Fresh vs. Frozen turkey for Thanksgiving
I was at Costco in Rego Park earlier today, where they have fresh butterball turkeys priced at .99 cents per pound. I picked one out, purchased it, but then exchanged some words with a supervisor who encouraged me to return it. Why? The turkey had a tag marked good until 11/27, but still, I asked her if it would be ok to store this turkey in my fridge until next Thursday. She said no, that I should put it in the freezer first, and then thaw it a few days before Thanksgiving. When I explained I could not do that, as I don't have enough room in my freezer, she said I should return it, which I did, and buy another one closer to Thanksgiving because close to a week in the fridge is too long.
Before I buy my next turkey, I'm curious to hear opinions on fresh versus frozen turkey, thanks a lot and have a Happy Thanksgiving!
I've read in numerous places that a fresh turkey is good until the date marked on the packaging as long as they're kept in the wrapper. I've never bought one that far in advance though.
Turkey basting is an unnecessary step, IMO. Using a brined bird is the best way to ensure juicy and flavorful meat. Brushing with melted butter and starting off in a 425 convection oven for 1 hour and then 350 for the remainder will lead to juicy meat and crispy skin every time with a brined bird. Last year I did a 24 lb turkey and did it breast side up the entire way, this year I did a 20 lb bird which I started breast down and then flipped to breast side up after the initial 1 hour at 425.
The fresh turkey I ended up buying at Costco was semi-frozen. There were ice crystals inside the cavity. I guess the temp at which fresh is considered legal is low enough to cause a bit of freezing. The bird, a butterball brand was OK, but nothing special. I did brine this turkey, but I didn't notice the meat being any juicier than some of the frozen one I've purchased in the past.
I've been roasting the Thanksgiving turkey for my family for the past 5 years. Each time I prepped and roasted it exactly the same way: stuff, truss, injection baste, quick sear all around using broil, roast at 350 until done using oven thermometer, turkey thermometer, and injection baster (until all parts hit 165-170F). with very good results. I've always used fresh kosher turkey each time, and I've been quite happy with the results. This Thanksgiving, I used a frozen kosher turkey, and I was prepared to get mediocre results. BTW I use kosher turkey only because it's conveniently pre-brined (brining makes the bird more tender).
To my amazement, the finished bird was fantastic! None of the guests politely declined offers to take home some turkey, and all were asking for my recipe. The only variable, has been the fact that I used a frozen bird. I know that I have a small sample size in my experience: 5 fresh turkeys vs 1 frozen turkey. The frozen bird was outstanding.
I've read that Cook's magazine found that unless you can be sure that your "fresh" turkey was slaughtered recently, and properly stored, it's better to get a frozen turkey.