Skip to main content

Frozen or fresh? Tips for buying and cooking your Thanksgiving turkey

GoMN spoke with the Minnesota Turkey Growers Association for tips on how to save money, pick the right bird and prepare it properly for a Thanksgiving feast.
  • Author:
  • Updated:
    Original:

Thanksgiving is less than two weeks away and Minnesota families are turning their attention to arguably the biggest food-day of the year.

The centerpiece, naturally, will be the Thanksgiving turkey, but finding the right one and preparing it just right can be tricky even in Minnesota, the biggest turkey-producing state.

GoMN spoke with the Minnesota Turkey Growers Association (MTGA) for some tips on how to save money, pick the right bird and prepare it properly for a Thanksgiving feast.

How big to buy?

The size of your turkey will have a big bearing on how much you're spending, so consider buying smaller if you're not feeding as many people (unless you want days/weeks of leftovers, which to be fair isn't a bad thing).

The MTGA says to plan on 3/4 to 1 pound of turkey per person, or 1 to 1-1/2 pounds if you want leftovers.

But rather than a whole turkey, if you're only serving a handful of people you might want to consider a bone-in or boneless turkey breast, which the Kitchn says can cost $1 less per pound.

And rather than buying one large turkey, the MTGA says those serving large groups could consider doing two smaller turkeys instead, saying: "It's easier and typically faster to make sure the turkeys are roasted to the proper temperatures and they don’t dry out."

Frozen or fresh?

This depends on personal preference of course. Fresh turkeys don't require days of defrosting but you pay a little extra for the convenience – and freshness – while frozen turkeys can be a chore to prepare but can be bought weeks in advance.

If money is the deciding factor, frozen tends to be your best bet. Look out for deals at your local supermarkets as they will often price turkeys as "loss leaders" in the hope you'll buy the rest of your Thanksgiving ingredients in store.

The MTGA says it has seen frozen turkeys in the $.79–.99 per pound price range.

You'll be paying a bit more for fresh turkeys, but Aldi currently has them on sale for 99c per pound on birds weighing between 12-14lb. Its frozen turkeys cost the same, but they range from 10-22lb in weight.

Cub Foods is also offering 99c for frozen turkeys, while Fresh Thyme has fresh birds for $1.27 per pound.

What about farm-fresh/organic?

Meat markets and specialty markets offer options for organic and heritage turkeys but it may be a little late to order for this year, as they usually require at least two weeks notice for orders.

For free range turkeys, the MTGA recommends Ferndale Market in Cannon Falls. Ferndale also sells some of its turkeys in Twin Cities grocery stores including Kowalski's, Jerry's Foods and several co-ops. You can find a list of locations here.

If you want to buy direct from the farm, you can find a list of farmers who offer this in Minnesota right here.

How to defrost a frozen turkey

The general rule for safely defrosting a frozen turkey is to put it in the refrigerator and giving it 24 hours for every 4-5 pounds in weight to defrost. As such, a 12-pound turkey should take about three days.

But what if you're short on time? Try the "cold water" method.

Put the turkey, still in its packaging, in a sink full of cold water. Change the water every 30 minutes to ensure the surface stays cold, and allow 30 minutes per pound to thaw.

As such, an 8-12 pound bird would take 4-6 hours, while a 20-24 pound bird would take 10-12 hours.

How to roast the turkey

Now we realize there may be an element of "teaching your grandmother how to suck eggs" to this, but just in case anyone doesn't know...

The MTGA the best way to "ensure a moist, flavorful turkey" is to use a meat thermometer to monitor the temperature during the cooking.

When it reaches 165F in the breast of 180F in the high, take it out and let it stand for about 20 minutes before carving.

If you roast at 325F, an 8-12 pound turkey should take 3 1/2 to 4 hours, and a 12-18 pound turkey should take 4 1/2 to 4 3/4 hours.

Alternative, roast the turkey upside down

This writer hadn't heard of this method, but it's apparently a great way to keep the breast from drying out.

The MTGA says because white meat cooks faster than dark meat, the breast has lost its juiciness by the time the legs are cooked.

If you flip it upside down though, the breast skin will "firm up," trapping the moisture in.

Next Up

Anthony Skelley

17-year-old South St. Paul homicide victim is identified

The medical examiner determined that Skelley died of multiple gunshot wounds.

tornado, severe weather

Tornado watch issued in Minnesota, South Dakota, Iowa, Nebraska

A tornado warning has already been issued in southern Minnesota.

Screen Shot 2021-05-27 at 9.08.37 AM

Korean chicken chain Bonchon's 6th MN location set to open

The South Korean-based franchise has steadily increased its presence across the country.

Historic Fort Snelling

Revamped Historic Fort Snelling to fully reopen for first time since 2019

A $34.5 million revitalization project has been completed.

Screen Shot 2022-05-11 at 9.54.54 AM

Training storms dump big rain totals on southeast Minnesota

The flash flooding threat shifts further north and west Wednesday night.

Park Point beach, Duluth

Travel & Leisure's top 25 US beaches includes one in Minnesota

The beach on the shores of Lake Superior made the cut.

Acme Comedy Company stage.

Are you the funniest person in the Twin Cities?

Acme Comedy Company is wondering. Professional comedians need not apply.

storm, severe weather

Severe storms threaten Minnesota again later Wednesday

Tornadoes, very large hail and straight-line winds are possible.

Screen Shot 2022-05-11 at 7.54.30 AM

Saint Mary's University cutting 11 majors, laying off staff

The Winona college says it's consolidating to focus on business, technology, and the sciences.

Screen Shot 2022-05-11 at 7.32.39 AM

Strong storms impacting southern MN Thursday morning

The SPC says the storm will likely continue producing isolated large hail.

Shillingford

Charges: Fitness worker went to 70-year-old's home, killed him with gunshot to arm

Investigators are still working to determine a motive in the case.

Related

Frozen or fresh? Tips for buying and cooking your Thanksgiving turkey

GoMN spoke with the Minnesota Turkey Growers Association for tips on how to save money, pick the right bird and prepare it properly for a Thanksgiving feast.

The Tip Jar: How to make your groceries last as long as possible

A bit of forward planning and knowing how long food lasts will help cut your waste and save you money.

The Tip Jar: Dining out? Here's when and how much you should tip

Tipping can be a minefield – let us help you satisfy social conventions.

The Tip Jar: Costco vs. Sam's Club, which is cheaper?

We also compared the 2 wholesalers' prices with a regular grocery store.

The Tip Jar: How to save some money on your internet service

I did it to save money. And now I want to help you save money as well.

The Tip Jar: Do you save money by shopping at Aldi?

Is Aldi cheaper than Walmart? And how does Trader Joe's stack up against Kowalski's and Lunds?