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Thanksgiving Turkey Guide

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Fresh or frozen? Brined or original? All natural or organic? With more turkey options than ever, you may have a few questions about what it all means for your Thanksgiving meal. That’s why we’ve compiled this simple guide, to help you make sense of all the labels and choose the right bird for your feast.
 

CHOOSE A BRAND

 
How a turkey is raised will affect everything from the flavor and size to the roasting time. Caraluzzi’s has chosen to carry several carefully selected premium fresh turkey brands that meet our high quality standards.
 

Caraluzzi’s All Natural

Our best selling fresh turkey makes for the perfect holiday dinner. From small farms deep in the hills of Virginia, Caraluzzi’s own all natural turkeys contain no preservatives. A broad breasted bird that is moist and tender. The one we serve in our own homes and once you try one it will surely become a holiday favorite in your home too. You can even order our turkey fully cooked by our store chefs, ready to pick up for Thanksgiving morning. Gluten Free.
 

Bell & Evans Antibiotic Free

Born & raised in the Pennsylvania Dutch Country, these birds are free to roam with access to fresh air and clean water. With 55% less fat and 25% less calories than the average raw turkey, Bell & Evan’s secret is in how their turkeys are raised. Fed a special diet of vitamin and mineral fortified corn and soy, these turkeys are also bred to grow slower, resulting in a broader, meatier breast. Gluten free.
 

Plainville Farms Fresh Antibiotic Free

Antibiotic free all natural birds are humanely raised in a stress free environment and never, ever administered antibiotics. They’re fed an all vegetable diet which produces a turkey that is wholesome and great tasting. Gluten free. 
 

Plainville Farms Fresh Organic

To be certified organic, a turkey must be free range, antibiotic free, and fed a vegetarian diet containing grains that have been certified organic. Certified organic grains are defined as those free of synthetic chemicals such as pesticides and fertilizers, not using any genetically modified organisms, and grown on farmland that has been chemical free for at least three years. An organic turkey also must be minimally processed, no artificial ingredients. Gluten free.
 

D’Artagnan Organic Free Range

These birds are raised to mature naturally, resulting in abundant flavor and greater tenderness. Grown in a free range environment with plenty of sunshine and room to exercise, they are fed certified organically grown grains and fresh, clean water. These birds are never given any hormones, antibiotics or animal by-products. Gluten free.
 

Shady Brook Farms Fresh or Frozen

Available year-round, these fresh turkeys are minimally processed with no additives or preservatives. Featuring a convenient pop-up timer, you can easily cook an exceptionally moist and perfectly roasted turkey. Gluten free.
 

Butterball Frozen Turkeys

Available year-round, these frozen turkeys are consistently tender and juicy. They are pumped with up to an 8% solution of water, salt and spices which help maintain a moister bird. Each bird has a convenient pop-up timer. Gluten free.
 

Empire Kosher Frozen

Available in two sizes, this meaty high quality turkey is perfect for holiday dinners. Gluten free.
 
 

FRESH VS. FROZEN

Something many customers don’t know: There is no quality difference between a fresh and frozen turkey.
 
Why is there no difference?
Frozen turkeys are flash frozen immediately after packaging to 0 degrees Fahrenheit and held at that temperature until purchased. Once defrosted, the meat is as fresh as the day it was processed. Fresh turkeys are chilled after packaging, rather than frozen, and consistently held to a temperature of 26 degrees Fahrenheit as required by federal regulations. This will freeze the water in the bird, but not the meat, resulting in a shorter shelf life.
 
Bottom line:
Choose a fresh bird only if you don’t want to defrost. Fresh birds will also roast slightly faster than frozen birds. Otherwise, rest assured you still scored a quality bird.

How to Thaw


Safely thawing your frozen turkey is one of the most important steps in your meal prep. Refrigerator thawing is preferred and the least labor-intensive but requires more time. Cold water thawing takes less time but requires more attention. Regardless of which method you choose, never thaw a turkey at room temperature. If you’re running low on time, try a Fresh Whole Turkey—they’re just as delicious and require little prep.

Ways to Thaw

Frozen Whole Turkeys need to be thawed before cooking. For the best results, follow one of these methods:
 
REFRIGERATOR THAWING
Thaw breast side up, in an unopened wrapper on a tray in the fridge.
Allow at least 1 day of thawing for every 4 lbs.
 
COLD WATER THAWING
Thaw breast side down, in an unopened wrapper, with enough cold water to cover your turkey completely.
Change water every 30 minutes to keep the turkey chilled. Estimate a minimum thawing time of 30 minutes per lb.

 
 

TO BRINE OR NOT TO BRINE?

 
Caraluzzi’s sells brining kits for those interested in a home brined bird. Brining locks in the turkey’s natural moisture and infuses a savory flavor, creating an exceptionally juicy turkey. The down side? Brining also adds an additional 24 hours of soaking to your turkey’s prep time. If you’re busy – the brining process might just hold you back. Choose a quality turkey and your entrée will be juicy and flavorful without brining.
 
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HOW BIG SHOULD MY TURKEY BE?

 
You should estimate one pound of turkey per guest. If you want Thanksgiving leftovers, estimate a pound and a half per guest. The one pound estimate accounts for bones and other inedible parts of the turkey, making it easy to choose your bird. For example, a ten person dinner with leftovers calls for a 15lb. bird.
 
 

ROASTING YOUR TURKEY

 
Click to download a printable PDF of our step-by-step roasting guide.
 
 

TURKEY ALTERNATIVES

 
Including Capon, Goose, Quail and more! click here to learn more about the game meats Caraluzzi’s offers. If you are looking for a meat-free main dish, try Tofurky, a rich and hearty plant-based turkey alternative that is a great option for vegetarian guests.
 
 

SIDE DISHES AND DESSERTS

 
Browse our recipes section for ideas. Our favorites include traditional New England Oyster Stuffing and Roasted Corn Succotash, as well as more original fare including Pumpkin Cranberry Dinner Rolls and Roasted Apple Bread. For dessert we like Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies or some pecan pie from our bakery. Don’t forget to add some seasonal vegetables to your table in celebration of the season, like acorn or turban squash. Check out our step by step guide to preparing all winter squashes. If you want to add some fall flavor to your meal, test out some of our apple or pumpkin recipes, including a recipe for Gluten Free Pumpkin Cake. You can also make Thanksgiving a little easier by ordering sides made by our professional in-store chefs, so you can focus on roasting a delicious turkey.