May 27, 2024

Should You Buy a Fresh or Frozen Turkey For Thanksgiving?

Should you buy a fresh or frozen turkey for Thanksgiving? That holiday is next week. The USDA has some tips to make sure you have a safe and healthy dinner.

Should You Buy a Fresh or Frozen Turkey For Thanksgiving?

Turkeys are sold both fresh and frozen. You can often order the type and size of turkey that you want ahead of time, but if you haven’t done this, you  need to make some decisions.

Food safety is critical at all times, of course, but holiday dinners are special. You may have elderly guests at your dinner, or a pregnant woman, or small children, or someone with a chronic illness or compromised immune system. In that case, you must be very careful to make sure that the food you serve is completely safe to eat. And turkey storage and preparation play a large part in food safety.

Here’s what the USDA says about which type of buy. If there is more than a week before your meal, you can buy a frozen turkey. You just make sure that you allow enough time for defrosting the bird. Or you can cook your turkey from frozen [Editor’s note: this is what I do.] Just be sure you follow the specific steps in those directions.

If there is less than a week before the holiday, choose a fresh bird. That means the turkey has been chilled to a temperature below 26°F. Do not buy the bird until one or two days before you cook it, unless the turkey has a tag with a “best by” or “use by” dates that indicates the turkey will still be safe on Thanksgiving Day. If there is no tag, buy the turkey no more than two days before Thanksgiving.

Put the fresh or frozen turkey into the fridge or freezer immediately when you get home. Don’t make extra stops on the way home either; go directly from the checkout lane to your house. Then read up on the three safe ways to thaw a turkey.

And remember that food product date tags aren’t safety tags. “Best if Used By/Before” indicates the best flavor or quality. “Freeze By” indicates when it should be frozen to maintain quality. And “Sell by” is an instruction to the store telling them how long they can display the product for sale.


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