DCFoodies.com Turkey Time: With All These Options Why Buy Frozen? - DCFoodies.com

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Nov 17, 2008

Comments

Kate

Just a note about TJ's: I called yesterday to ask about pre-ordering, and I was told they are not doing it. That was the TJ's in Alexandria.

Mike Bober

Thanks for the heads up, Kate. I'm headed to the one in Foggy Bottom shortly, so I'll check and see what their procedure is. Sounds like it's worth checking ahead of time with your local store to see what their procedure is going to be.

Todd

For what it's worth: America's Test Kitchen taste tests consistently recommend buying FROZEN kosher birds and NOT fresh birds. See ATK's explanation below on buying frozen birds over fresh birds. Also, the brining process in kosher birds improves the taste AND texture. Aaron's Best Frozen Turkey won this year's taste test of frozen and fresh birds.

Fresh or Frozen?

"When organizing our tasting, we decided to buy fresh turkeys wherever possible, assuming they would be better. But as we tallied the results of the tasting, we learned that most of our higher-ranked birds were, in fact, frozen. Our tasters consistently found the frozen birds to be moister than the fresh, in fact a "fresh" bird can actually be tougher and drier than a frozen one.

Why? Turkeys may be labeled as "fresh" if they have been chilled to as low as 26 degrees. But at this temperature, tiny ice crystals can form in the meat. If the temperature fluctuates (during storage or transport, at the supermarket, or on the way to your home), these crystals can melt, combine with neighboring crystals, and then refreeze. These irregularly shaped ice crystals will start to poke the cell membranes in the meat, make holes and the cell tissues in the muscles will start to lose their internal contents. Then when they are cooked, those birds will be dry."

Mike Bober

Far be it from me to argue with the folks at Cook's Illustrated, Todd. Generally speaking, I have yet to find fault with any of their recipes or their tips.

That being said, I think you can avoid the ice crystal situation that causes the issue ATK is referencing if you get your bird fresh from one of the farms listed above. If you want to make doubly sure, ask when you call to reserve one...chances are they'll give you a straight answer one way or the other.

As for brining - I highly recommend it, whether you buy a pre-brined kosher turkey or a fresh turkey and then brine it yourself. Either way, the process does wonders for locking in moisture, and there are quite a few recipes out there that don't result in an overly salty turkey (I had great results using Alice Waters' widely available Chez Panisse recipe).

Colleen/FoodieTots

This is quite the list! To add to it, in Alexandria, MOM's is taking orders for local/organic birds (I assume their other locations are too), and we always enjoy Smith Meadows' free range birds, which we pick up at the Del Ray Farmers market. (Though I think it's probably past their deadline to order.) South Mountain Creamery offers turkeys to their delivery customers, we love their dark ground turkey meat.

Paul

Hi. Just to clarify, EcoFriendly Foods has some fantastic turkeys available but we're not delivering them fresh. They were harvested about two weeks ago and have been vacuum packed and put in the chill. I cooked one this past Sunday using Mark Bittman's braising technique that he pointed out in last week's New York Times. It was superb.

You only have until noon on November 19 to place your order if you would like an EcoFriendly turkey. They'll be available for you to pickup at the Arlington Courthouse or Dupont Circle farmers markets this coming weekend. (Find all the details on our website at www.ecofriendly.com). Cheers, Paul from EcoFriendly Foods

dean

Maple Lawn used to supply whole foods in years past but WF grew to large for them to supply. These are very good birds. I walked their processing plant and they are good producers all around.

Jason

I second the Maple Lawn turkeys. Excellent all around - juicy and great flavor.

Paul

Ok, clarifying my clarification just above. EcoFriendly DOES have some fresh turkeys available for walkup purchase. We had some this morning at the Arlington Courthouse market and we'll have them again tomorrow morning at Dupont Circle. They're all in the 18-21 pound range. Cheers!

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