How to Buy a Turkey

How to Buy a Turkey

Sure you can buy one of those small icebergs known as a frozen turkey, but with access to our extraordinary butchers and nearby top quality turkey farms, why would you? Besides, many of those mass produced frozen turkeys have been processed with "self basting" solutions that often contain emulsifiers and salt solutions. Why eat that when we can have fresh and locally raised?

Take risk and stress out of cooking your holiday meal by ordering and buying a fresh turkey. It's important to order it in advance to be sure to get what you want in both type of turkey and the size. Order it with a pick-up date a day or two before the holiday. You may need to re-arrange your refrigerator to let it fit among all the other holiday ingredients so plan for this as well.

Prices run in a huge range so if you're sure of what you want and are willing to travel to another neighborhood to pick up your turkey, you might want to check web sites and make some phone calls because it could save you some money, especially for a straightforward fresh natural bird.

Before you place your order, there are decisions for you to make. Here's what you need to know:

Types of Turkeys

Are you cooking a whole bird or a turkey breast? If buying a whole bird, you'll have several choices:

Tip: If you plan to brine your own turkey, do not buy a kosher bird. It's already been brined.

If you're instead making a turkey breast, many butchers offer the following:


How Big?

If you're going to go through all the trouble to roast a whole turkey, buy one that will give you leftovers. The smallest turkey usually available through our butchers is about 10 pounds, although some sell ones as small as 8 pounds.

With a smaller bird you can figure about 1 pound of turkey per person. But as the bird gets bigger, the ratio of meat-to-bone decreases because the skeleton of the bird gets bigger so increase the per pound amount by about a 1/2-pound.  If you're buying to produce leftovers, aim at an extra half-pound per serving. In other words, a turkey serving 10 people, with leftovers, would be about 15 pounds.

Butcher Marc Reyes, head of the meat department at Eli's Manhattan, says that if you're feeding a really big crowd, you're better off buying 2 12-pound turkeys than one 25-pound size because smaller birds roast more efficiently, plus you'll get 4 legs, 4 thighs and 4 wings, making it easier to please more people who prefer dark meat. 

Here's what many cooking experts and butchers recommend:

Turkey Weight                                       Servings Plus Leftovers

10 pounds                                               Up to 6 persons
12 pounds                                               6 to 8
14-16 pounds                                         10
18-20 pounds                                         12 to 14

If you buy an on-the-bone or boneless turkey breast and not a whole bird, aim at about 1 pound per person.

Other Poultry Choices

Some people want the tradition of a bird but don't want turkey. There are many choices of poultry. Always buy a fresh bird and if you want to be sure you get what you want, when you want it, always place your order in advance.

The appeal of many of these birds is that they're smaller than the smallest-sized turkey, making them a better choice for smaller households. The holidays can also be a time to try roasting something you normally don't try, like a pheasant.


Tip: Cooking poultry safely requires having an instant thermometer among your kitchen tools. You'll need it to check if your turkey is done and to prevent it from being overcooked and thus, famously dry. The target: 160°F tested in the dark meat. The white meat will be done when the dark meat is.





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