Thanksgiving turkey Q

Zeze

Lifer
Mar 4, 2011
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I'll be baking for the first time. Not too worried but,

Do you buy turkey frozen ahead of time then thaw a day before? Then bake?

Or

Do you buy the turkey fresh/refrigerated 1-3 days before Thanksgiving then simply season and bake?
 

BurnItDwn

Lifer
Oct 10, 1999
25,807
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I've only ever bought frozen whole turkeys, except once I ordered a frozen turducken, and it took forever to cook.

if we buy frozen, we let it thaw in the fridge for a good 2-3 days. We have also thawed one in a cooler once since fridge was kinda full, and we had a 4 hour drive to get to grandma's house.
 
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bbhaag

Diamond Member
Jul 2, 2011
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Either way is fine. It just comes down to whether you want a fresh never frozen turkey or not. Keep in mind it will take longer than a day for a frozen turkey to thaw out.

Forget fresh vs frozen though. If you're cooking it in the oven then you need to Spatchcock that bird! Yeah baby it's the only way to do a turkey in the oven! A few years ago Food and Wine magazine had a great write up on how spatchcock your Thanksgiving turkey so we tried it and it was so freaking good we've done it every year since.
 

ponyo

Lifer
Feb 14, 2002
19,521
2,699
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You can buy fresh or frozen. Pre-basted or natural. If you're buying frozen, it will take couple of days to thaw in the fridge.

I usually skip turkey but I've had good luck with both fresh and frozen. Just check the package to see it's pre-basted from the factory or not. If you're going to brine at home, you want to skip the factory pre-basted turkey.

I prefer smoked turkey to baked. If you have access to grill or smoker, it will be worth your time to smoke the turkey. Much better taste imo and less of a chance the turkey will taste gamey.
 
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bbhaag

Diamond Member
Jul 2, 2011
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Paging @Kaido

Also, posting in a Zeze thread.
No need to page Kaido. I already posted the best and the most delicious way to serve a turkey. Every kitchenlord knows that serving a bird spatchcock is the best way to bake it.

Or deep frying that shit in some peanut oil is pretty good to. Let that bird sizzle and pop for 45 minutes in some blazing hot oil and it turns out tasty af.

But to be real I've had it both ways and honestly I couldn't tell the difference.
 
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uclaLabrat

Diamond Member
Aug 2, 2007
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Another vote for smoked. Wife loves having the oven free and the turkey comes out amazing. Skin has always been inedible book leather for me unfortunately but I never eat that anyway. Only drawback.
 
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ponyo

Lifer
Feb 14, 2002
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No need to page Kaido. I already posted the best and the most delicious way to serve a turkey. Every kitchenlord knows that serving a bird spatchcock is the best way to bake it.

Or deep frying that shit in some peanut oil is pretty good to. Let that bird sizzle and pop for 45 minutes in some blazing hot oil and it turns out tasty af.

But to be real I've had it both ways and honestly I couldn't tell the difference.
I agree spatchcock turkey is the preferred method. Spatchcock is the best method to cook poultry. It's cooks faster and more evenly. You get larger surface area for crisper skin.

I like deep fried turkey but it's dangerous and requires too much cleanup. Plus, it uses lot of peanut oil and oil is not cheap. For me, smoking gives the best return/reward for the amount of work. Very little cleanup involved with smoking and the apple/cherry wood smoke will mask any potential gamey taste of the turkey.

But I prefer chicken to turkey so I'll probably cheat and smoke and reheat the $5 Costco rotisserie chicken on my pellet smoker. Saves me time, money, and work. Win all around.
 
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ponyo

Lifer
Feb 14, 2002
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Another vote for smoked. Wife loves having the oven free and the turkey comes out amazing. Skin has always been inedible book leather for me unfortunately but I never eat that anyway. Only drawback.
Apply oil on the skin and smoke at higher temperature. No need to smoke at low temperature.
 

bbhaag

Diamond Member
Jul 2, 2011
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I'm looking to do this one. Very straight forward, good reviews.
Looks perfect man and I'm sure your family will enjoy it. For a first timer this is pretty much bullet proof and a good method of baking a turkey.

Let us know how it turns out.:)
 

MrSquished

Lifer
Jan 14, 2013
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Brined deep fried turkey was the best turkey I've ever had, but it's a mission to do it because you need specialized unitasking equipment.
 

Zeze

Lifer
Mar 4, 2011
10,583
673
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I learned about brining way too late (generally speaking).

I had the juiciest chicken breast of my life at a restaurant a decade ago. After I finally grilled a brined chicken, I realized that was the technique.

Brining = basically waterlogs the meat. so when you cook it, it's juicy while outside is crispy.
 
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bbhaag

Diamond Member
Jul 2, 2011
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Then spatchcock that bird and brine your turkey into oblivion. It will blow your mind just like that chicken did so many years ago.

But hey we know it's your first time. When it's your first time you like to keep it simple and straight to the point so maybe just follow the instructions in the video you posted but add your own flair to it. Nothing wrong with that bro.
 

BUTCH1

Lifer
Jul 15, 2000
20,323
1,701
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Either way is fine. It just comes down to whether you want a fresh never frozen turkey or not. Keep in mind it will take longer than a day for a frozen turkey to thaw out.

Forget fresh vs frozen though. If you're cooking it in the oven then you need to Spatchcock that bird! Yeah baby it's the only way to do a turkey in the oven! A few years ago Food and Wine magazine had a great write up on how spatchcock your Thanksgiving turkey so we tried it and it was so freaking good we've done it every year since.
Hmm, never tried that, VERY interesting..
 

BUTCH1

Lifer
Jul 15, 2000
20,323
1,701
126
I'll be baking for the first time. Not too worried but,

Do you buy turkey frozen ahead of time then thaw a day before? Then bake?

Or

Do you buy the turkey fresh/refrigerated 1-3 days before Thanksgiving then simply season and bake?
If your cooking a large bird you will need at least 3 day for a through thaw, 4+ is preferred, if your cooking a 12lb bird 2 days can suffice.
 
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DigDog

Lifer
Jun 3, 2011
12,264
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you really cannot go wrong with any Chef John recipe, but i do have a few things to add.

turkeys are traditional because thats what the pilgrims had; they are difficult to cook well even for an experienced chef, and far too big for any modern family.
why not:
1. bake turkey wings instead - cheap, delicious, filling, and easy to make. or,
2. goose instead. easier to cook and you won't have 2-4 pounds of leftover, dry breast meat.
 

rmacd02

Senior member
Nov 24, 2015
220
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Again, I am weird, I love leftovers and I love what others consider dry breast meat. Although, I really love turkey drumsticks best.
 

dullard

Elite Member
May 21, 2001
23,420
1,654
126
I agree with what others have said:
1) It takes 4 to 6 days to thaw a big turkey in the fridge. You don't just thaw it the day before. If it is frozen, you should be putting it in your fridge this weekend (give or take a day depending on the size). This also gives you time to brine it (see #3 below).
2) The moistest and second best turkey I ever made was accidentally baked upside down (breast down).
3) The best turkey I ever made was Alton Brown's recipe. The brine is the key and his recipe does look quite good with it's golden brown color.
4) Use a real thermometer (this is already covered by #3, but is worth repeating). The plastic pop-up device is designed to pop-up when you've already overcooked your turkey.
5) Spatchcocking solves just about any other remaining turkey problem.

Fresh turkey is harder to find around here and you have to time it just right with the massive crowds of people rushing to get Thanksgiving groceries. So I just don't bother. Frozen is quite good if you follow the steps above. Fresh just means that it never went below 26°F. Meaning that it still could have been partly frozen.
 
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