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Nov 16, 2008 07:13 PM

Trader Joe's turkey anyone?

I'm thinking of buying a fresh brined turkey from TJ's this year. Has anybody ever tried one? Since I've never made a brined turkey, are you supposed to use any salt when you roast it?

Would love to hear your experiences!

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  1. I always buy a turkey at the local supermarket and brine it myself. I've been brining turkey's for about 5-years for Thanksgiving. I have not tried the Trader Joe's brined turkeys.

    Here are some comments about Trader Joe's brined turkeys that I found via a Google search:

    New York Times articles about bringing and cooking turkeys

    22 Replies
    1. re: Antilope

      Thank you Antilope! Looks like most reviews are good for the TJ's bird. I guess I'll try one this year. What do you think about adding any salt in cooking though? Leave it out?

      1. re: abqdeb

        Don't add any extra salt when cooking a brined turkey.

      2. re: Antilope

        Thank you for posting this. I've been debating over the TJ's turkey or another type. I'm roasting my first turkey ever. I actually had a dream last night that it was 11:00 am on Thanksgiving and I hadn't even bought my turkey yet. I really need to get over it.

        1. re: Rizza

          Don't you just hate those kind of dreams. Funny - when I was younger I would have dreams like that about Halloween... and later for things like college classes/exams. For Halloween I couldn't get home in time from school and I couldn't get my costume together and I wasn't sure what to do - sheer panic ;-)

          Anyway, if you decide not to go with a TJ turkey I find that of the selection found at "regular" grocery stores, the Kosher birds are very nice in flavor. We get the Empire brand around here in Atlanta, not sure what other brands are available (if any).

          1. re: HaagenDazs

            Thanks for the tip. I might have to go get a TJ's bird today or tomorrow though, so I can get some sleep!

            1. re: Rizza

              Are they frozen birds? 9 days is a long while to be sitting in your fridge if it's not frozen.

              1. re: HaagenDazs

                My thoughts exactly! They are fresh, but according to the links posted above by Antilope, that didn't seem to be a problem for anyone. They have "use or freeze by" dates on them. I'm going to run by there today and ask. They sold a crapload of them last year... and nobody died that I heard about ;~)

                1. re: abqdeb

                  Yeah, but there is a difference in "fresh" and "whew! got it in under the sell by date!"

                  I would wait until the last possible minute to buy a fresh bird (within reason). In other words, I wouldn't buy one now if I were you. I'd wait until maybe next Monday or Tuesday. Do they take reservations so you can be sure to have one available for you? Our local Whole Foods has a system where you can reserve one in a certain weight range. And specify a pickup date.

                  1. re: HaagenDazs

                    I have often purchased "fresh" supermarket turkeys that were rock-solid, and had use-by dates many weeks away - which clearly would not be possible with a non-frozen bird. I was interested to read, some years back, that they are stored at just-about-freezing. Even some birds that feel fresh on the outside may be frozen inside, so I think it's wise to buy one at least by Sunday - unless you're buying from a local farm.

                    1. re: greygarious

                      The frozen aspect on the outside if usually a shell of frozen water, the actual flesh doesn't freeze due to the dissolved solids in the meat. Turkey flesh doesn't freeze until something like 25 degrees Fahrenheit if I remember rightly, but don't quote me on that. Don't worry if the outside has such a shell, the muscle cells don't have any ice crystals.

                      1. re: greygarious

                        Fresh turkey (by law) can be stored down to 26 degrees. That's when turkey meat freezes. Frozen is anything under that but hopefully it's stored waaay below that, at zero or below. If it is truly fresh, it will not have a expiration date beyond a week or so. Think of a chicken. Turkeys, poultry, are all the same deal and if it's truly fresh it will not last for weeks. Fresh chickens don't have expiration dates weeks and weeks away, why would a turkey?

                        Now, you can take a bird labeled as fresh and freeze it! That would obviously extend the shelf life but it would then be a fresh labeled turkey that has simply been frozen.

                        1. re: HaagenDazs

                          Apparently I wasn't clear enough: My point is that your "fresh" turkey may come frozen enough that it needs a few days to thaw in the fridge. If you are a newbie who buys one of these on Wednesday, you'll be scrambling on Thursday, trying to pry out the bag of giblets inside the frozen crevasse that is the turkey cavity, and it will be tricky to get the meat to cook evenly.

                    2. re: abqdeb

                      OK...Some things can't be undone! I bought an 18lb TJ's brined turkey on Friday & immediately put it in my freezer. So now it's rock-solid frozen. My plan was to move it to my fridge on Monday. Hope I didn't already screw it up. I felt like keeping it in the fridge for a week wasn't a good plan & worried that they would run out.
             I still OK?

                      1. re: DDSSF

                        Since it's so big, I would move it to fridge right now, Sunday.

                    3. re: HaagenDazs

                      I talked to them today. They reported back on an employee who cooked one this week vith very good results (I am a former employee and talked to an old friend who I trust). They seem sure that they will be getting more in every day. Today they were dated 11/29. I think I'll shoot for a Saturday purchase. Although oakjoan has got me feeling anxious again - ha!

                  2. re: oakjoan

                    "I also once had a turkey that turned out to be too big for the oven...noticed, of course, at 10 a.m. on Thanksgiving day. A large amount of sawing and hacking ensued and we finally got in cut into pieces that would fit. Actually turned out pretty well."

                    I'm going to be cooking a deconstructed turkey on purpose this year and as some recipes will tell you, aside from the pretty presentation it is really the best way to cook a turkey. I'll be doing the legs and thighs in an olive oil confit. My argument is that you never carve a turkey at the table anyway; at least I don't, (this isn't a holiday movie script) to do it right requires a good bit of work space and it also involves a cutting board.

                    Obviously the dark meat cooks slower than the breast meat, so why not cook them separately? If presentation isn't a problem for you all, I highly suggest it.

                    1. re: HaagenDazs

                      I couldn't agree more. I always cook my turkey in this fashion; a technique from a culinary arts teacher, Ken Wolfe, who wrote a small book, New American Turkey Cookery (1984). By getting the backbone off, legs and thighs in another pan, the breast stands up on its own on the upper wing section without a rack. (great for self basting) As big of a bird as I can find never takes more than 2 1/4 hours. If you are looking for Norman Rockwell, it isn't exactly; but you can even reassemble it with proper garnishes for any photo ops. It makes carving easier (two people working on the same bird). You can even go as far as to bone the drumstick and thigh prior to roasting; but it's an extra tedious step I usually skip.

                      1. re: donali

                        I'm thinking of deconstructing mine this year too. I usually do a whole 14lber at high heat but it really smokes up the kitchen and ties up the oven. I did a couple of extra legs along with it last year and they turned out so well I'm tempted to do the whole thing as separate pieces. For those of you that use this method, do you slow-roast then crisp at the end, or do it all at one high temp?

                        1. re: biondanonima

                          I've seen them do it that way on either Americas Test Kitchen or Cooks' Country just recently, so if you register (that's free, and not the same as signing up for the free 14day trial) you should be able to find the full recipe and instructions. I do not recall the roasting particulars, but they did a whole breast and separate thighs (maybe legs too?) on the same sheet pan, I think with a cooling rack set in it to elevate the meat. If you can overcome the Rockwell urge, it certainly makes sense - faster, browner, easier. Especially if, like me, you wind up just tossing the wings and drums into the stockpot.

                          1. re: greygarious

                            I found the CI method - they do it low and slow, then rest the pieces for a bit, then re-crisp at 500 degrees and rest again. Might be worth a try - I don't ever serve it whole anyway, and breaking it down pre-cooking seems like it would eliminate the more awkward aspects of carving in addition to making everything cook more evenly. I'm wondering if I could still use my roasting pan, or if I'd want to switch to a sheet. I do a couple of extra legs so I'd probably need two sheet pans to make sure everything was properly spaced.

                            1. re: biondanonima

                              This is not the time to use both oven racks simultaneously, and two sheet pans won't fit on one level of an average oven. Maybe roast all the legs on one pan and then the breast in your roasting pan.

                            2. re: greygarious

                              Cooks Illustrated's most recent issue tweaks the deconstructed turkey technique. Looks pretty spectacular.


                              Mr Taster

                2. Well, I bought one. They had just gotten a new shipment in and said they weren't sure if they were getting any more, so I bit the bullet and brought the bird home. I decided to turn the temp down to the coldest setting in my garage fridge and keep it there. Hopefully we will all survive Thanksgiving just fine and I'll be able to report back!

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: abqdeb

                    Be aware of how cold it actually gets. If you park it in the back and turn the fridge down way low you can freeze the thing. Not a big deal overall, but it would be a big deal if you open up the fridge Thursday morning to find a half-frozen turkey.

                    1. re: HaagenDazs

                      Good point! I've actually stuck a fridge thermometer in there and will check it tonight. Thanks!

                    2. re: abqdeb

                      I've been going through the same thing! I just got home from Trader Joe's with my pre-brined turkey and the "use or freeze by date" is 11/30/08. I asked the guy at the checkout counter about it and he had no idea. Normally poultry needs to be cooked within a couple of days but it must be something in the brining process that helps preserve it a bit longer. That, and I do believe it is deep chilled since I can feel ice crystals through the plastic covering. I have heard great things about these birds so I'm excited to try it. I guess I'll just use my normal cooking method and spices minus the salt.

                    3. I hate to seem super slow, but if you buy a TJ brined turkey and your recipe calls for you to brine your turkey, do you just skip that step? My first Thanksgiving dinner... Thanks!

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: clutfy

                        Yeah, double brining would not be advised. One other note, some people find the gravy made from pan drippings from a brined bird too salty.

                        1. re: clutfy

                          Yeah - buying an already brined turkey is allowing you to skip a step. Do know that buying a pre-brined turkey is basically the same thing as buying a Butterball turkey.

                          I've always heard that some people think the gravy is too salty, but I've never had a problem previously. Of course, don't start seasoning the gravy until after you've tasted it...

                          1. re: HaagenDazs

                            We bought one based on a friends experiences in the past few years. We are going to a friends for the holiday so we are will be cooking it Saturday after the holiday for our own personal turkey day. It says it's good until ther 30th.

                        2. Thanks for asking this question, and all the helpful responses.

                          Didn't want to deal with brining or deep-frying the turkey this year, and I hate picking out the feathers on a kosher bird. After reading through this thread, I decided to go with the TJ's fresh pre-brined turkey too.

                          Picked ours up yesterday. The employee stocking the turkeys said it will be fine this early (sell-by date was 11/30). Like abqdeb, I have it in the garage refrigerator, which I keep colder. A BIG bonus was it was only .99 a pound. I'll be sure to report back.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Rubee

                            Just reporting back -

                            The TJ pre-brined fresh young turkey came out perfect. The night before, I rubbed an herb butter (salted butter, fresh minced sage, basil, oregano, and thyme, Bell's seasoning, and orange zest) under the skin. On T-day, I stuffed it and poured some chicken broth in the pan, but didn't flip or baste the turkey.

                            We moved into a new house earlier this year, and it was also my first time using the convection oven to roast. I followed the directions in my GE Monogram manual - 325 on convection roast mode. It came out beautiful - perfectly cooked, juicy and flavorful, with very evenly browned and crispy skin. I used the thermometer probe that came with the oven and set it at 165 in the thigh, and let it rest for about 25 minutes. Everyone commented on how moist it was.

                            One of these times I still want to try a heritage, but TJ's pre-brined turkey was a winner for us this year. I'll definitely buy it again. Besides the convenience of buying a fresh turkey already brined, it was a great price on sale at .99 a pound.

                            Full Thanksgiving report with pics here -

                          2. Does anyone know if TJ's still sells already brined turkeys? I'd love to try one. Thanks- Susie

                            9 Replies
                            1. re: SusieS

                              Yep, they have traditional brined birds and koshered birds that have essentially been dry brined.

                                1. re: SusieS

                                  $1.79/lb for the brined turkey at TJ's, we'll be getting another one this year too.


                                  1. re: Rubee

                                    Do you know if they typically stock a lot of them or do they run out quickly? We don't live near a TJ's, so my husband is going to stop at one when he picks up our daughter at college on Tuesday evening. I'm so scared they won't have any and it'll be too late to order a fresh one locally. I may start having those nightmares mentioned in the thread above!

                                    1. re: AmyH

                                      That question is best answered by the TJ's you shop at. Call them.

                                      1. re: AmyH

                                        As Gregygarious mentions, I'd call your TJs. They're always very friendly and helpful. Our local TJs even set one aside for us - we just told them how large and when we would pick it up. Happy Thanksgiving!

                                        1. re: Rubee

                                          Great idea.....we live in the Columbia River Gorge, so the nearest TJ's is a good hour-plus away. I will call to see if they can hold one aside.

                                          1. re: Rubee

                                            I got my TJ's turkey last night! I called the store earlier in the day to see if they'd hold one. She said she couldn't but that there were "tons" of them in the back. My husband got there about 8 pm and had no problem getting a 14 pound (there are only 7 of us this year). I can't wait to cook it up tomorrow!

                                            1. re: AmyH

                                              Picked mine up last night too - waited since we were hoping they'd go on sale for 99/lb like last year ; ) Only 3 adults and 3 kids this year, so bought the smallest, which was 17-1/2 pounds. Oh well, there are going to be lots of leftovers!

                                              Happy Thanksgiving everyone!