A Guide to Turkeys

FINDING YOUR BIRD

We prefer locally-raised turkeys for our table.  Not only is the flavor much better than conventionally raised birds, but Thanksgiving turkey sales are a major source of income for small farms and businesses.  It's worth the extra legwork to support our local community.  

We're fortunate to have a number of wonderful local turkey producers here in Virginia.  Turkeys sell out quickly, so be sure to order yours well in advance.  Here are a few of our sources for local turkeys: 

The Whole Ox
Located in downtown Marshall, The Whole Ox has mastered the art of Thanksgiving prep for over a decade.  Not only will you find pre-made sides and snacks, but they also offer a variety of heritage breed turkeys at different weights.  No matter the size of your guest list or your wallet, they have the right turkey for you. 

Whiffletree Farm
For those local to Warrenton, Whiffletree Farm raises their own turkeys free of hormones, antibiotics, or GMO feed.  They range in size from 6lb to 28lb, so there's something for everyone.  Pick up some milk for your mashed potatoes or a wedge of cheese for the appetizer board while you're at it. 

The Organic Butcher of McLean
Folks in the DMV can find everything they need at The Organic Butcher of McLean.  Not only do they offer local, heritage turkeys, but other diverse options including turkey cuts, duck, goose, ham, and more.  A great option for those searching for something beyond turkey. 

Living Pastures
Okay, so there aren't actually any turkeys here, but Marshall-based Living Pastures certainly has a place on our list.  For those hosting smaller gatherings, they offer large chickens weighing in at about six pounds.  They're perfect for folks wanting the Thanksgiving experience without too much extra turkey.

 

HOW TO CHOOSE A TURKEY

For those looking for the Thanksgiving feast without the leftovers, we recommend one pound of turkey per a person.  If leftover turkey-stuffing sandwiches are you're think, add on a few more pounds to the equation. 

HERITAGE VS. CONVENTIONAL

Turkeys come in all shapes and sizes. 

White-hybrid breeds, bred over generations for their size, are the Norman-Rockwell-esque turkeys. With these more conventional birds, their breasts are much larger, so that'll mean a lot more white meat for the table.

Heritage breeds are smaller and leaner, more similar in build to wild turkeys—and often have a little more of that wild flavor to them too. These older breeds will have a more even distribution of white and dark meat, and generally will cook a little faster.

WHAT TO EXPECT

The meat of hybrid turkeys tends to dry out in the oven due to it's density.  For that reason, we recommend brining hybrid turkeys for a day before baking.  Other tricks, like baking the turkey upside-down or spatchcocking can all help to preserve moisture.  Heritage breeds generally don't need to be brined, and in some cases will actually lose flavor when brined.  When in doubt, we recommend following the advice of your local butcher.  

SMALLER GATHERING: CONSIDER A LARGE CHICKEN

Turkeys are big birds: your smallest ones will be 10-12 lbs. So if you're having a gathering of six or fewer people, a large chicken might actually be a better bet for you! We'll have 6lb local chickens available from our friends at Living Pastures Farm.

 


Thanksgiving: A Series

This year, we're running a month-long series to guide you through the highs and lows of Thanksgiving prep. Each week, we'll talk recipes and strategies for navigating each step of the journey.  From potatoes to pie, we've got you covered.  


All things Thanksgiving