Should you choose a fresh or a frozen kosher turkey this Thanksgiving?

Fresh

A fresh turkey is easier to deal with because there's no defrosting involved. Some contend that fresh tastes better, as well. On the other hand, a fresh whole turkey can be safely stored in your refrigerator for only 1 or 2 days. And, because of special handling required to ensure freshness, some stores may charge more for fresh.

Frozen

Frozen turkeys do require careful defrosting so that the meat doesn't spoil, but they are widely available, and, very affordable. Also, frozen birds can last up to 12 months in the freezer. Perhaps that's why a National Turkey Federation survey found that 70% of consumers choose frozen turkeys for their Thanksgiving table.

Bottom line

Unless you can get your hands on a fresh bird a day or two before Thanksgiving, you probably need to go frozen. 

Here's how to get your frozen kosher turkey ready for cooking.

According to the USDA, there are three ways to thaw your frozen turkey safely—in the refrigerator, in cold water or in a microwave oven.

Refrigerator Method

Thawing in the fridge (40 degrees F) requires 24 hours for every 4 or 5 pounds of turkey. For example, a 12-16 pound bird is going to take 3-4 days to defrost completely.

How to: Place your frozen turkey in the fridge in its original packaging. Put a tray under the turkey to catch any juices that may leak. Once defrosted, turkey should be used within 24-48 hours.

Water Bath Method

If you have less time, thawing in cold water is a quicker alternative. Cold water defrosting requires approximately 30 minutes per pound. A 12-16 pound bird takes 6-8 hours to defrost in cold water.

How to: Fill a sink or basin with cold tap water. Wrap your turkey securely in plastic wrap or in a zipper lock bag, making sure that water is not able to leak through the wrapping. Submerge your wrapped turkey in cold tap water. Change the water every 30 minutes. Cook the turkey immediately after it is thawed.

Microwave

Defrosting in a microwave can be tricky because microwave ovens vary so much. We do not recommend this method because of poor results. If you choose to use your microwave, be sure to follow the manufacturer's instructions for defrosting a turkey. Turkeys thawed in a microwave must be cooked immediately after defrosting.

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