What Turkey Should I Buy?

It’s time to buy that bird for the holidays. While some people have already ordered their turkeys at local markets, others are still puzzling over which brand to commit to. Will guests really notice the fancy heritage bird through the slurry of gravy and mashed potatoes, or will a generic store brand do just fine? Is it OK to like Butterball? And are kosher birds that good? Fortunately Chowhounds have long been debating the merits of different turkeys, and offer great insight. We’ve summarized their comments about some of the brands. No matter which you choose, make sure you have a trusted recipe.

DIESTEL

About $2.99 per pound for natural or $4.99 per pound for organic heirloom from Whole Foods

BUTTERBALL

About $1.59 to $1.79 per pound from Albertsons’s website

HERITAGE

About $8 to $12 per pound from local sources

EMPIRE KOSHER

About $3 per pound at various retailers

SUPERMARKET BRAND

Safeway Manor House frozen, about 40 cents per pound online (varies by store and specials)
Taste “I really like gamey meat, and I like Diestel turkeys, so yes, the Diestels are gamey.” –Humbucker “It was delicious. ... I had also read a taste test article where Butterball won out over other turkeys (brined, injected, Kosher, etc.).” –scoot “I think it has a more intense turkey flavor than supermarket birds.” –TomSwift “[T]he final roasted bird never fails to turn out totally succulent and delicious.” –RGR “I have never had a ‘bad’ frozen supermarket turkey. They are a bit bland, but simple saltwater brining takes care of that.” –sheiladammassa
Texture “[C]ooking at a low temperature results in a very tender and moist turkey.” –gordon wing
“[N]ot all that tasty or tender, IMO.” –JoyM
“[T]hey always turned out moist and delicious.” –attran99 “The whole thing tasted like dark meat though it had a more unctuous texture than a regular turkey leg.” –heidipie “The meat was moist, it sliced beautifully.” –Alexandra “[Safeway’s bargain bird] was awful. It was dry and tasted like sawdust.” –rworange
Appearance “They tend to be smaller than traditional turkeys which is ideal for our small family.” –Morton the Mousse “Those folks have been practicing making fool-proof turkeys for decades—they are basically pre-brined and very consistent.” –jdherbert “[T]hey are apparently not that easy to raise to a large size.” –sfbing “My friend spent the better part of an hour pulling out quills, pinfeathers and outright plumage before the turkey could be put into the oven.” –Bertie Lightoller “I usually buy a fresh store-brand turkey on the week they’re on sale, they tend to be less processed/injected than the frozen ones.” –ironmom
Other “I didn’t find a bit of difference taste-wise between the organic and regular Diestel.” –rworange “Butterball sells turkeys that aren’t pre-treated. I have brined many a Butterball myself. You need to read the label to find out if it has been injected.” –C. Hamster “The [Bourbon Red variety] have so much more dark meat than the big-breasted white turkeys. Less breast meat, though.” –TomSwift “[Y]ou can’t count on the package containing giblets.” –JoanN
“It is already brined.” –Rochel Kram
“If your market has a great price on loss-leader birds, buy a 2nd one and save it for Christmas or New Year.” –Sharuf