Picking Your Thanksgiving Turkey

Posted on November 2, 2009 by Dianne

Roast Turkey Breast

Now that it is November my mind immediately starts thinking about the holidays. Growing up Christmas was always my favorite holiday, I even had a Christmas wedding! But as I have gotten older I have to admit that Thanksgiving is rapidly becoming my favorite holiday and Thanksgiving immediately makes me start thinking about turkey!

So what should you look for in a turkey? There are so many terms and claims about what makes a good turkey and it can be confusing. Let’s take a look at what matters and what doesn’t.

First if you can find a local turkey, jump on that immediately! Local Harvest can help you find a turkey farm in your area. It may be too late in some areas to get a local turkey this year, but in others you may still be able to find one with no problem. As they say it never hurts to ask. A local bird means that it takes less time to get from the farm to your table and the taste and freshness is fabulous!

Another claim that actually makes a difference in taste is free range and/or organic. Free range/organic birds are more tender and taste better! Birds on a factory farm are cramped and don’t get any exercise, not to mention not knowing what they are being fed. You might not think that would matter, but it can make a huge difference! If you can’t find one that is both, either free range or organic is still better than the alternative.

Also when you’re buying a turkey you want a turkey and nothing else. You do not want a turkey that is pumped full of broth or water or any other type of fluid. This doesn’t help the turkey, it just means you’re paying for water weight instead of actual bird weight and in fact it can dry the bird out. You will baste the turkey as it bakes, it doesn’t need extra liquid added to “help”.

So you’ve picked out the perfect turkey, now what do you do with your bird?

My secret to the perfect turkey is brining. It takes a little time, but it’s also extremely simple. It gives you a very tender, very flavorful turkey once cooked. It will take a little room in the fridge too, but trust me it is worth it!

The other secret is basting the turkey every 30 minutes with warm broth until it is done through. You can either make your own broth or purchase some to use. Here’s a little secret, it doesn’t have to be turkey broth either! You can use vegetable stock or even chicken broth for basting. Once the turkey starts cooking you’ll even have enough liquid in your roasting pan to just baste straight from the pan and once you’ve got your turkey sorted out, don’t forget to add some great sides too!

So what are your favorite Thanksgiving traditions and dishes? I love to know what everyone else does for their holiday!


  1. I couldn’t agree more, Dianne. I’ve bought a local bird and brined it for the last couple years, and they always turn out spectacular! Sometimes I’ll use the roasting bag, which self-bastes, and the meat is so moist, melt-in-your mouth.

    Making me hungry!

    November 2nd, 2009 at 12:02 pm
    Comment by Kim from Milwaukee
  2. I’m looking forward to turkey! But then again I always am! ;oP

    November 2nd, 2009 at 2:56 pm
    Comment by Dianne
  3. This is such a great guide, Dianne! It’s one of those things you don’t realize you don’t know enough about until you’re actually there trying to pick out a turkey. So glad you did a post about this!

    November 2nd, 2009 at 6:50 pm
    Comment by Allie
  4. Glad you liked it!

    November 2nd, 2009 at 8:39 pm
    Comment by Dianne
  5. Dianne,

    QUESTION: Do I need to rinse the turkey after removing it from the brining solution? I just saw a cooking show where the brined bird was rinsed before cooking.


    November 3rd, 2009 at 9:54 am
    Comment by Oatmelio
  6. Just be warned that the organic and free range turkeys take much less time to cook. Plan accordingly and read the directions that they come with so you don’t end up with either a burned bird or a cold bird by the time everything else is done! They do taste soooooo much better though and are really worth the extra cost if you are having only a few people over for the holiday.

    November 3rd, 2009 at 3:07 pm
    Comment by Nicole
  7. I usually do rinse them after brining.

    November 3rd, 2009 at 3:09 pm
    Comment by Dianne

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