Today’s guest post comes from Bart Janssen, the Regional Meat Coordinator for Whole Foods Market. I was approached by the Whole Foods team to see if I’d be interested in having them submit a post on how to pick a good turkey, given the Thanksgiving season quickly approaching. I have to admit that I’ve never cooked a turkey myself, always relying on my mom and other family members, who are remarkably good at making a delicious turkey. However, for those of you who are inclined to making a turkey for Thanksgiving, hopefully you will find this post a good start.
Every year in early fall, the questioning begins – “what’s the secret to a Thanksgiving turkey?” As a butcher and meat coordinator who deals with securing thousands of birds for four Vancouver grocery stores, customers seem to think I hold the answer to one of life’s greatest mysteries. Truth be told, there is no one great secret. The answer to a perfect Thanksgiving turkey is simply in the quality of the bird itself.
You’ll want to look for fresh, farm-raised birds. It may take an extra few minutes at the meat counter, but I find it’s worthwhile to ask where your turkey came from, how long ago it arrived at the store, and what it ate. Under my watch at Whole Foods, we make sure all of our turkeys are raised with high standards. That means no antibiotics, ever, and no animal byproducts in the feed. There are plenty of options for high-quality turkeys locally. In BC, two of our favourites offered at Whole Foods Market are the organic turkeys from Ladybug Manor and the specialty turkeys from JD Farms. Both farms raise their birds right here in the Fraser Valley.
Of course, you also have to consider price. For those looking to keep costs down, a quality, frozen bird or chilled, brined turkey are both generally on the lower end of the price spectrum. Organic birds do tend to have slightly higher costs. (Personally, I’m willing to throw down a little more to get a bird that really wows my dinner guests.)
While all of these turkey options can be overwhelming, my advice is to keep it simple. And when that doesn’t work, you can always refer to this guide to help you land on that perfect Thanksgiving bird.
Oh, and if you REALLY want the cooking tips? Here’s how to cook the perfect turkey. When it comes to preparation, you really can’t go wrong when it comes to boosting flavour. I love a dry rub with BBQ or Indian seasoning, but brining it with traditional salt or a maple herb brine are also great alternatives.
Have a happy Thanksgiving!