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Big Box Store Turkey

I've bought many a Christmas Beast at BJ's - cut from the bone, tied back up, always a hit.

Anyone know the skinny on Turkeys for Thanksgiving? I've never bought holiday poultry at a box store. Do they have fresh turkey? Anything that stands out?

We have a BJ's or a Costco nearby. The shipped in from other farm fresh farms is running $4 a lb.

Where are you buying your holiday bird?

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  1. Last year the fresh turkey at Costco was 89¢/lb- the same price for six straight years. No fresh turkeys yet, but I know prices are negotiated in advance. I wouldn't be surprised if the price remains the same.

    4 Replies
    1. re: Cathy

      But are they Fresh, or Freshly defrosted?

      I'm open to WF and TJ as well. Still looking for local fresh killed. Even lots of farms transport them from out of state with a huge price. So if you think you're buying local, your buying somewhat regional - often a few states away.

      1. re: Bellachefa

        Definition of fresh means quick chilled to a temperature of 26ºF.

        Definition of frozen means flash frozen to -30º

        The ones at Costco are fresh, according to that above definition. If you'd buy it on Wednesday, you would probably not be able to cook it on Thursday unless you did a lot of constant running water to thaw it completely.

        1. re: Cathy

          Thanks. I only ask because there seems to be an industry habit of saying fresh in bold print and previously frozen in small print in regard to seafood. Not sure how that applies to poultry.

      2. re: Cathy

        Was just in Costco this am - (Phoenix location) - Turkey was $1.09 per pound and they had fresh written on them but they were rock solid hard. I'm not sure how that translates for others.

        I couldn't find one under 18 pounds so I did not purchase.

      3. Depends what your priorities are. If all you care about is flavor and juiciness, then you want a frozen bird. A "never frozen" bird is far more likely to undergo cell damage as it continuously freezes and thaws a little due to hovering around 26F, as Cathy points out. CI talks about this extensively and always recommends a flash-frozen bird.

        If politics and image are more important, then go for the "fresh."

        Poultry is almost never "frozen/defrosted" and sold as "fresh" the way seafood is.

        The best tasting birds are the free ones at the supers if you know what you are doing:


        9 Replies
          1. re: acgold7

            I always buy fresh, and I don't agree that frozen birds are juicier or more flavorful. CI has had many different recipes and opinions over the year. I dry brine and roast breast side down for the first 30-45 min, and always get excellent results (mix some herbs with your salt, and use herb butter and you will never buy a butterball again).

            As I wrote in a different post, this year I will be getting my turkey from Wegmans-- most likely the Fresh Premium Grand Champion (Jaindl farms), which promises "50% more breast meat".

            In past years, I got my fresh turkey from Whole Foods. But Wegmans just opened in our area, and I generally like/trust their meats, and Whole Foods for me is just too expensive for what you get.

            1. re: mazwe

              If you "always" buy fresh, then how do you know?

              1. re: Bellachefa

                How do I know that it is incorrect that frozen turkeys are juicier and more flavorful? Because when I host, I "always" buy fresh, and when I don't, and folks have used frozen, the frozen turkey was not juicier and did not pack more flavor.

                Not saying frozen turkeys are bad. Just saying it is not true that they are superior to fresh turkeys. At the end, it has more to do with how you roast and prepare the bird. I prefer fresh turkeys that are not injected with any solutions, because I like to control the flavor.

                1. re: mazwe

                  Until you properly defrost and cook a non injected frozen bird by your culinary standards - you still don't know.

                  Mine is gently defrosting. I look forward to the brining and drying process and how it turns out. I've never cooked a frozen bird, as I never had my wonderful newish big fridge that could properly defrost for 5 days, brine for a day and dry for a day.

                  I have had amazing results for fresh birds local and fresh birds a couple of states away. But I personally don't KNOW that a frozen bird is not equal until I try it myself and know it has been properly handled.

                  An injected butterball or other brand was never part of the plan as long as I can afford a higher quality bird.

                  I'll let you know.

                  1. re: Bellachefa

                    I like your sense of adventure, and I'll go one step further and say that unless someone has tried every possible variation, adjusting only one variable at a time, then they really don't "know" anything and can't make any sweeping conclusions about what's best... they can only presume.

                    For Turkeys, that would mean fresh, frozen, basted/injected, natural/not injected, organic, supermarket, heritage, heirloom, brined, not brined, dry-rubbed, all of that, testing each variable singly using the same prep and cooking method each time, and only then varying the cooking method with a single type of bird.

                    That's not practical for most people and I'd venture a guess that very few people have done that.

                    But I have. So I feel justified in pontificating endlessly about this.

                    Someone who has only made fresh birds at home and only had frozen ones made by someone else can't really know how the latter were prepared so can only presume (possibly erroneously or unfairly) about their quality.

                    And you shouldn't rule out injected birds. It's just a faster way to brine with basically the same stuff you brine with (unless the solution includes fake butter stand-ins, which is rare these days). You shouldn't brine an injected bird but there's nothing wrong with using one.

                    1. re: acgold7

                      I think you guys failed to understand my point. I rejected the statement against fresh turkeys because it is simply not true, just as it is inaccurate to generalize about frozen ones. As you yourself pointed out, you have to have tried every single method of preparation.

                      I have tried more than you presume. Just because I wasn't hosting or buying, doesn't mean I did not assist in preparing or directly prepared frozen birds elsewhere. I don't claim superior knowledge, but a little less presumption helps.

                      Anyway, have a happy thanksgiving, and hope you enjoy your roasts. Cheers.

                      1. re: mazwe

                        The statement that fresh-never-frozen Turkeys are statistically more likely to be dryer/less moist/less juicy is scientifically, provably true and has been verified by Cook's and other reputable journals and organizations. The explanation has been discussed dozens of times here and elsewhere.

                        Just because you don't believe it doesn't make it untrue.

                        And yes, I have tried every single method of prep, and every single type of Turkey. Many times. More than you could possibly imagine.

                        But I have no doubt you know what you are doing and will come up with a great, juicy, flavorful bird. Dry brining and roasting breast down are great ideas and I highly recommend them.

                        Have a great holiday.

          2. While shopping for dairy & produce specials, I noticed Aldi has frozen whole turkeys and large hams for .79/lb right now. They were flying out of the freezer yesterday. (NJ Aldi).

            eta: also Butterball turkey breast only for $5.99 each.

            9 Replies
            1. re: HillJ

              This is ridiculous. Everyone knows Turkeys can't fly.

              1. re: acgold7

                Ah but once a year they consider it!

                1. re: acgold7

                  As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly!

                      1. re: knowspicker

                        They certainly can fly. We have lots of wild turkeys around here (just north of Boston), and they look so funny when they fly- they are also mean as hell!!

                        1. re: macca

                          Well, not really, or not really well, or not really well enough to avoid being brought down by our black lab, who very proudly showed off the tail feathers in her mouth...

                        1. re: iluvcookies

                          I'm so glad someone besides me remembers this... "they're hitting the ground like sacks of wet cement!"

                  1. I usually go with the free turkey from the grocery store, but one year I bought a Butterball from Costco - it was cheap and just fine. There is no way I would pay $4 a pound for turkey (full disclosure: I hate turkey).

                    ETA: I believe the one I bought at Costco was "fresh," which as acgold pointed out means that it spends a lot of time hovering right around the freezing point. Since reading the CI article about the possibility of cell wall damage in "fresh" birds, I usually get a frozen one. In my experience, cooking method and final temperature are the key to a good turkey - the bird itself is much less important.

                    1. I bought a turkey at Costco for this year's (Canadian) Thanksgiving. It was frozen and I thawed it in my fridge. It was delicious - one of the best I've ever made. It was my first time done a brine though (using this recipe for
                      Roast Turkey with Chestnut-Apple Stuffing: (http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/ro...


                      I especially liked how the giblets and neck were included with the turkey. When I bought other turkeys before, they had been discarded. The neck added great flavour to the soup the next day and I used the giblets in the stuffing.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: cellophane_star

                        no frozen birds at the Costco by me in MA

                        your stuffing sounds lovely...too bad the inlaws have there stuffing war rules!

                      2. So I went to Best Buy and I went to Costco and other then affordable brine infused Butterballs and a few other fresh/thawed turkeys, it was a bust.

                        I've gotten fresh birds in the past - fresh from an acre away to fresh from 3 states away. $4-5 a lb this year.

                        After much reading, I decided on the frozen Rancher bird at Whole Foods. 22 lb @ 1.89 lb. It will slowly defrost in my newish big fridge. Monday I will brine and tuesday I will air dry, and Thursday I will cross my fingers and believe.

                        1. Bellachefa, TJs has fresh pre-brined turkeys for $1.99/lb. Last year, we roasted one and deep fried another and they were both fantastic-- probably the best thanksgiving dinner I've ever had.

                          1. Costco this week has fresh, non-injected birds for .99/lb. in our area (Left Coast). They range from 15 to about 24 lbs. and are from Foster Farms.

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: acgold7

                              Didn't Foster Farms just have a big salmonella recall there in California? Hopefully you didn't pick one up yet.

                              1. re: coll

                                It's a good question and I'm glad you asked. Yes, they did, but it wasn't at the place they raise their Turkeys -- it was chickens only and mostly processed products and cooked rotis Costco chickens and of course they blamed users for under-cooking them and mis-handling and cross-contamination. We got a long letter from Costco and Foster. There are plant numbers on all the labels and the Turkeys weren't affected at all. And as it turns out the recall notice was demanding changes that had already long since been made by Foster, only the USDA hadn't gotten out to the plants to inspect yet.

                                But we always assume all birds are contaminated (statistically about 30% are) and handle and cook them as if they are radioactive. Our kitchen was designed to make cross-contamination virtually impossible, and our ovens are computer-controlled so as to make it virtually impossible to undercook a bird. One of our inspectors said our kitchen was the cleanest he'd ever seen and another said she was blown away by our cooling and sanitation procedures.

                                Do I cook them less when I'm at home? Um, yes.

                                That whole thing was kind of a shame because until then, Foster has one of the best reputations around as a really solid outfit, way better than the Tysons and Perdues of the world. We had Costco bring in Foster Turkeys especially for us and were thrilled when they were able to score us a steady supply. They were and are a brand we could be pretty proud to say we featured, much more so than (we thought) Butterball or Jennie-O or something that makes you think of crappy Turkey Hot Dogs. We still stand by them.

                                At present, in the run-up to TDay, we are bringing in 20 to 30 birds a day in the 22-24 pound range. While I lobby against fresh birds above, these come straight from Foster to Costco in Foster Trucks, and straight to my place in Costco Trucks, so I trust them both to handle them in a way that keeps the temps right to avoid cell damage.

                                Again, the issue with Salmonella and Campylobacter isn't whether they are present in or on the bird, because you should always assume they are. It is whether you are handling them properly so as to minimize or eliminate the health risks to you in preparing them. This is true of any commercially raised mass-produced chicken or Turkey no matter who the processor is.

                                1. re: acgold7

                                  That's a shame for the company, because I had never heard of them before (maybe because I'm on the east coast?). But I too treat my poultry as you do, so was really annoyed last year when, while carefully flipping it wearing latex gloves, a big drop of juice from it spurted all the way up into my eye! Luckily, no repercussions, but guess I'll have to add goggles to my repertoire this year!