Buying a Turkey

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How Much Turkey?

The following table allows for second helpings and leftovers.


Turkey Breast
Turkey Roast
12 to 16 ounces per person Allow 1¼ to 1½ pounds per person Allow ½ to ¾ pound per person Allow ½ to ¾ pound per person

Fresh vs. Frozen?

There is no difference in the quality of turkey that is fresh or commercially frozen.


  • The cost of a fresh turkey may be a bit higher than a frozen turkey because of special handling requirements.
  • A fresh turkey should be cooked no later than the "use by date" on the label, otherwise it must be frozen until it is ready to use.
  • Fresh turkeys, like other fresh meat and poultry, are highly perishable. You need to be careful when purchasing and storing them to avoid spoilage.
  • They are convenient to use because they do not require thawing.
  • A frozen turkey will have the best quality when prepared up to a year after it was originally frozen.
  • Thawing the bird in the refrigerator may take a long time, especially if the turkey is a large size, but it is absolutely the safest method for thawing. Up to 5 hours defrosting time per pound should be allowed to properly thaw the turkey. This time may vary because of the individual temperature settings of different refrigerators.
  • A variety of frozen turkey's are available that are time savers for the cook: Pre-stuffed, Self-Basting, and Boneless Turkey Roast

FYI...A frozen turkey may be safely prepared up to 3 years after the original freeze date. The longer the turkey is kept frozen, the more possibility that you will not be satisfied with the quality, as freezer burn and dryness could affect the texture of the bird.

Food Safety:

  • When shopping for groceries, fresh turkey (as well as other perishable products) should be selected last in order to reduce the length of time the turkey is without refrigeration. If the turkey is without refrigeration for more than an hour because of the travel time from the market, a cooler with ice should be used to transport the fresh turkey, and any other perishable food items, for the duration of the travel time.
  • Inspecting and feeling fresh turkey can provide information not found on the label. Look for indications that the whole turkey or turkey pieces have been stored at improper temperatures. Fresh turkey pieces can be squeezed or pressure can be applied to the package to feel for signs of freezing. Look for ice crystals forming on the bottom tray of the packaging or along the wings and edges of the pieces, which indicates that the turkey has been stored in temperatures that are too cold. Partial freezing is not harmful in terms of wholesomeness, but it will not extend the "sell by" date.
  • It is also important to be aware of whole turkeys or turkey pieces that are stacked too high in open refrigerator cases in the supermarket. The turkeys at the top of the pile will not be chilled to the proper temperature because they are above the proper storage level of the refrigerator case. This can result in the growth of bacteria especially if the temperature rises above 40°F, which will greatly decrease the time period that the turkey is safe to eat. A frozen turkey should be rock hard and show no sign of freezer damage.

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