How to Buy Turkey: Types, Sizes and Storage
By Theo Weening
Theo Weening is a third-generation butcher and the Global Meat Buyer at Whole Foods Market. His in-depth knowledge of raising practices, cuts and preparation techniques have made him a highly sought-out national expert. See his expert buying tips below.
Buying the right turkey can mean the difference between a good Thanksgiving and a legendary Thanksgiving. And while you can’t go wrong with any of our birds, shopping for a specific size or certification can be tricky. Rest assured, we’re here to help simplify the process. Below, learn more about our birds, plus get expert buying and storing tips.
Insider tip: Buy your turkey early to skip the stress and make this year your smoothest celebration yet. We’re also offering unique “insurance” coverage so you can have a little extra peace of mind this year.
What makes our turkeys different?
Whether classic or kosher, heirloom or organic, all of the fresh and frozen turkeys we sell meet our Quality Standards. All options are Animal Welfare Certified (except kosher turkeys), which requires third-party auditing of farms for over 100 animal welfare standards. And, like all meat and poultry in the department, the animals must be raised with no antibiotics ever, and no animal by-products in feed. We know our suppliers; we know how they raise their birds.
What types of turkey do we offer?
Here are the kinds of turkeys you’ll see when shopping our Meat department. Kosher, heirloom and heritage birds may not be available in all locations, so be sure to contact your store ahead of time.
Classic turkeys: These tasty, tender turkeys are a great choice for value, quality and flavor.
Organic turkeys: These birds get organic, non-GMO feed and are given access to fresh air and the outdoors.
Brined turkeys: We’ve marinated these birds in a seasoned brine for moist, flavorful meat. If I want to fry a turkey, I go with brined.
Kosher turkeys: Rubbed with kosher salt inside and out, kosher birds are checked by specially trained rabbinical inspectors to make sure they’re processed in accordance with kosher standards. The kosher salt preseasons the bird and gives it extra flavor. They’re also raised to meet 100+ animal welfare standards.
Heritage turkeys: These turkeys are leaner with a smaller meat-to-bone ratio and can be very flavorful.
Heirloom turkeys: A little bigger than heritage turkeys, heirloom turkeys are still really flavorful. Plus, there's lots of great dark meat.
Turkey breasts: Feeding a smaller group? Turkey breast is easy to brine and takes less time to prepare than a whole turkey. We offer bone-in, organic bone-in and boneless options.
All fresh and frozen turkeys from our Meat department must meet our standards for being raised with no antibiotics ever, no animal by-products in feed and 100+ animal welfare standards.
How much turkey should I buy?
I love having turkey leftovers, so I recommend going for more than what you really need. Rule of thumb is 1½–2 pounds per person, but I’d start with 5 to 6 pounds for four people. Check out our Holiday Servings Calculator to plan your order based on the number of people you’re feeding.
I’ve just received my turkey — how do I store it?
Whether you’ve picked up your turkey from our stores or you’re having it delivered, it’s important to store your bird properly before cooking it. Follow these tips for success.
How to store our fresh turkeys:
Our fresh turkeys are kept in a deep chill to maintain a crust of ice on the surface. This ensures that you can safely store your bird at home until you’re ready to cook. Keep your turkey deep-chilled (35°F) in the coldest spot in your fridge, turned down as low as possible, or store in a secondary fridge. Over time, the ice will easily melt, and your bird will be perfect by Thanksgiving.
How to store our frozen turkeys:
Store frozen birds in your freezer (ideally in a secondary freezer if you have one) until you’re ready to thaw. Depending on how much time you have, you can thaw your turkey in your refrigerator or by submerging it in cold water. To read thawing instructions for frozen turkeys, check out our Holiday FAQ.
For cooking and leftover storage tips, check out our Ultimate Guide to Cooking Your Turkey.