You would think that after 40 years of personally roasting whole poultry that selecting and prepping the birds would be easy for us at this time of year. From vertical quail through turkey racks, we’ve had a chance to test and try numerous brands, state-to-state, country-to-country, and all over the world.
It’s never been that simple, so here are some tips, as well as a few lessons we have learned along the way.
My biggest advice is that unless you know the butcher well at the market you’re buying from, stay alert and be cautious when they tell you the birds are fresh and have never been frozen. They know if they thawed them out personally that same day. Fresh how long should truly be the concern. I find it hard to believe that turkeys moved from the farm to the processing facility, to the frig, then to the truck transport area maintain a perfect truck frig temp between 32’- 42’ degrees, let alone sitting at the stores’ unloading docks until they finally reach refrigeration at store display. That’s a long trek to ensure a constant and safe temperature that is vital in order to stay fresh/fresh. Let alone, the time in your car before it hits your frig until you are ready to hopefully cook it in the next day or two. So, in a word, why stress?
Unless you have a trusted and knowledgeable butcher such as Merle Ellis, as I did in my life, you need to do your own homework and not cut corners. Merle Ellis was a wonderful man who explained professional safety secrets as to how to handle poultry purchases especially at holiday time, and for that matter all year long.
Buying fresh frozen essentially means that after they process at the farm facility they quickly freeze the poultry to this frozen state, store it frozen, ship it frozen, deliver it frozen, and then put it in the meat case. This then allows the customer to get it home and thaw it out safely under his or her own command. This way, you can buy your turkey a week before Thanksgiving and keep it frozen until you’re ready to thaw it out the day or so before. 24-36 hours in the regular frig area will thaw out a whole turkey, or close to it. Luke warm water to clean and prep will finish the thaw.
So unless the butcher can guarantee you that he personally followed the turkey from the farm to the counter safely all the way, fresh frozen is the safest way to go. At least you’re in control more so then not. Another tip is to always check the date on the packaging. Read injection ingredients as some birds are packed with extra broth and liquid in order to make them juicier. Don’t be fooled by injection or pre-brined birds. Check leaks or cracks in the packaging as well. Poultry come in different grades A= Almost perfect Bird B= some split skins and wing tips missing, C= lots of damage, best for stewing, or pet food.
And the biggest alert is that if something is on sale or being given away at .39 /. 59 cents a lb. there’s usually a reason they are now a low cost promo item. I tend to stay away from gimmicky promos. You get what you pay for in this world.
If you know the brand you trust and you just bought $50 -$100 dollars worth of groceries in that store and they in turn are legitimately promoting the savings on a turkey, it is still best to get the frozen ones to be safe.
Whole poultry is a commodity these days, as growers don’t make a great profit margin per lb. on whole birds.
Oftentimes, they pack in extra gizzards, or leave the extra fat in the package so when you think you’re buying a 15 lb. bird your only actually getting a 13-½ pounder. The frozen broth, gizzards, sauce packets included add up to an extra lb. or two that they charge you for. So, if you are looking for a true 14 lb. bird, buy a 15 lb. one and you should be right on the money. Or better yet, get two 15 lb. birds for 28 lbs. of meat. Simply cook two face to face and have leftovers for the whole family to enjoy. See Spanek video mini movies.
Having a whole roasted chicken or duck on a Sunday, as a family meal was something I grew up with and it was a wonderful dining experience for all. We actually talked to each other and discussed issues. It’s why Momma Spanek invented the vertical roaster for poultry and why we dedicated our lives as a family to whole poultry racks in every size. We have been searing in natural juices into the birds for the last 50 years. Intrigued by the various culinary flavors around the world that we experienced in our travels, we were delighted by the unique ethic essences that complemented our vertically roasted poultry.
So, to fully appreciate why we recommend our original vertical roasters in all sizes to achieve perfectly cooked poultry, please visit our vertical planet on our web- site, read the testimonials by the food editors from around the world, and watch the mini movies to learn the various benefits of cooking vertically. Join the family!
In the meantime, you’ve learned from my old friend Merle Ellis. Fresh is frozen and frozen is fresh, and that doesn’t just pertain to poultry, but also fresh fish, meats and items that need instant protection to keep things fresh.
Even on boats after a good catch, the cleaning of fish at their freshest is quite important. Some packaging tells you that they freeze the fish right on aboard ship. I don’t think fresh would be fresh if it takes the boat 2 days to come back to port, so pay attention.
Denis / Shirley/ Sean