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As Thanksgiving gets closer, the great debate rages on as to which is better: fresh or frozen turkeys. Turns out, there are pros and cons to both, so it’s more a matter of what works best for your situation.

When it comes to fresh versus frozen, there is actually a little more to it due to labeling laws. A turkey will only be considered as “fresh” if the bird hasn’t been chilled below a temperature of 26°F. Therefore anything less than that must be labeled as “previously frozen.” However, if it is stored at 0°F then it has to be labeled as fully “frozen.”

Of course, there are plenty of farmers and butchers alike that would recommend people buy fresh turkeys over frozen turkeys because fresh turkeys will hold their moisture better which means you will get more flavor when you cook it.

If fresh is the route that you prefer to take with your turkey, then it is recommenced that you preorder a fresh bird from your local butcher shop a few days prior to Thanksgiving. The preordering is important, as there is only so much supply to go around.

Photo: Unsplash

Who it comes to buying frozen birds, flash-frozen is what is recommended because it helps to preserve quality and flavor. When purchasing the turkey, it’s best to get one from a local butcher or small family farm instead of a chain grocery store. This way, you have a better idea as to how long it’s been frozen. Additionally, there is less likely a chance that they’ve been frozen, thawed, then refrozen somewhere along the transport process. Refreezing causes ice crystals to form in the meat, making it tough.

Whether you buy a frozen turkey or a fresh turkey, it’s important to store it properly. This means keeping it inside the original plastic packaging until you’re ready to cook it. This prevents bacteria from getting in and keeps your meat fresher. If you’re freezing your turkey way ahead of Thanksgiving, then it’s best to keep your freezer at the ideal temperature of 0°F. But keep in mind that your turkey will need additional time to thaw before it goes in the oven. When unfreezing a turkey, let the bird sit in the refrigerator at a temperature of 40°F or lower. The rule for thawing is 1 day of defrosting for every 5 pounds of turkey. So if your turkey weighs 10 pounds you need to let it defrost for two days. If you’re storing a fresh turkey that doesn’t require defrosting, then you need to plan accordingly as an uncooked turkey can only last 1-2 days inside a refrigerator.

The difference between frozen and fresh turkeys extends to the cooking methods as well. Once fully thawed, frozen turkeys will still take longer to cook than fresh ones. Fresh turkeys normally roast much quicker. Regardless of frozen or fresh, a turkey isn’t considered done until the meat registers a heat of 165°F. To figure this out, stick a meat thermometer in the thickest part of the turkey: the thigh.

As for how big of a bird to buy for your guests, the USDA recommends buying 1 pound of turkey for every person at dinner. Given this year’s COVID-19 restrictions, I think most of us won’t have to worry about any 15-pound turkeys.

So, which do you prefer cooking with? Are you a fresh or frozen turkey person? Let us know!