To catch up on the first four steps of the turkey planning process, read the full series.
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. Over the weekend, 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 15-year-old 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. Also, the gravy is not gluten-free (refer back to Thanksgiving Countdown Day 4 for gravy recipes, if you need to go the gluten-free route).
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 (1 day for every 4 pounds of turkey, the experts say.)
I’m going to order a fresh turkey at Hollywood Markets in Troy. They’ve been taking orders for their Amish turkeys for a few days now.
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).
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 nearby 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 — defiintely 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.
Alissa Malerman also offers a ton of options for buying organic, hormone-free or organic birds, in last week's Cooking for Special Diets column.
A few more giblits about turkey
Sizing it up: One of the staffers at Hollywood Market told me I 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: Fran Wolok of Bloomfield Township is considering brining her turkey this year. “Our son is engaged; niceties and creating new traditions are returning to the scene,” said Wolok, whose Thanksgivings have taken on a different personality every year. “This year, being re-energized, I will brine the turkey.” She’s also excited about some new spices that she picked up at Penzeys Spices in Beverly Hills. “I’m looking forward to trying some new recipes.”
"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.
Thursday, Day 6: Get your game on ... and Grandma off the couch!