Eric and I are hosting Thanksgiving this year for the first time. Last year I did the majority of the cooking but I had my mom and sister by my side. This year my Mom’s health hasn’t been as strong lately so she won’t be able to help as much. Luckily though, I filmed us cooking last year so I have video recipes to follow 🙂
So I am tackling it like I do everything else with tons of pre-planning! I busted out my planner and I am making shopping lists and meal planning and I am sharing them with you!
It may still seem a little early but it’s time to start thing about how many guests you will have, how big of a turkey you will need and with all of the options out there like Butterball, Organic and grocery store off-brands it can get a little overwhelming. Here are some tips to get you started.
1. How big of a turkey do you need?
The rule of thumb is 1 to 1 & 1/4 pounds of turkey per guest. I found this super easy guide from good housekeeping you can follow to see how much of your side dishes you need as well.
2. Why type of turkey should you choose?
Fresh? Frozen? Butterball? The National Turkey Federation says, “There is no quality difference between a fresh and frozen turkey.” But, freezing any meat has a disruptive effect on cell structure — when meat is frozen, the ice crystals that form around the cells can cause cell damage and fluid loss, ultimately resulting in drier meat. Here is an easy overview of they “Turkey Terms.”
- Basted or Self-basting: These are whole turkeys that are injected with or marinated in a solution that, according to USDA specifications, includes “butter or other edible fat, broth, stock or water; plus spices, flavor enhancers and other approved substances.” This increases the moisture content in the meat; however, it also masks the natural taste of the bird.
- Free Range/Free Roaming/Cage Free: These turkeys have access to the outside and the ability to move about a yard. This increased mobility helps to develop muscle, contributing to a more fully flavored and complex meat. A common misconception is that free range chicken is synonymous with organic or naturally processed birds. These distinctions only refer to the animal’s ability to roam and its access to light, not feed or processing.
- Kosher: The distinction given to the birds that have been killed according to Jewish dietary laws. Kosher birds are salted inside and out, and left to drain before soaking and washing. Since the salt pulls moisture from the meat of the bird, the flesh is denser. These birds, also prized for their full taste, tend to be more expensive than non-kosher poultry.
- Natural: Can be added to a label if no artificial flavors, coloring, ingredients, chemical preservatives or any other artificial or synthetic ingredients were used to process the meat. Natural poultry can have antibiotics as part of their regime. Poultry labeled “natural” should not be confused with organic. Sometimes “no hormones” will be added to the label; this is a meaningless distinction, since hormones are never used in poultry or egg production in the U.S.
- Organic: Organic poultry represent a two-stage process. First, the farmer does not use any chemicals, antibiotics or roughage fillers when raising the birds, as well as giving them access to the outdoors and direct sunlight, as with free range. In addition, the animal’s feed must be raised organically — without chemical fertilizers or pesticides. These birds tend to be more expensive, but are potentially the finest and fullest flavored available.
It really comes down to what is available in your area, what works best for your budget and the taste you prefer. Organic free range turkeys can cost $100-$200. So purchase what is best for you and your guests.
3. To Paleo or not to Paleo?
Are you planning on following your paleo, autoimmune, keto, or grain-free lifestyle for holiday gatherings? It’s totally a personal call for whatever is best for you. If you have changed your lifestyle because of health conditions you should definitely consult your doctor, dietitian or nutritionist before deciding to splurge. But, I think the book, It starts with food, put it best. Don’t stress over the decisions you are making. The stress does just as much harm on your body as the bad food so make the decision and enjoy it. Personally, I plan to follow pretty strict paleo with a little splurge on a small amount of corn bread dressing. Need paleo recipe inspiration? Check out some of Sarah’s recipes from last Thanksgiving under the Paleo section.
That’s all for now but check back as I will be sharing another Thanksgiving Prep blog in the next couple of weeks! Here is your Thanksgiving Meal Planner 🙂