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Choosing Your Turkey

By Theo Weening, November 12, 2009  |  Meet the Blogger  |  More Posts by Theo Weening
turkey_on_table Choosing a turkey used to be pretty simple. Figure out how many people were coming to dinner and get the biggest bird possible to feed the crowd. Now it can be pretty daunting. Here's some advice to help you decide what's the right turkey choice for you. The biggest difference for almost any turkey you choose at Whole Foods Market is that they are fresh. Our birds are harvested close to the time of being sold. You may not realize that the FDA allows birds to be harvested in February, kept at 27°F for months and then sold as fresh in November. That's not what we sell here, but people who are buying our fresh birds for the first time aren't used to getting turkeys that are really fresh. Now, you may see ice on our fresh birds because we chill them below 30°F to keep them safe and fresh, but they aren't frozen. That said, we do offer some value options of frozen turkey, and they are from this year's harvest, not holdovers from last year like some frozen turkeys sold elsewhere. So, your first choice is frozen turkey or fresh turkey. Well, actually, your first choice is if you buy your bird from us at all. It's important to know that all of our turkeys are raised according to our strict quality standards requiring no antibiotics ever, an all-vegetarian diet, no added solutions or injections, and complete traceability to the farm. We think this makes our turkeys a better choice. turkey_chart Now, what about all those other options: Kosher, Organic, Heritage, Pre-brined, etc? We put together this handy chart to help you figure out what is important to you: It just makes sense that the more care and time that goes into raising the turkeys, the more they will cost. We bring you a range of options so you can choose a turkey that matches your values and budget. Oh yeah, one more critically important note! Now that you've chosen your turkey, please remember that fresh turkeys cook faster than older ones. You need to plan your feast so the turkey is ready at the same time as the mashed potatoes and dressing! Enjoy your special dinner!
Category: Holidays 2009, Turkeys




Chef KV says ...
32 degree is freezing correct? "Now, you may see ice on our fresh birds because we chill them below 30°F to keep them safe and fresh, but they aren’t frozen." just checking to make sure global warming hasn't changed that
11/12/2009 2:54:21 PM CST
Mike says ...
I'm trying to avoid buying a roasting pan so I ordered a cooked turkey breast from my local Whole Foods. I should have asked: will I need a roasting pan to cook this?
11/12/2009 7:14:36 PM CST
Mary Kornman says ...
Diestel Turkey are fed corn and soy. Soy is not a natural diet for turkeys. Do you sell any grain fed turkeys?
11/15/2009 9:14:55 PM CST
hsiaw says ...
@Chef KV While the freezing temperature of water is 32°F (and no, to our knowledge global warming hasn’t changed that!), the freezing temperature of foods is lower. Any turkey labeled “fresh” in a food store has never been cooled to a temperature lower than 26°F, which is the point that turkey meat begins to freeze. A turkey labeled “frozen” must be cooled to a temperature of 0°F or below. Hope this helps answer your question.
11/16/2009 11:22:26 AM CST
Liz says ...
Are any of the turkeys free range?
11/17/2009 4:43:46 PM CST
Jenifer Kwasniewski says ...
I am considering purchasing an heirloom turkey this Thanksgiving. I would like to know if those turkeys have access to the outdoors, if they are fed organic feed and how such turkeys are slaughtered. I appreciate your reply.
11/18/2009 1:09:25 PM CST
Brent says ...
So when should I purchase a fresh one? How should I store it if I purchase it ahead of time? Can I come to Whole Foods the day of or night before and pick one up/order ahead?
11/18/2009 3:49:19 PM CST
hsiaw says ...
@Mary We don’t allow our birds to be fed any animal by-product and they will need protein in their diet so they use soy as a protein supplement.
11/19/2009 6:15:04 PM CST
hsiaw says ...
@Jenifer Our heirloom birds do have access to the outdoors and the Diestel Heirloom is organic.
11/19/2009 6:15:31 PM CST
hsiaw says ...
@Brent The majority of our turkeys are in the store by Sunday prior to Thanksgiving so you can pick them up any time after that. Theo, our resident meat expert recommends that you set your fridge at a slightly lower temperature than usual and put your turkey in a leakproof dish at the bottom of the fridge. We are open on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, but I would check with your local store since some of the stores have extended their opening hours for Thanksgiving.
11/19/2009 6:16:58 PM CST
john says ...
I havent seen how to choose the size (pounds), what is the rule, is it one pound per person?
11/19/2009 10:21:50 PM CST
Audra Blake says ...
Is it too late to order a turkey from one of your stores, and am I able to do the ordering online, instead of visiting a store in person?
11/19/2009 10:30:49 PM CST
Hollybygolly says ...
I read in Cooks Illustrated that sometimes a frozen turkey is more moist than a fresh because a fresh turkey is chilled to 26-30 degrees which form tiny ice crystals in the meat. Then if the temperature fluctuates (at market or on way home) the crystals can melt, combine with neighboring crystals, and then refreeze. These irregularly shaped ice crystals will start to poke the cell membranes in the meat, make holes and the cell tissues in the muscles will start to lose their internal contents. Then when they are cooked, the bird will be dry. If I buy a frozen turkey how long should I let it defrost in the freezer?
11/20/2009 12:06:47 AM CST
hsiaw says ...
@John http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/holidays/guides/turkey.php When ordering your whole turkey, allow at least 1 pound per person, plus 1/2 pound per person for leftovers. (Remember to take into account the size of your fridge and oven!) For turkey breast, plan on 3/4 pound per person. If it is a boneless breast, allow 1/2 pound per person.
11/20/2009 4:30:19 PM CST
hsiaw says ...
@Audra Ordering deadlines vary between stores. Find more info about your stores online ordering at: http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/holidays
11/20/2009 4:31:48 PM CST
hsiaw says ...
@Hollybygolly Frozen turkeys should be defrosted in the refrigerator for two days prior to cooking (larger turkeys may require more time).
11/20/2009 4:33:24 PM CST
Tom Knapp says ...
W are trying a Bronze heritage turkey for the first time, 12 or 13 pounds. Your chart says these "take much less time to cook." Can you give more detail What would be approx. time and temp. and what temp would you set the oven probe at? Thanks.
11/20/2009 8:30:41 PM CST
Torja says ...
I bought a fresh kosher turkey from Whole Foods on Wed, Nov 18. The sell by date says Fri, Nov 27. Is it safe to keep it in the refrigerator until then, or should I put it in the freezer for now and then defrost in the fridge 2 days prior to Thanksgiving? Thanks!
11/21/2009 9:58:55 PM CST
Jennifer says ...
I have ordered the Traditional Dinner with the whole-roasted Diestel turkey. I understand it has no added solutions, but can you please confirm it is completely gluten free?
11/22/2009 12:02:40 PM CST
Adrian says ...
Interesting note about companies who freeze turkeys for months. I did not know this.
11/22/2009 3:25:26 PM CST
David says ...
If I buy one of the Diestel 10 lb fresh turkeys today (Sunday) I am nervous of keeping it in the refrigerator until cooking time on Thursday (4 days later). Should I freeze it for a couple days and then start to defrost the turkey starting Tuesday? Two days seems to be the time to thaw a 10 lb turkey.
11/22/2009 8:01:11 PM CST
Ron says ...
Which do you recommend the Herb Rubbed or the Brined? Which one is more flavorfully? Also do you recommend convection roast or just using the regular oven for your turkeys?
11/23/2009 11:42:38 AM CST
hsiaw says ...
Herb rubbed or brined - it's up to you! As for oven, it's probably easiest to work with what you've already got, though convection ovens often promote more even cooking in general.
11/23/2009 3:15:52 PM CST
hsiaw says ...
As per USDA guidelines, fresh turkeys should be stored in a refrigerator for up to 1-2 days and in the freezer for up to 12 months. http://www.fsis.usda.gov/Fact_Sheets/turkey_from_farm_to_table/index.asp
11/23/2009 4:40:42 PM CST
Joanne says ...
I have ordered an Heirloom turkey, should I brine it first? In your breakdown you state that an Heirloom turkey cooks faster, please give me an idea how long a 14 lbs turkey should take to cook.
11/23/2009 4:47:02 PM CST