What to consider when buying a turkey for Christmas
Roast turkey is the traditional meat of choice for Christmas dinner in the UK (as well as Belgium, Brazil, US and Nigeria) and the smell of it cooking in the oven Christmas morning is one of life’s pleasures. High in protein, low in fat and full of vitamins, it’s good to know that something so delicious is also so healthy (and helps to counterbalance the Christmas pudding and brandy butter that follow!)
So what to consider when buying the centre piece of the Christmas meal?
Size: as a general rule of thumb you should opt for a 5lb/2.3kg turkey for 4-6 people, a 12lb/5.4kg bird for 8-10 and a 20lb/9kg beast for 12 -15 – just make sure you are going to have enough room in the fridge/freezer to store it and enough room in the oven to cook it! We are usually 10 people for Christmas lunch but buy a 20lb turkey because we love making turkey curry on Boxing Day (reminds me of Colin Firth in his Christmas jumper in the film Bridget Jones’ Diary – so that has to be a good thing!). It also then allows for cold turkey sandwiches when we’ve had enough of cooking and for boiling up the bones for endless supplies of stock for soups when we all go on diets in the New Year!
Fresh or frozen? Fresh is always better in my book – but invariably more expensive, with a shorter shelf life and should be pre-ordered to be sure of getting a good one. Frozen turkey, if you have room in your freezer, means you can buy in advance and know you are organised, but these turkeys are usually raised in a barn with lots of other turkeys, given antibiotics to increase their weight and flash-frozen as soon after killing as possible which doesn’t allow the meat to mature. Best is to buy a fresh one; one that has been properly hung to tenderise the meat and impart a fuller flavour, and freeze it yourself, if you want to have ‘Buy the turkey’ ticked off your to do list.
The difference in taste is that fresh turkeys tend to have a slightly stronger flavour and a more meaty texture. Frozen turkey meat is often ’sweeter’ and more subtle.
Frozen turkeys need a few days in the fridge to defrost thoroughly – allow around 24 hours per 5lb of weight. A thawed turkey can keep up to 4 days in the bottom of the fridge. Do NOT defrost a frozen turkey at room temperature as this causes the outside of the bird to become warm before the inside has defrosted allowing harmful bacteria to multiply.
Organic/free range or prepackaged? Organic turkeys have not been given antibiotics or any artificial flavourings or colourings. Free-range will have been raised and been able to roam and feed outdoors. Prepackaged often have water added in order to keep the meat moist.
Best breeds of turkey? Norfolk Black and the Bronze are generally considered the best breeds of turkey. Bronzes tend to be plumper, Norfolk Blacks stronger flavoured with a higher fat content.
When to buy? November is the time to order your turkey, particularly if you know exactly what you want. Try a local butcher who can order it for you to collect Christmas Eve. And then let the party start.
Member since: 26th September 2014
As the owner of thebestof Welwyn and Hatfield my mission is to help local independently owned businesses to grow and community groups, charities, local sports clubs, societies to thrive. If you know a...