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What kind of turkey are you buying this year?

What kind of turkey will be in your oven this year? Any turkey that weighs the right amount, heritage, heirloom, kosher, free range?

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  1. Ok, I'll throw myself out there and admit my turkey will be an 18 pounder, plus or minus a few ounces, from Costco. Over the years, I've purchased my share of heirloom, organic, farm raised birds. And you know, despite wishing it were so, I have never felt they were equal to, much less better than, the Costco birds. At 4 to 6 times the price, at least.

    6 Replies
    1. re: tcamp

      I'm pondering the regular natural turkey from Whole Foods I bought last year which was great or the temptation of trying either an heirloom or organic free range. It's only for two of us but I'm planning probably an 18-20 lber since we are both turkey fans and it's all we eat for a week plus it's nice to freeze to have for a month or so.

      1. re: fldhkybnva

        Maybe you could buy smaller versions of each and do a comparison? On turkey day, I usually eat a drumstick (not to mention skin while the bird is "resting"). My main goal in life, Thanksgiving-wise, is to generate leftovers and strip the carcass down so I can make soup.

        1. re: tcamp

          I imagine that could be fun and interesting though perhaps a hassle :)

        2. re: fldhkybnva

          I'm glad to hear you like the WF all natural turkey, fldhkybnva . I've been thinking about ordering their organic turkey this week-end, probably 14 lbs. Maybe I'll order the all natural one instead. We're only 2 here as well, but an 18 lb. bird would be slightly overkill for us. I'll still have meat left over for sandwiches and certainly the carcass will go toward turkey soup. We can always buy another should the craving persist after Thanksgiving.

          1. re: Gio

            I was super-duper happy with the natural turkey last year, the bottom line turkey nothing special in their list of choices. However, it might have been the cooking method I used but either way I'd recommend it. We are serious turkey eaters so in 4 days can demolish an 18 lb bird embarrassingly enough but that consists of turkey being used in most meals and turkey is usually 1/2 of our Thanksgiving plates. It's always easy to buy more. Last year we actually needed more turkey and Whole foods had plenty at the deli counter.

        3. re: tcamp

          Local farm grown. We're getting two--one to smoke and one in the oven.

        4. I'm getting a local pasture-raised bird. I think it's a broad-breasted white, though, not heritage. It will probably be about 15 lbs.

          However, I'm only getting this bird because I'm getting it through my work and using my credit to get it. If I was paying cashy money, I would be getting something from the grocery store. $80 is just too much for my budget right now. :/

          2 Replies
          1. re: Kontxesi

            Have you had the pasture bird before? I got an email somehow from a local farm for pasture raised broad breasted white for $4.25/lb which is on the list of options.

            1. re: fldhkybnva

              Yes, I had one last year. It turned out beautifully, but I can't compare it to a grocery store bird because I prepared it much differently than my mom usually does. I might get one from the store as well to do a test.

              EDIT: We're charging 4.97/lb, but we aren't the farmer so there is mark-up involved.

          2. I'm shooting for a 20lb Kosher (a local market is trying to order it for me).

            I'm doing Thanksgiving in rural Idaho this year - so I'm just hoping to have a Turkey (half joking, half serious) that isn't a grocery store Butterball.

            Last year I had 4 Turkeys (long story) - smoked turkey from a local food truck, heritage, heirloom, and organic/free range. My favorite was the heirloom. I think the name, "Heirloom" is misleading and trying to fool people who don't know the difference between it and heritage - which I don't like. But, I didn't think the heritage was worth the additional price based on taste (putting food ethics aside).

            I'm going with a Kosher this year because I won't be in my kitchen and having a "pre-brined" Turkey will be a huge time/effort saver.

            7 Replies
            1. re: thimes

              Just so I'm clear what is the exact difference between heirloom and heritage?

              1. re: fldhkybnva

                Heritage turkeys are essentially "the old breeds" of turkey that farmers are starting to bring back. They have smaller breasts, walk on their own, and can actually still reproduce on their own.


                Heirloom turkeys are essentially hybrids of an old breed with the broad-breasted white (the mass market turkey of today). They have larger breasts than heritage breeds and the meet is a little more similar to what we've come to expect based on the mass consumption of broad-breasted whites (not as "game-y" or "tough" as heritage breeds). They also grow more quickly - though I'm not sure if they breed on their own (broad breasted whites in mass production can no longer breed because of their huge breasts - kinda crazy when you think about it).

                So in "ethics" I always want to support heritage farmers because I do believe in bringing back those breeds and I respect that movement. They are more expensive and harder to find. But eating them side by side, I preferred the meat of the heirloom because it was more familiar - so for the price difference I would go heirloom again. I just think those breeding heirloom turkeys call them "heirloom" to piggy back on the term "heritage" and get some of the street cred while confusing consumers (which I don't like).

                The heritage turkey made the most amazing turkey stock after thanksgiving though, so flavorful and rich - it was awesome.

                1. re: thimes

                  I think the local turkey is pasture raised and heirloom so perhaps a nice option. However are the pastured turkeys like the pastured chickens which are skinny legged bone more than meat creatures?

              2. re: thimes

                "...so I'm hoping that it isn't a grocery store Butterball."
                I saw the title of the thread and was just getting ready to put in a plug for the tried-and-true Butterball, when I read your post. Maybe I don't know what I'm missing. The classic Butterball can be prepared a miriad of ways and gets rave reviews, so we "look no further." The evidence is all over Chowhound boards through the years, though, that each source for the bird and each kind of bird has its absolute fans.

                1. re: Florida Hound

                  I've been quite happy with butterball turkeys... since I have high blood pressure and sodium issues I just want a turkey breast that's NOT brined or injected 'for my convenience', and preferably fresh rather than frozen so I don't have to wait a week for the wretched thing to thaw.

                  1. re: Kajikit

                    Delaware Chicken on RT.#441/SR#7
                    has great turkey's, etc.

              3. Last year, I decided to try one of the local pasture-raised, organic birds from a farm near me. At $5.50/pound, the price for a 20 pound bird made me a bit sick to my stomach. I served it to my guests without any notice, to see what they thought.

                Nobody said a word that they noticed or tasted anything different. I had a hard time as well, noticing a difference. I do try to support local farms for a whole host of other reasons, but when it comes down to paying $110 for my Thanksgiving bird, I'm going back to the Shady Brook Farm version for 49 cents/pound.

                1 Reply
                1. re: mwk

                  I free especially if you brine your turkey I doubt there will be a huge difference in taste.

                2. I'm getting the free one that the grocery store gives you when you spend $400 on groceries in November. It's just the Shop-Rite brand frozen turkey. Last year I picked the biggest one that they had in the case because we were having a big crowd. This year will be just 8 of us so I'll go with a smaller bird.

                  4 Replies
                    1. re: Jerseygirl111

                      We haven't had free around here in awhile, but I'll take the 49 cent one. Although they're a little late this year, the weekly brochure just mysteriously states "Coming soon! The best deal this Thanksgiving" so who knows.

                      With all the other food being served, it's not as important to me as it might be otherwise. I have a turkey farm about 5 minutes away, and have bought their wonderful turkeys at just under $5/lb,it's better but just not 10 times better, I have to say.

                      As a matter of fact, I have a 9 lb chicken in the freezer, and if worse comes to worst....

                      1. re: coll

                        Wow a 9 lb chicken, I'd serve that if you aren't expecting many. I wonder if they'd notice. I'd love to see that chicken, I'm so used to the runt 2.5-3 lbers that I use for Zuni chicken recipe. My heirloom turkey this year is 1.5x the price of the regular natural turkey at Whole Foods so I guess I'll have to judge how much better it tastes but at $20 more it's not too much extra to spend though as you point out if it can be free.

                        1. re: fldhkybnva

                          To top if off, it's some kind of Amish brand, and when I went to grab it at 69 or 79 cents a lb, a lady standing nearby told me she had bought it the week before and it was one of the best she'd ever tasted.

                          My guests would probably notice, since I usually do at least a 20 lber, but it's only me, my husband and his brother and sister. No kids or significant others. Since they are just attending for the free meal, I don't see how they can complain! And best of all, I can probably cram it in the rotisserie oven and free up the big oven. Set it and forget it! Just waiting to see if there are any good deals on turkey at this point. I mean, I do love turkey as much as the next person.

                          A few years ago, the best deal was Butterball and you know what? That's when I had my "epiphiany" that frozen supermarket turkeys aren't all that bad. They didn't know and raved how it was the best I had ever made. Live and learn.

                  1. This year the kids decided on braised turkey legs and a full oven roasted capon. Capon comes from an Iowa farm and the turkey legs I wind up ordering special from a turkey farm in NJ so I have enough legs available for the holiday gang.

                    Should be delicious.

                    10 Replies
                    1. re: HillJ

                      Good strategy. The leg is my favorite part anyway.

                      1. re: tcamp

                        :) after years of watching my family go with gusto over the legs and leave the rest behind; preferring capon...my brain finally got the message. why struggle? lol...

                        1. re: HillJ

                          I really don't recall seeing turkey legs in regular grocery stores. Is it a special order?

                          1. re: tcamp

                            At ShopRite I can buy two in a package but they tend to sell out very quickly as seasonal items. Since I wanted considerably more, I called the turkey farm south of me and just ordered them.

                            1. re: HillJ

                              I noticed packages of Turkey drumsticks in our local ShopRite this past weekend.

                            2. re: tcamp

                              Plus I'll make stock of our the bones later.

                              1. re: tcamp

                                They Re definitely around in all our stores in Nov and Dec

                                1. re: magiesmom

                                  Just the drumstick or the drumstick plus thigh? I've seen the former but not the latter. It is likely I am not paying close attention - I tend to whip through the store following my list.

                                  1. re: tcamp

                                    I only buy the drum sticks. Where I shop, all the turkey parts are all sold separately.

                        2. Organic/free range from Whole Foods has been good to us for a few years. Normal turkey size, not Springfield nuclear size. A broad breasted white is not an evil bird, if allowed to grow slowly on a good diet. The proportions don't have to be crazy.

                          Honestly, I don't care much about actual turkey meat. I like turkey gravy a lot and turkey soup more.

                          Heritage birds are also very good but too small for our family.

                          1. OK so the finalists are a local pastured raised broad breasted white or the Whole Foods broad breasted bronze which I think are two different species.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: fldhkybnva

                              LOL, are you going to roll the dice?

                              I'd go with local.

                              1. re: tcamp

                                I called Whole Foods and am familiar with other poultry from the farm that they get the heirloom birds so I went with that also because it's a bronze rather than a regular white broad breasted which from my quick research is the same as the grocery store turkey. The Whole Foods heirloom bronze is also free range so I thought it was the best of the two options for this year and will make it easier for me given I will be there to buy other things. I'm excited to try it.

                            2. Over the years we have eaten virtually every type of Turkey available to humanity, and have yet to find one that, properly prepared, tastes better than the free one you can get from your local Super this time of year if you buy enough of the other stuff you normally need to buy anyway. The sales began this week in our area, much earlier than usual. Each year we manage to score about ten big birds, of which we donate at least six, and freeze the rest for use throughout the year.

                              Be careful when you buy, as some may be injected or pre-brined, and some may not, and this determines what you do from there.

                              CI regularly does tastings and aside from the Kosher birds being consistent winners by virtue of effectively being pre-brined, the frozen Butterballs actually usually do quite well, despite the assumption here and elsewhere that they aren't very good.

                              Frozen birds are consistently better than "fresh" because there's less chance of the meat being damaged between the time they were "processed" and the time you get them home. See the many, many prior threads on this for why this is so.

                              I also discuss this in a video if you're interested in the details:


                              3 Replies
                              1. re: acgold7

                                I couldn't care less about turkey so I too go with the free ones given out by my supermarket. To try to please my turkey-eating guests, I dry-brine, air dry and roast them to a reasonable temperate and have never received anything but raves. The skin, which to me is the only part of a turkey worth eating, is always spectacular this way. I see NO reason to pay more!

                                1. re: biondanonima

                                  What's your final temperature when you pull it out? I think I read somewhere you use the low and slow method?

                                  1. re: fldhkybnva

                                    No, I actually usually use a high-heat method, 400-450 the entire time. The only problem with this is that it creates a HUGE mess in my oven and smokes up my apartment, LOL. It also monopolizes the oven, because nothing else I make can really be cooked at that temperature. I pull it when the thigh reaches 165, and I always position it so the thighs are toward the back of my oven (which tends to be hotter than the front). That way, the breast meat is less likely to overcook. Also, I let it rest a LONG time. 45 minutes or more, usually. It is still hotter than hell when I go to carve it.

                                    Last year I think I started the turkey at 450 for 30 mins and then turned it down to 325-350 to accommodate some sides. I also spatchcocked it, giving me even more room in the oven for things that taste better than turkey!

                              2. I'll start my answer by saying the turkey will not be prepared in the oven.................

                                I use kosher turkey and I part out the birds and marinate and cook on the Weber Grill.

                                Wings are cut at the joints and put in the serving platter. Legs are left whole. I carve the thighs and breasts into slices. The neck belongs to me and doesn't make it from the kitchen to the dining room.

                                This is not special for Thanksgiving, as I grill turkey breast and/or thighs at least onece a week all year long.

                                Not only does my family prefer grilled turkey to oven roasted, but this cuts the cooking time to less than one hour and leaves the ovens free for pies, rolls, stuffing, etc.

                                1. Does a big fat and juicy one count as a "kind"?

                                  1. The kind that's $.99 per pound at Aldi.

                                      1. The farmer up the road from me raises turkeys every year and their great. I watch them grow and eat till they're destined for greatness.