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How to Choose and Cook your Thanksgiving Turkey [Guide]

roasted turkey for Thanksgiving

(Updated for 2023)

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!


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.

Order your turkey through ChopLocal today! 

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 large turkey can be hard to handle - it takes a lot of room to thaw and brine, and is extremely heavy to transfer from the oven to the carving platter! Not only that, 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 turkey from ChopLocal or a local farmer, 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.

A 10 pound turkey will need approximately 2 1/2 - 3 hours in the oven, and a 20 pound bird 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. (The larger the turkey, the longer it should rest!)

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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