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Your Guide to Ensuring Turkey Success

Holiday 2012 TurkeyTurkey. This centerpiece of many holiday tables can create anxiety for even the most seasoned cook. Each year, turkey hotlines receive thousands of calls from desperate cooks looking for answers on everything from cooking to carving. We’ve put together the following cooking tips and recipes to help guide your once-a-year turkey preparations and ensure success.

Choosing the Turkey

Working with the highest quality ingredients makes it easier for any cook to produce a great meal.  Check out the bevy of options available at your local Whole Foods Market® and be sure to check with the folks at the meat counter or the Holiday Table about ordering deadlines for fresh and/or specialty turkeys. You can even order your turkey online!

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.

Safe Turkey Handling

While prepping turkey, wash your hands, knives, cutting board, and counter thoroughly and often with hot water and soap. Take care that raw turkey or its juices do not come into contact with other foods. Make sure you use your meat thermometer to check for the proper internal temperature of 165°F. This is the only way to ensure the bird is cooked adequately and safely.

To Stuff or Not To Stuff?

Stuffing is a matter of preference. If you do stuff, we advise baking the stuffing and turkey separately and then placing cooked stuffing in the turkey cavity during the final 30 minutes of roasting time. This ensures speedier cooking time and more consistent results!

All About Brining

Brining your turkey helps produce a moist, flavorful bird with minimal effort. The brine works to infuse the meat with flavor, and helps the bird retain moisture. Brining at its most basic is simply submerging the turkey in a large pan filled with a salt-water solution for several hours, in the refrigerator.  Check out this video to learn more about brining your holiday bird:

Top Turkey Cooking Tips
Now that you’ve picked out the perfect turkey and prepared it for cooking, here are our top five tips for getting perfect results!

  • Always remove the giblets before seasoning and roasting your turkey.
  • Honey and Rosemary Brined Turkey with Herb Riesling GravyRefrigerate a fresh turkey immediately. Frozen turkeys should be defrosted in the refrigerator for two days prior to cooking (larger turkeys may require more time). Do not thaw at room temperature.
  • Remove a turkey from the refrigerator about one hour before placing it in the oven.
  • Use a meat thermometer for best results. When done, all parts of the turkey should be 165°F.
  • Allow bird to rest (covered) after cooking for about 30 minutes. This redistributes the juices and makes for smooth carving.

Hopefully after reading through this post, you feel confident in your ability to create the perfect holiday turkey centerpiece.  If you’re still feeling lost, the friendly folks at your local Whole Foods Market will gladly answer your questions about selecting and prepping the right turkey for your family.

Are you a turkey expert? We’d love to hear your tips and tricks for cooking the perfect holiday bird.

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nsdavis says …

My family really looks forward to the Thanksgiving meal! I would love the flexibility that the gift card would give me! What a day it would be having an organic meal prepared by the Whole foods chefs! I could just relax and enjoy the day with my family! My husband would really love having a shrimp tray as well.

Kathi Fiske says …

I bought a fresh turkey from Whole Foods last Wednesday..How long can it stay in the fridge before cooking?

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@KATHI - I would recommend reaching out directly to the store where you purchased the turkey for their advice. I have heard some butchers suggest roughly 4 days in the fridge. You can find your store info at http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/stores/list.

elaine peyton says …

Is whole foods offering brined turkeys for christmas? i want to order a turkey on line and pick it up at the store in wellington, fl thank you!

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@ELAINE - Each store will vary with what types of turkeys they will offer. You can search their Holiday Menu online at http://wholefoodsmarket.com/online-ordering/.

JESpivey says …

I need to place a cooked turkey order before Thanksgiving. I'm finding it hard to actually order that on-line. I need help with that order. Also, once I place an order how long will it take to retrieve the item?

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@JESPIVEY - Our online menus and ordering system will be going live around the first week of November. You can search for the menu at your local store at https://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/online-ordering. You can then choose a pick up date that you need your order if before Thanksgiving day. If you do not see a menu by the first week in November, I would suggest calling your local store directly to discuss their menu options.

Jim says …

What's a good cooking temperature for my beautiful and wonderfully prepared WholeFoods Turkey? 350 degrees? 375 degrees? Thanks!

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@JIM - You can find instructions online at http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/service/2014-holiday-menu-reheating-directions-sp.