Don't Wait! Why Buying Your Thanksgiving Turkey Right Now Is the Way To Go

Yes, you read that correctly.

frozen whole turkey
Photo: Getty Images

Anyone who works in recipe development or food media will tell you that we're always working at least a few months ahead of what's actually in season. That means you might see us developing a summer-ready peach pie in the depths of February or we might be working on a cozy, pumpkin bisque in the early days of June. Just another day on the job! Given this out-of-season schedule, that also means that we're likely working on Thanksgiving content during late summer.

One of my recent assignments led me on a wild goose chase (well, a turkey chase, actually) for a whole turkey in September. Now, I want to be clear about the fact that buying a whole turkey at a grocery store before November is most definitely an art form. It requires patience and diligence. I started where all good research starts — the internet, of course. From there, I was able to glean which grocery store chains near me were selling turkeys. Once I knew which chains of stores were actually carrying them, I started calling nearby locations.

I will be the first one to admit that calling grocery stores is not a very fun task. However, it does save you the heartbreak of doing a full tour of all your local grocery stores only to find that the item you're looking for is not in stock. So make the call, get a hold of someone in the butchery department, and ask them if they have any whole turkeys. It may feel like a bold question to ask during any month that isn't November, but it's a fair one, and the butcher will be happy to let you know. After a few stores told me, "Ma'am, it's September... we don't have any whole turkeys," one very excited butcher let me know that he did in fact have a freezer full of whole turkeys. SUCCESS.

So, how am I possibly going to argue that going through all of this trouble now is better than just buying a turkey in November when they're readily available? Well, buying the turkey now ensures you'll be one step ahead of the game for your Thanksgiving spread. It's going to be one less thing to worry about as the big day creeps up. Instead, you'll have your lovely bird hanging in your freezer in the comfort of your home, so all you'll need to do is pull it out a few days before to thaw and brine it.

We all know how chaotic grocery shopping can be during the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, so avoid any last-minute scrambling around for the star of your table. Rather than elbowing fellow shoppers huddled around the freezer bin of birds in order to get the exact poundage you need, you can calmly, casually select the very bird you want and go about your day.

For anyone who regularly hosts Thanksgiving dinner, you're well aware that the final countdown to mealtime can be somewhat frantic, but already having your bird at the ready is surprisingly reassuring. Plus, if you see that turkey waiting every time you dip into the freezer for something, you're more apt to go ahead and start thinking about what you want to do with it when the time comes. Will you try a new recipe, flavor profile, or cooking method for it? Does a wet brine or dry brine make more sense? Naturally, these thought processes could very well lead to selecting the side dishes that belong next to this turkey, that you so lovingly secured ahead of time. Point being, buying your bird early is an impetus to be on top of every aspect of your Thanksgiving planning, meaning that the holiday itself can be less stressful and feel more in-line with the day's purpose: Enjoying the people around you and counting your blessings.

The one caveat to this piece of advice is that it obviously excludes fresh turkeys. If you are wanting to source a fresh turkey for your Thanksgiving centerpiece, you'll need to wait until a few days before the holiday so that it's safe to eat. However, I'd argue that it's easier, cheaper, and just as delicious to opt for the frozen route and make sure that you have your bases covered before it's even Halloween. Now that is really something to be thankful for.

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