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Thanksgiving Turkey--Fresh or Frozen?

Hello, All:

Just polling the jury here... Two years ago, I sprung for a fresh bird for T-day ($100 out the door). It turned out fine, delicious actually, but no one at our table claimed it to be any better (or even different) than the previously-frozen birds that go for <1/4 of the price. From my perspective, I feel like I spent >$75 extra dollars for no reason.

Anyone want to weigh in?


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  1. I agree. I've probably roasted a couple of dozen turkeys over the years. The only serious fail I've had was a fresh bird from the local turkey farm (whose chicken and capon I love).
    In retrospect, I think it was TOO fresh. Though the meat was cooked to the right temp, it was chewy. The exterior of the skin was as brown as I aim for, but turns out, it was thicker than that of supermarket turkeys and as such, the underside didn't render enough, so the skin's overall mouthfeel was flabby.

    The "pre-basted" birds, which have been injected with salt and are therefore similar in taste to kosher birds, are quite good. You did get $75 worth of feeling virtuous, though! ;-)

    1. I just put in the reserve order at Sprout's for my fresh turkey.

      I don't, however, see a difference in the taste. For me, fresh is about the convenience: I don't have to worry about it being rock-hard frozen inside, and I don't have to give it 'fridge space for days and days and days before Thanksgiving (I'll pick up my Sprout's bird on Wednesday morning).

      Just once I paid the crazy price for an organic bird and once for a kosher bird, and we could not tell any difference at all in taste.

      1 Reply
      1. re: pine time

        I also get my turkey at Sprouts -a fresh bird - which I have them spatchcock at no additional charge. I pick it up on Wednesday, and it makes my life so much easier!

      2. I've done both. But the $$ difference is a lot and nobody can tell the difference. So, I'm back to the frozen bird and I don't feel guilty about it one bit. I always do a 16+ lb bird (usually about 18) even if it just the two of us. OMG - I love my leftovers and freeze my excess. Thank you FoodSaver!

        2 Replies
        1. re: boyzoma

          I always use fresh. Usually a Bell and Evans.

          But the USDA guidelines for fresh include holding at 30 degrees. Which renders the outside pretty hard and frozen.

          I will never ever use a crappy factory farmed turkey. Fresh or frozen.

          A totally frozen turkey requires too much maintainence

          1. re: C. Hamster

            I buy a fresh turkey from a local source. No drugs, no crap.
            That is the business I want to support.

        2. Over the years I have sanctimoniously pulled pin feathers from a kosher turkey, paid out the ass for a fresh one, suffered through eating a tough and gamy "heritage bird," and I am done with that crap. Mr. Grocery Store Turkey is waiting in the freezer. Tastes just as good, easy to cook, and since the meal takes less than 10 minutes for friends and family to hoover after I cook all frigging morning it's one more thing off a long list.

          1. I have a local "backyard farmer" who raises his birds on barley, oats, etc. (no corn) and as they reach a certain size they are pastured, processes them when you want them slaughtered. His birds are Broad Breasted Bronze. Very tasty!!

              1. re: alarash

                (One more vote from the "jury:") We usually feed an "army" of family at Thanksgiving, so we have to work and hunt and go back to the store a couple of times to get a 25- 26 lb Butterball. The supermarket bins are filled with the 14-or-so pounders. Sometimes the meat dept managers will put one aside in the back,the size we need, and sometimes they won't.
                It is interesting to see others on the Chowhound "jury" really see very little advantage to the heritage bird kind of approach. So, I vote frozen Butterball, hands down. Just work the thawing time into your plans so that its not still a brick on Thanksgiving morning. For our 25+ pounders, the math of picking it up on Saturday a.m. and thawing it in the fridge until Thurs. morning works out perfectly.
                (Our fridge's freezer compartment certainly would not accomodate a turkey the size we need, so there's no option of picking it up from the store earlier than Saturday.)

                1. re: Florida Hound

                  You can still roast it even if it is still a brick on Thursday. It isn't ideal but it is possible and no, you won't kill your family if that bag of giblets is left inside. Not that that's a deal breaker at my house, mind you.

                  And you can certainly pick it up earlier than Saturday. In the wrapper it'll keep for a week, thawed. You want to unwrap it and rub it a day or two ahead, anyway.



              2. All of my turkeys come out moist & juicy; I buy the one on sale which is frozen.

                1. Fresh for roasting and frozen for fried. The fresh is just a little higher priced, not by much though.

                  1. 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. CI talks about this extensively and always recommends a flash-frozen bird.

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

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