turkeys that have been chilled below 26°F, but not below 0°F can’t be labeled fresh, but they aren’t labeled frozen either. If a turkey isn’t labeled either, it’s most likely hard-chilled or not previously frozen.

Texture and Taste

Most farmers agree that freezing affects the texture and taste of the meat. Fresh turkeys without added ingredients are often the tastiest. Check out the different types below.

  • Organic: With these turkeys, the farmer doesn’t use any chemicals, antibiotics or roughage fillers when raising the birds. The birdsa also have access to the outdoors and direct sunlight, just like free range birds do. Their feed must also be organic and without chemical fertilizers or pesticides. Usually more expensive, but usually the finest and fullest flavored birds available.
  • Natural: This can be added to a label if no artificial flavors, colorings, ingredients, chemical preservatives or any other artificial or synthetic ingredients were used to process the meat. Antibiotics may be used, though. Poultry labeled natural is not organic.
  • Free Range/Free Roaming/Cage Free: These birds have access to the outside and move around in a yard. Because they aren’t stuck in a cage, they develop muscle which contributes to a more fully flavored and complex meat. These birds are not natural or organic unless specified
  • Kosher: These birds are killed per Jewish dietary laws. Kosher birds are salted inside and out and left to drain before soaking and washing. Since the salt pulls moisture from the meat of the bird, the flesh is denser.

Note: brining your turkey adds extra-moist flavor to your meat.

Amount of Turkey to Purchase

  • Purchase one (1) pound of raw turkey per person (includes a moderate amount for leftovers).
  • Buy 1 1/2 pounds per person, if you have hearty eaters or want lots of leftovers.
  • Order a 3/4 pound of whole turkey per person if you don’t want leftovers.
  • If you purchase an uncooked, boneless turkey roast, buy at least 1/3 pound per person. If it’s bone-in, buy 3/4 pound per person.
  • Make sure your roasting pan, oven, and refrigerator can accommodate the size of turkey you purchase.

Final Thoughts

If you order a fresh turkey, make sure to pick it up just a day or two before cooking. Take it straight from your car to the refrigerator. As always, handle raw meat with care.

Looking for the perfect grill to cook your holiday turkey? The Big Green Egg is the perfect way to cook your Thanksgiving bird. You’ll free up oven space for other dishes while cooking the best turkey you’ve ever tasted!

Image: Annie Spratt