Whether to buy a fresh or frozen turkey for Thanksgiving is a decision for which you must consider several factors. When I decide which one to buy for my Thanksgiving dinner, I always find myself in a pickle because both options offer significant advantages. I know how difficult this seemingly easy decision might be. So, fresh or frozen turkey for Thanksgiving?
Fresh turkey is juicier and more flavorful than frozen, but a properly thawed and nicely cooked frozen turkey can be just as delicious. Also, a frozen turkey is a great safety net for Thanksgiving, when turkeys are often hard to find. A fresh turkey, on the other hand, saves time and planning.
While it is a matter of personal preference which turkey you buy for Thanksgiving, there are things to consider when making this choice. Taste is the most important thing for me, but it isn’t the only factor involved in my decision-making process. In this article, I’ll share some helpful info about what to consider when choosing your Thanksgiving turkey.
Fresh vs. Frozen Turkey: Differences
Although there are many similarities between a frozen and a fresh turkey, there are differences that set them apart. Knowing these can make or break the perfect Thanksgiving dinner. So, take a look at the breakdown below to learn more.
For me, taste is the most important factor, so I base most of my cooking decisions on that. Fresh turkeys are often praised for their superior flavor, which I can confirm. Fresh turkeys are indeed juicier with a more expressive taste.
They are also tenderer than frozen turkeys which results in more succulent and flavorful meat. Frozen turkeys, on the other hand, tend to be stiffer and less juicy than fresh. Still, how well they will taste mostly depends on who’s cooking them and how.
If you don’t cook your turkey well, it will taste bad no matter what kind you choose. Nevertheless, a well-cooked fresh turkey still tastes better than a frozen one cooked in exactly the same way.
Still, I have come to realize that when it comes to taste, your cooking skills are more important than whether your turkey is fresh or frozen. If you know a few tricks about proper meat thawing and tenderizing techniques, you will pull off the meal of the season, regardless of the type of turkey.
As you can hear in the video, consumers truly recognize the difference in taste between the two.
When it comes to Thanksgiving, your budget is another big thing that can very much affect your turkey decision. So, you need to plan ahead.
Frozen turkeys are generally more affordable than the fresh ones. This price difference can vary depending on the store, but it is considerable in most cases. So, if you are looking for a cheaper option, get a frozen turkey instead of a fresh one.
This price difference stems from the difference in shelf life between fresh and frozen turkeys. Froze turkeys have a longer shelf-life, so the seller can afford to sell them at a lower price. On the other hand, fresh turkeys last shorter and require more care in terms of refrigeration which drives the price up.
Preparation and Cooking
Preparation and cooking is the aspect in which frozen and fresh turkeys differ the least, with frozen turkeys requiring an extra step which is thawing. Other than that, you can cook them the same way.
If you know what you are doing, both types of turkey turn out great, as once thawed, frozen turkeys can be treated just like fresh ones. Both fresh and frozen turkeys require preparation and cooking time, as well as seasoning and tenderizing, so if you are looking for a shortcut, you won’t find it with either one.
Both have specificities you need to be aware of, such as removing the giblets from a fresh turkey or tenderizing the meat longer in the case of a frozen turkey.
How Far in Advance to Buy
Timing when to buy your turkey is another plan you must make for a successful Thanksgiving. I want to be prepared well in advance, but I am also a huge fan of fresh turkeys. So, to satisfy both sides, I buy a frozen turkey just to be on the safe side, and I buy a fresh one with Thanksgiving around the corner.
Still, fresh turkeys are often very hard to find around Thanksgiving, so if I can’t get one, I can always use the frozen one. On the other hand, if I find a fresh turkey around Thanksgiving, I use the frozen one for Christmas. Still, this may not be how you like to plan your holidays.
So, it is worth knowing that you must decide on fresh or frozen turkey well in advance. If you opt for a frozen one, you can buy it at the beginning of November and relax until Thanksgiving, knowing that you already have the centerpiece ready to use.
If you choose a fresh turkey, I advise you to pre-order it so that you are ready for Thanksgiving.
Space is often an issue not many consider, and they realize that it is a problem when it’s already too late.
If you don’t have enough space for a frozen turkey, I don’t recommend getting one because you may not want to buy a freezer to use only in November. A turkey is a big bird that takes up a lot of space.
Some arrangements can be made for a fresh turkey because you’ll store it in your fridge for a day or two before cooking it. On the other hand, chances are that a frozen turkey will need to stay in your freezer longer since you will probably buy it at least a week in advance.
Many don’t consider availability when deciding whether to buy a frozen or a fresh turkey, but they definitely should. Frozen turkeys are considerably more available, not only during the holiday season but year-round. On the other hand, the supply of fresh turkeys increases during the holiday season, but so does the demand.
So, don’t be surprised if you don’t find a fresh turkey near Thanksgiving. That’s why many turkey brands offer pre-ordering services so that you can “book” your turkey well in advance. You can do this online if you are looking for a particular brand or simply ask your butcher to keep a turkey in store for you.
Is It Okay to Buy Fresh Turkey and Freeze It?
Even though it won’t be the worst thing in the world, freezing a fresh turkey is not something I would do. Yes, for a turkey to be frozen, it has to be fresh at some point, so why are you freezing it would be a bad idea. Well, it is a bad idea because the frozen turkeys you buy aren’t frozen in a home freezer, and their quality is more or less preserved.
On the other hand, buying a fresh turkey and freezing it could significantly damage the meat. If you still want to freeze your turkey, it is best to cook and freeze it than to freeze it after buying it.
So, Which Is Better?
Generally speaking, a fresh turkey is better than a frozen one, but not by much. While fresh turkey is juicier and tenderer than frozen, a frozen turkey can be just as delicious if you know how to cook it.
Frozen turkey wins in the other aspects since it is cheaper, more available, and more durable. Still, it can be a storage problem, so make sure you have enough space.
In the end, it all boils down to your needs and preferences. Either turkey can be a delicacy in the hands of the right cook. If you cook your turkey right and invite the right people, your Thanksgiving dinner will definitely be the event of the season, regardless of which turkey you buy.
Do you think about these factors when choosing your Thanksgiving turkey? I would love to hear your take on this in the comments below!