Some early tips for Thanksgiving turkey preparation

Published 8:38 pm Friday, November 6, 2015

It’s hard to believe, but Thanksgiving is just around the corner and nothing says Thanksgiving like turkey. Americans are quite fond of turkey and will eat approximately 45 million turkeys at Thanksgiving this year. Before you head off to the grocery store here are some things to consider when selecting your turkey.

Fresh or frozen – A frozen turkey can be bought months ahead and stored in the freezer but a fresh turkey should be bought only one to two days ahead. Fresh turkeys may be frozen for up to 12 months. There are basically two types of raw frozen turkeys on the market — pre-basted or un-basted. A pre-basted bird is injected with water, broth, vegetable oil and/or spices to enhance flavor and moistness during cooking. An un-basted turkey has no additional ingredients. Read the label.

Look for the USDA Grade A symbol on the label. Grade A turkeys are of the highest quality. They are meaty, have well-developed layers of fat and are nearly free of pinfeathers, bruises, cuts, tears and broken bones. All turkeys on the market are young, 4 -to 6-months-old. A fryer-roaster turkey is under 16 weeks of age.

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A hen or a tom turkey – Most experts agree that a hen turkey is a better buy than a tom. Hens generally weigh less than 16 pounds and a tom turkey is usually over 16 pounds. Toms are larger with larger bones and less edible portions. However, age, not gender is the determining factor where tenderness is concerned.

Smoked turkey or not – Smoked turkeys are fully cooked and simply need to be heated unless the label says otherwise. Turkeys are smoked to impart flavor, not to extend the refrigerator storage time. Store a smoked turkey in the refrigerator, unwrapped, for up to one week. Once the package has been opened, use within three to four days.

How much to buy – Buy about one pound per person or a pound and a half per person if you have hearty eaters or want plenty for leftovers. If you are serving more than one type of meat, you should probably buy the lesser amount. For large gatherings where there will be a combination of adults and children, figure one pound per person to allow for the large and smaller appetites. If the turkey is pre-stuffed allow 1.5 pounds per person. Buy half a pound per person for bone-in-turkey breast.

Roast, brine, deep-fry, smoke, etc. The traditional roast turkey is the most common method of preparing, but other methods are popular also. Visit the Dallas County Facebook page for informative videos on preparing your turkey for Thanksgiving.

Questions about safety and preparation – If you have a question about meat, poultry, or egg products, call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline toll free at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854) or the Butterball Turkey Talk-Line at 1-800-Butterball (1-800-288-8372). Both of these lines are toll free and are staffed by professionally trained home economist and nutritionist.