It's time to plan, purchase or order a turkey for the big day. Whether you like your bird freshly processed or frozen, there are several options and sizes from which to choose.
From freezer to oven
Some turkeys can go from frozen right to the oven. I tried out a Jennie-O Oven Ready Bone-In Turkey. I was skeptical and so was my family. No thawing? It seemed too good to be true. It goes directly from freezer to oven and, because it cooks in a bag, the cleanup is a breeze.
I just placed it (in its bag) into a foil pan with 2-inch sides, cut three small slits into the top of the bag and let ‘er roast for a couple hours.
The pros: It’s gluten-free, preseasoned with spices that you’d likely use (paprika, salt, pepper, etc.) and features a gravy packet that requires the cook to pour the ingredients packet into a pan, add water and cook. And to think I might never again have to touch or handle a raw turkey … ever.
My teenage son, Will, said it was the best turkey he ever had. Other family members pronounced it a tad on the salty side.
The cons: You have to be sure the pan is big enough so that when the cooking bag starts to expand, it won’t touch the pan sides or oven sides or top and catch on fire.
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Just plain frozen
You can also purchase a mainstream frozen turkey of your choice (Butterball, for example), but be sure it’s plenty thawed before you place it in the oven. Chefs recommend that you thaw it in the refrigerator.
The pros: May be less expensive than fresh. One year, I waited until two days before Thanksgiving, and my frozen turkey cost $7, at 20 pounds. Sometimes, stores will reduce price as it gets closer to Thanksgiving.
The cons: Do you have space in your refrigerator to thaw the turkey for a few days? Depending on size, it can take up to five days (one day for every 4 pounds of turkey, the experts say.)
Fresh turkeys can be ordered at specialty locations such as Randazzo Fresh Market in Clinton and Macomb townships and Jarzyna Farms Fine Meats & Deli in Ray Township.
The pros: I can pick it up the day before Thanksgiving, so it only has to sit in my fridge for a day (taking up much-needed space). And, it’s fresh, which people swear makes a better-tasting bird.
You could also head to a retail outlet that specializes in Amish poultry, such as Peacock’s Poultry Farm in Troy (established in 1928 and now run by the third generation of poultry experts) or Hefling's Amish Farm Market in Clinton Township.
When Peacock’s first opened, turkeys, chickens, and pigs roamed free on the 10-acre farm. At that time, most of the products sold at the farm were actually raised, slaughtered and packaged on the site. Due to the high demand, the owner (Edsel Peacock) looked for a reliable source of farm-raised poultry and beef that met his high standards. Enter the Amish of Indiana. They’ve been supplying Peacock ever since.
Feel like going ultra-fresh? Order a turkey from a farm such as Roperti’s in Livonia.
Here, you can see the turkeys as they roam the farm and learn about how they are free-range and fed corn, wheat and oats. They’re uncaged and free to roam five acres — definitely not under any stress from crowding or caging. The turkeys are “dressed” (killed) the day before your order is filled. How’s that for fresh? This place has been raising turkeys since 1948, preparing about 4,000 every year for Thanksgiving.
A few more giblits about turkey
Sizing it up: Poultry pros say you need to plan on about a pound of turkey per person. With 14 guests, I’m ordering a 22-pounder because we’re big on leftovers. A handy chart from epicurious.com matches number of guests with size of turkey.
To brine or not to brine: Jolyn Felten brines her turkey every year. "It's amazing the difference it makes," she said. "Tremendously moist."
"Brining ensures an even distribution of flavor and moisture throughout the meat. It's not complicated," according to a how-to guide by epicurious.com. One simply soaks the bird for a few hours or overnight in brine (a solution of salt and water) and then rinses before roasting.
• Timing is everything: My 22-pound bird is going to require about four to 4 1/2 hours of cooking time. Stuffed birds take longer. Refer to Butterball’s handy cooking chart for more information.