Saturday, November 23, 2013


Americans buy more turkeys this time of year than any other. With so many choices available in the bigger cities, many of us are confused about which kind of turkey we should buy: pre-brined or not brined, organic, natural, free range, antibiotic free or kosher. Some stores, such as Whole Foods Market, even let you know how happily that turkey lived before it was ended up in your shopping basket (the Global Animal Partnership rating).

But one of the choices that most American shoppers make, no matter what other criteria they use, is whether to buy frozen or refrigerated turkey.

Frozen turkeys are flash frozen immediately after packaging to 0°F or below and are kept in the store at that temperature until you buy them. That means they can be bought quite a while before you cook as long as you have a big freezer. In fact, that frozen turkey you bought last year to cook for Thanksgiving, and then decided to go out instead, is still safe to eat – as long as you kept it properly frozen.

Refrigerated turkeys are deep-chilled to 24 to 26°F after packaging. They have a short shelf life. There will be a "use by" date found on the weight tag or weight sticker.

If you buy a frozen turkey, one of the main safety issues is how to thaw it. This is where you can run into trouble. The turkey should be thawed in the refrigerator, in its original packaging, not at room temperature (it will take about 5 hours per pound of turkey). If it won’t fit in the frig, or you are rushed, thaw it in cold water, changing the water frequently (estimate about 30 minutes per pound of turkey).

But once your turkey is thawed, remember that you should use it in about seven days – no longer than that. I would use it within 3 days, just to be safe. In the meantime, make sure it is kept cold in the refrigerator until ready to roast.

As for that refrigerated (unfrozen) turkey, you would be wise to cook and eat it before the “use-by” date expires.

Happy Thanksgiving.


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