MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — With Thanksgiving coming up in just over a week, grocery stores are stocked up right now. The number of choices we have when it comes to turkeys can be a bit daunting, and so can the variety of methods for cooking them.
On Wednesday, we went in search of answers to some common questions. The culinary director at Kowalski’s Markets, Rachael Perron, helped us conduct a small taste test by cooking up a section of a frozen turkey and a fresh one, so that we could offer shoppers a sample of each and see if they could taste the difference.
Perron is also a chef, and she shared some turkey shopping and cooking advice.
First off, turkeys come in lots of different sizes, and with many different labels. And there’s a huge price range. A fresh bird, for instance, can cost you almost twice as much as a frozen one.
“For some people it’s like, Is the turkey organic? Or is it antibiotic free? Some people just want to know if the turkey is local, or whether or not it is humanely raised,” Perron said. “The good thing is there is something for everyone.”
The choice for fresh or frozen often comes down to how far in advance you want to buy your turkey. Frozen has its advantages.
“The advantage is that you can buy it early, so avoid the crowds,” Perron said. “But the advantage of the fresh turkey is that you don’t have to thaw it, because thawing a turkey takes a lot longer than most people think.”
How long? Twenty-four hours for each 5 pounds of weight.
And many people, Perron says, are able to detect a difference in taste between a fresh and a frozen turkey.
“The bigger difference for me is that a lot of frozen turkeys come processed in such a way that they retain a lot more of the salt solution that is used to process them,” she said. “So they may have 9 to 15 percent of this salt solution in the turkey still.”
Kowalski’s cooked up the breasts of two turkeys for us — one that was fresh and one that was frozen. We then offered samples to shoppers to find out if they could tell the difference.
Sandy Bartosh tried them out. I asked her if there was a noticeable difference?
“No. Not really,” she said. “I guess I like this one a little bit better, but they’re pretty much the same.”
Richard White took a few bites for us, too.
“I think this one is a little tougher, this one is a little moister, but they are both good,” he said.
Of the people who tried the samples, all of them preferred the fresh turkey, but all of them also said there was only a minor difference.
As for thawing out that frozen turkey, if you have a big one, it’s going take some time and planning.
Perron says a frozen 20-pound turkey would need to thaw four days in your refrigerator before you could cook it.
As for the size of turkey to buy for your dinner, there’s a formula to figure that out, as well. For each person you are serving, you should have one and a half pounds of meat.
So if you are feeding 8 people, you’d want a 12 pound turkey.
That way, you can have some leftovers.