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How to Choose and Cook your Thanksgiving Turkey

roasted turkey for Thanksgiving

Meateaters - prepare yourselves! We are approaching one of the most important holidays of the year... Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving is an important holiday, and a perfectly roasted turkey is the centerpiece of the meal! Whether you're brand new to the job, or have done it before but want to refresh your memory, everything you need to know is right here in this blog post!

(Still need a turkey? We have a limited number of Golden Prairie Turkeys available for pick up in Ames, Wayland or Manson, Iowa.)


What should I look for in a Thanksgiving turkey?

Fresh, frozen, free-range, brined?

Honestly, any of these options are fine!

But your preparation and cooking methods may be different depending on what you choose. We'll cover that more in depth below.


How much turkey do I need?

We recommend 1-1.5 pounds of turkey per person. Most people love turkey leftovers, and this will give you plenty to enjoy on Black Friday.

If you are hosting a larger gathering, we recommend 2 smaller turkeys instead of one larger one. A larger turkey is not only harder to handle, but the white meat can dry out before the dark meat has finished cooking.


How should I prepare my turkey for roasting?

If you purchase a turkey at a major retailer, it will probably already be brined. This means that it has been immersed in a salt-water bath to flavor and tenderize the meat.

If you purchase a Golden Prairie Turkey from ChopLocal, it has not been brined. You can roast it as is, or brine it at home.

To brine your turkey:

  1. Find a delicious brine recipe. There are a million out there, but we recommend this one from the National Turkey Federation.
  2. Submerge your turkey in the brine for at least 8 hours. Don't have a pot big enough? Ran out of fridge space? Put ice in a cooler, then brine the turkey in a trashbag inside the cooler.

Seasoning your turkey:

After brining, you can season your turkey with salt and pepper before roasting. You can also try an herbed butter rub like this one.


What kind of pan should I use to roast my turkey?

A shallow roasting pan works best. The air needs to circulate around all sides of the turkey, and the thickest part of the bird is at the bottom. Look for a pan with sides less than one inch tall. Use a rack if you have one.

Put tin foil (loosely) over the top of your turkey for at least the first half of the time spent roasting. Remove the foil a couple of hours before the turkey is done, to get a beautiful golden brown color.


How long do I need to roast my turkey?

Chilled or thawed turkeys need to roast approximately 1 hour for every 3-4 pounds.

The turkeys we have available for sale right now are chilled, not frozen, and range from 10-20 lbs each. The 10 pound turkeys will need approximately 2 1/2 - 3 hours in the oven, and the 20 pound birds will take closer to 5 - 7 hours.

The time needed can vary based on your actual oven temperature and other variables, so we recommend using a meat thermometer to double check for doneness. The turkey should be 165 degrees F throughout.


How do I carve and serve my turkey?

After removing the turkey from the oven, let it "rest" for 10-15 minutes to redistribute juices.

Then, it's ready to carve and enjoy! 

Carving a turkey can be just as intimidating as roasting one, but this short video does a great job explaining the best way to go about the process.










Have other questions about how to prepare your Thanksgiving turkey? Leave a comment below and let us know!


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