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Thanksgiving Q & A

9 of Thanksgiving’s Big Questions Answered Here

An important meal like Thanksgiving comes with a lot of questions. Here are some FAQs about turkey and Thanksgiving meal prep to help get you through the holiday with flying colors. From selecting the perfect bird to serving it up, it’s all here.

Here are some FAQs about turkey and Thanksgiving meal prep to help get you through the holiday with flying colors.

Selecting a Turkey
Q: Can you explain the difference between turkey terms like “organic”, “free-range”, “natural”, “fresh” and “kosher”?

Organic turkeys are raised on certified organic farms and are fed only organic feed. They cannot be given antibiotics on a regular basis and must have access to the outdoors—but how long they are outdoors, if at all, is not regulated.

Free-range simple means the turkeys have access to the outdoors, but most are raised the crowded lots like conventional turkeys. They are not required to spend a certain amount of time each day outside.

Natural turkeys have had no artificial ingredients injected into the meat, and the meat is minimally processed. This classification does not indicate how the bird was raised.

Fresh turkeys have never been frozen. However, after processing they’re often stored at very cold temperatures, sometimes for weeks. Frozen turkeys are blast frozen immediately after processing, making them arguably more “fresh” than a fresh turkey. The classification does not indicate how the bird was raised.

Kosher turkeys are processed under rabbinical supervision. They are not raised any differently than conventional turkeys. Often, kosher turkeys are brined, making them a great choice for a flavorful roast turkey.

Q. Should I buy a fresh or frozen turkey?

This is mostly a matter of convenience. Since fresh turkeys are not frozen, they don’t require thawing so you don’t have to factor that step into meal prep. However, it’s likely that fresh turkeys underwent processing several weeks prior to arriving at the store and have merely been kept very cold during that time. A frozen turkey, which was blast frozen immediately after processing, may actually taste fresher than a “fresh” turkey.

With proper planning you can easily thaw a frozen turkey so it’s ready to roast for Thanksgiving.

Want to know how to thaw a turkey? Read: 2 Ways to Thaw a Turkey

Q. What is a “self-basting” turkey?

Self-basting turkeys have been injected or enhanced with flavor solutions containing salt and sugar. Many name-brand turkeys are self-basting. Brining may give a natural turkey a similar flavor profile, if you prefer a natural turkey over one that is self-basting

Want to brine your turkey? Read: Knowing Your Turkey is Done + Stuffing Safety

Preparing the Turkey
Q. What do I do with the clip that holds the legs together?

The clip is put on by processors to make the turkeys easy to package. For picture-perfect roasted turkey, leave the clip in place. But remember, the leg joints make take longer to cook because they’re so tightly bundled. Monitor the bird’s temperature closely with an instant-read thermometer.

Looking for the proper way to temp a turkey? Read: 9 Steps to Your Best Turkey Ever

Q. Do I do anything with the bag of parts in the turkey?

You can chop up the giblets—which are the gizzard, liver and heart of the turkey—and add them to gravy or stuffing for extra turkey flavor. Or you can throw them away. However, the neck, found in the main cavity, is rich in flavor and adds depth and body to gravy

Simmer the turkey neck with onions, celery, carrots and broth, then use as the base to make gravy.

Ready to rev up your gravy game? Read: How to Make Great Gravy in 4 Steps