Your Guide to the Best Thanksgiving Turkey Ever

Theo Weening is a third-generation butcher and the Global Meat Buyer at Whole Foods Market. His in-depth knowledge of raising practices, cuts and preparation techniques have made him a highly sought-out national expert. With Theo’s advice, you can look forward to a Thanksgiving centerpiece full of flavor, juiciness and flair — a turkey you can’t wait to serve up and show off. See his expert tips below.

Hosting Thanksgiving? Prime members save on Organic Whole Turkeys and Whole Turkeys from 11/13 to 11/28/19 so get ready to reserve your turkey.  

1. Know Our Turkeys

Here at Whole Foods Market, we offer many different turkey choices in our Meat department.

Organic turkeys get organic feed (which also means non-GMO), and the birds are given access to fresh air and the outdoors.

Kosher turkeys are rubbed with kosher salt inside and out and are checked by specially trained rabbinical inspectors to make sure they’re processed in accordance with kosher standards. The kosher salt preseasons the bird and gives it extra flavor.

Heritage turkeys are leaner with a smaller meat-to-bone ratio and can be very flavorful.

Heirloom turkeys are a little bigger than heritage turkeys, but they’re still really flavorful. Plus, there's lots of great dark meat. I’ve been on a bronze heirloom kick for the past couple of years.

Pre-brined turkeys are hand-brined the old-fashioned way, using a blend of salt and spices. For Christmas, when I fry a turkey, I go brined.

2. Know What Makes Our Turkeys Different

We offer so many different turkey choices, but they all have a few important things in common:

Turkeys in our Meat department are Animal Welfare Certified (except kosher turkeys), which requires third-party auditing of farms for over 100 animal welfare standards. And, like all meat and poultry in the department, the animals must be raised with no antibiotics ever, and no animal by-products in feed. We know our suppliers; we know how they grow their birds.

3. Size Generously

I love having turkey leftovers, so I recommend going for more than what you really need. Rule of thumb is 1.5 – 2 pounds per person, but I’d get an 18- to 20-pounder for six people. Keep in mind that a 30-pound bird might not be as tender, so consider two smaller ones if you have a large group.

Use this handy servings calculator to figure out exactly how much to buy.

4. Dry Brine to Add Flavor

Dry brining is the key to getting the most flavor out of your turkey. Check out the method I like to use below.

Start with:

  • 12- to 14-lb turkey (thawed)
  • 4 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar

Add one tablespoon of any of the following (up to ½ cup total): whole cloves, cumin seeds, fennel seeds, star anise, peppercorns, garlic cloves, smoked paprika, red pepper flakes, nutmeg, bay leaves, fresh thyme, fresh rosemary, fresh sage and citrus zest.

Toast any whole spices in a dry skillet, crush coarsely with a mortar and pestle and mix with sugar and any fresh herbs, zest and ground spices.

Rub turkey inside and out with spice mixture, including some of the mixture under the skin.

Refrigerate, uncovered, on a rack set in a rimmed baking sheet for 24 – 72 hours — allow at least one hour per pound of turkey.

When you’re ready to cook your turkey, try this recipe.

5. Present Your Platter Proudly

At last, time to present your bird! Think of your serving platter as a blank canvas for a rainbow of edible garnishes — a handful of figs here, a splash of juicy blood oranges there. After carving, I put breast meat slices in the middle with the drumsticks together to one side and the thigh meat together on the other. Then, at each end of the platter, I’ll put one wing. Finally … eat it, of course.

Have more questions? Feel free to chat with our experts behind the counter in the Meat department. They love talking turkey! 

*Valid 11/13 – 11/28/19. Excludes brined, smoked, cooked, oven-ready, heirloom, heritage and kosher turkeys. Quantity limits apply. Select U.S. stores. While supplies last. No rain checks except where required by law.

Explore more