When To Buy a Turkey for Thanksgiving

So when should you buy a turkey for Thanksgiving? Well, that really depends on a few factors. Are you buying a frozen turkey or a fresh turkey? If you are buying a frozen turkey, are you planning on keeping it in the freezer (assuming you have room) or are you going to start the thawing process right away and have it set up shop in your refrigerator? The question of when to buy your turkey for Thanksgiving is a very important one because you want to make sure your turkey is tender and juicy with nice crispy turkey skin, and the meat doesn’t go bad waiting for the big day. Let’s dive in to give you a little bit more detail.

when to buy a turkey for thanksgiving

When To Buy a Frozen Turkey For Thanksgiving

In many cases, some stores will start selling frozen turkeys as early as August. This is actually a pretty smart idea. You might be thinking to yourself, “Why do I need a turkey in August?” Well let me tell you why this is a great time to buy a frozen one!

First of all, if you don’t want to buy your turkey in August or September, no worries. You can easily wait until October or even the week of Thanksgiving to pick up a frozen one. The problem is that most grocery stores will jack up prices pretty drastically if you purchase it too close to Thanksgiving. If you are planning on getting a frozen turkey for Thanksgiving this year, there are several factors to take into consideration when deciding when to buy your bird.

Obviously, if you have a small freezer, you do not want to get a ginormous frozen turkey too far in advance because this will take up precious real estate in your icebox and will prevent other foods from being stored properly. And we all know how much of a pain that can be! 

In addition, it may be more beneficial for you to get your frozen turkey early so that it has plenty of time to thaw. You don’t want to be serving turkey popsicles on Thanksgiving. However, if you wait too long and the turkey thaws completely, it should be cooked immediately. This is because when a turkey has been completely defrosted it can grow bacteria very quickly. So there’s a delicate dance you must perform when playing with frozen turkey on Thanksgiving. 

If you do not plan on keeping your frozen bird in the refrigerator while it thaws, make sure that you have a shady area outside (or in the garage) where you can place it while it thaws. When a turkey is completely frozen, at least partially submerged in ice or snow, this will help to keep the temperature cool enough so that the bacteria do not grow during the thawing process.

Finally, when you are ready to purchase your frozen turkey, make sure that you are getting it from a reputable brand. Some of the big-name brands will actually take care of all of the thawing for you, which is convenient if you are pressed on time or want to avoid doing this step altogether.

How Early Can I Buy a Fresh Turkey For Thanksgiving?

Maybe you don’t have a ton of freezer space. Or you are a bit of a procrastinator. Or maybe you just don’t mind finding a shady area to thaw your turkey. Then buying a fresh turkey may be the best option for you. And don’t worry about the price. You can get a very good deal on a fresh turkey early, however, that price will only go up as Thanksgiving gets closer.

If you are planning on cooking your fresh turkey immediately after taking it out of the package, then you don’t have to worry about leaving it in your refrigerator at all, which is a good thing, because having a huge turkey in the fridge when you’re trying to plan Thanksgiving dinner can be a pain in the butt! But by buying fresh, you can just get it and start cooking! 

There are some occasions when many people choose to go with a fresh turkey because they like the idea of having more freedom on when they want to cook their meal and are sketched out by the thought of the turkey not thawing in time, or thawing too soon, or the whole thawing process in general (can you tell I’ve been there?).

It is very important to keep in mind that when you buy a fresh turkey for Thanksgiving, you will have to follow certain rules when it comes to storing. In most cases, these turkeys will need to go immediately into the refrigerator (unless cooking immediately), and then they should be cooked within 24 hours of being taken out. This is pretty advantageous because then you can plan according to your schedule, whether that means having your turkey early in the morning or even a late-night meal on Thanksgiving.

If you are thinking about buying fresh this year, do not wait too long to purchase it because most grocery stores will sell out of these items extremely fast. Of course, if it is already November and they only have frozen ones left, you can always purchase it at that point and stick it in the freezer until you are ready to use it.

Whichever option you choose, once you have your turkey there are some great recipes to cook with all day long! Check out our post on what to serve with smoked turkey for some great ideas. 

Happy Turkey Day! 


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