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How Big is that Turkey in the Freezer?

Do you know what size and grade of turkey to buy for that special day?

When you're planning for a family gathering - usually at Thanksgiving - you may be wondering exactly how what size turkey to buy? And what grade?

First, you should plan on no less than three-quarters of a pound of uncooked meat per person. To play it safe, calculate it at one pound and if you expect to make leftovers or are not sure who likes dark meat and who prefers white, you'll be in much less of a panic if you purchase 1.5 pounds per person. Just check the tag on the turkey package to determine how much it weighs.

The next decision lies in whether you purchase one large bird or two (or more) smaller ones. It really doesn't matter; the advantages are that two smaller birds will take less time to cook if you have the oven space and don't have to worry about other side dishes. You can also cook one bird ahead of time; have it ready to reheat while the other turkey is still in the oven.

Size will probably affect the taste somewhat as older birds may be a bit tougher. The general classifications are determined by age.

Fryers and roasters - these will be the most expensive as they usually weigh 8 pounds or less and were slaughtered at 16 weeks of age. Think about a smaller bird if you're single or have a very small group of 2-4 people to feed.

Young roasters - these are harvested at no more than 8 months and can weigh as much as 24 pounds. Still fine eating.

Yearlings - As their name implies, they are quite old in turkey talk - about 12 months and they're not as tender. Purchase these if you're planning to create stock and will use the meat in casseroles and stews.

Mature - these are the old birds on the block and saw 15 months or more before going to the slaughterhouse. Don't think about roasting and yearlings are still preferred even if you're planning on a long slow simmer.

From a quality standpoint, stick to "Grade A," which is the very best you can buy from an appearance standpoint. A lesser grade may have minimal bruising, some skin tears, and perhaps a few pinfeathers still clinging. The taste is not necessarily affected.




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