Turkey: Tips for Buying, Roasting and Carving

Turkey is a part of many holiday feasting traditions at this time of year. These days there are many turkey options for folks looking for something more than an industrially-raised, frozen bird from their local supermarket. In particular, organic turkeys are increasingly easy to find at local butchers and supermarkets, although you may have to pre-order them. Not always though. I found some at my local Loblaw’s right beside the other fresh birds. So even though time is getting short, it’s still not too late to pick up a turkey and plan a few fixings to go with it.

I’m no turkey expert, since after being vegetarian I only cooked my first bird a few years ago. Although intimidating, I found it remarkably easy. Once it’s in the oven, I was also free to do other things.

Rather than parrot advice given to me, here are some other great resources for buying, roasting, and carving your holiday bird.

  • If you’re unsure of the difference between free-range, grain-fed, heritage, and organic, the Montreal Gazette (via the Ottawa Citizen) gives us the low-down on the different kind of turkeys you can buy. A lot of the fresh turkey in Quebec supermarkets comes from within the province. You can find out more about how poultry is raised in Quebec here.
  • Once you have decided what kind of bird to buy, call your local butcher to see if they have any available. If not, try one of the places on my list of shops that sell sustainable foods. Don’t restrict yourself to butchers, some specialised food stores will take special orders this time of year for holiday birds. You can also consult Ethiquette.
  • For some advice from an expert on roasting a turkey, take Aimee’s Crash Course on Turkey Roasting over at Simple Bites. She knows what she’s talking about. In the span of one summer she roasted 22 turkeys. Wow! She’s got the whole process planned out the day before to stuff to do while the bird is in the oven.
  • Not sure when to put your bird in the oven? Consult this handy table of cooking times  from the Turkey Farmers of Canada. They recommend roasting to an internal temperature of 170°F (77°C) in the breast and 180°F (82°C) in the thigh. The stuffing should be at least 165°F (74°C).
  • Once your turkey is ready for the table, Charmian Christie has a short video with instructions for carving the bird. Step one, make sure you have a sharp knife. In my family, the bird is carved at the table and sharpening the carving knife right before carving is a big part part of the holiday meal ritual. Need a refresher? Here is a quick instructional video from The Guardian on how to sharpen a carving knife.

Finally, for a historical look at buying, roasting and carving a turkey, check out this fun article from the Torontoist. Advice from before our birds came all neatly packaged in plastic: Check the eyes and feet. Sunken eyes and dry feet are signs of an old bird. Who knew?


Do you have turkey tips or a favourite place to buy free range, heritage or organic turkeys? Let me know! I’ll add places to my list of resources. Happy holidays!

PS. Do you enjoy my blog? I’m up for a Canadian Blog Award in the Best Food and Drink Blog category! I’m stunned and humbled. Go vote for me, or any of the other great blogs, here. You can only vote once, so choose carefully and spread the word. Voting ends December 24th at 12:00 am (I’m not sure which side of the clock that is).

Tags: #cooking #meat #miscellaneous #organic.

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