Our Thanksgiving Turkey Guide

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 Thanksgiving Turkey Guide, to help you make sense of all the labels and choose the right bird for your feast.


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 Premium Natural Fresh Turkey

Our best selling fresh turkey is gluten free with no preservatives and makes for the perfect holiday dinner. From small family farms in the hills of Virginia they produce 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.

Caraluzzi's Pure Poultry Fresh Turkey

Expanding on our Antibiotic Free Pure Poultry brand, Caraluzzi's 100% all natural turkeys contain no preservatives, no antibiotics, are fed an all vegetable diet, and are humanely raised. Buy with that added confidence and experience a moist and tender turkey for your perfect holiday dinner. Gluten Free.

Bell & Evans All Natural Fresh Turkey

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.

Bell & Evans Organic Fresh Turkey

These birds are free to roam with access to fresh air and clean water. Fed a special all-vegetable diet of organic grains resulting in 20% more breast meat. Gluten free.


Shady Brook Farms Fresh Turkey

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.

Shady Brook Farms Frozen Turkey

Available year-round, these frozen 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 Turkey

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 Turkey

This meaty high quality turkey is perfect for holiday dinners. Gluten free.

Butterball Frozen Turkey


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:

    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.
    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.


Caraluzzi’s sells brine spices 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.

Thanksgiving Turkey Brine Spices Caraluzzi's Maple Apple Turkey Brine and Traditional Turkey Brine


Including Capon, Goose, Quail, Wild Boar and more! If you are looking for a meat-free main dish, try Gardein Turk'y Roast, a rich and hearty plant-based turkey alternative that is a great option for vegetarian guests.


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 15 lb. bird.


Turkey Cooking Time Guide

Cooking times vary greatly depending on oven types, degree of thawing, rack placement, as well as amount and density of stuffing. The use of a good meat thermometer is recommended and it is also a good idea to use a poultry pop-up timer as well. Start checking the pop-up timer about 1 hour before turkey is due to be done (according to chart below.)

Please note these times are estimates. Cooking your turkey may take more or less time. These times are based on placing the whole turkey on a rack in a roasting pan, and into a preheated 325 degree F oven.

Bake until the skin is golden brown in color, and then cover loosely with a tent of aluminum foil to prevent over browning. Basting is not necessary, but will give more even browning appearance.

When timer stem pops up, the turkey is perfectly cooked. Meat thermometer should read 170 degrees in the breast. For an accurate reading your thermometer should not be touching the bone.

Check for doneness based on the temperature of the meat NOT the color of the skin.

  • When timer stem pops up, the turkey is perfectly cooked. If using an additional meat thermometer, it should read 170 degrees when placed in the thickest part of the breast. Thermometer should not be touching the bone. Alternative ways to check for doneness: leg joint should move freely when the drumstick is rotated; or when a fork is inserted into the deepest part of the leg joint, the juices run clear.
  • If your turkey has been stuffed, be sure to check the temperature of the stuffing, which should be 165 degrees F (75 degrees C).
  • When the turkey is done, remove from the oven and let stand for 20-30 minutes before carving. This helps the juices to redistribute throughout the meat and makes for easier carving
Caraluzzi's Turkey Roasting Guide


Browse our recipes 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 Pie. 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.

Caraluzzi's Recipe Icon


Fall and Winter Squash


A seasonal favorite that's easy to prepare and adds a festive flare to your Thanksgiving table.

Gluten Free Entertaining


Easy gluten free recipes and our favorite gluten free products for holiday entertaining.

Caraluzzi's Catering offers complete fully cooked Thanksgiving meals for easy entertaining. Choose from traditional turkey meals to premium meat lasagna, spiral cut ham, whole roasted beef tenderloin filet mignon and more. Plus a great selection of appetizers, sides, and desserts. Order in-store or online.