After what has been a decidedly delayed fall here in Toronto, autumn is finally upon us. And, seemingly out of nowhere, it's Thanksgiving... and that means turkey time! Thanksgiving is one of my favourite holidays as it means enjoying great food with family - but it can also be a stressful and expensive time of year as one balances hosting out-of-towners with a serious task in the kitchen.
It's also easy to get overwhelmed at the grocery store when your list is as long as your arm - but there's no need to spend more than you need to. My big rule for saving money this time of year is buying my turkey on sale, and I generally buy it frozen (now, don't gasp at that f-word). I can guarantee you that my turkey gets rave reviews every time and no one would ever guess that I buy frozen turkeys (although the cat is out of the bag now).
How Do I Get a Cheap Turkey?
You can generally count on turkeys going on sale for $0.79 per pound the week before Thanksgiving and the weeks leading up to Christmas. Overall, if you’re buying frozen, you should expect to pay anywhere between $0.79 to $1.25 per pound.
TIP: Price Match Your Turkey
A lot of grocery stores offer price matches on turkeys during the holiday hustle and bustle. Simply bring in your weekly flyer (or use your favourite flyer app) when you’re in store to get the best deal.
How Big of a Turkey Should I Buy?
As I rule of thumb, I like to budget two pounds per person, with the caveat that I never like to buy a turkey that’s less than 10 pounds (you’re just paying for the bones at that price).
|Servings||Weight||Est Price($0.79 to $1.25 per pound)|
|4||10 lbs||$8.90 to $12.50|
|5||10 lbs||$8.90 to $12.50|
|6||12 lbs||$10.68 to $15.00|
|7||14 lbs||$12.46 to $17.50|
|8||16 lbs||$14.24 to $20.00|
|9||18 lbs||$16.02 to $22.50|
|10||20 lbs||$17.80 to $25.00|
Cooking turkey for two? If you’re cooking turkey for two (or one), buying a 10 to 12 pound turkey just means that you’ll have extra leftovers for sandwiches or turkey soup. If you’re just after turkey for one meal, consider buying a turkey breast on its own which should be enough to feed two people.
What’s the Best Way to Cook a Frozen Turkey?
The best method for cooking a frozen turkey is to brine it. If you have never brined a turkey you should definitely try is this year. And not to fear - it is the easiest way to guarantee a juicy turkey with a crisp skin. Here's my no-fail recipe:
1 frozen turkey
¾ cup of salt
½ cup of maple syrup
1 cup of apple cider vinegar
4 litres of stock – I use veggie stock no salt added (you can be frugal here and use bouillon cubes)
3 tbsp of worchestershire sauce
3 tbsp of rosemary
3 tbsp of savory
2 tbsp of ground ginger
3 tbsp of ground garlic
4 bay leaves
Head of Garlic
Bunch of Savory
- Thaw your turkey in your fridge for at least 12 hours.
- Combine all brine ingredients (except the water) in a stock pot and bring to a simmer over medium heat. I usually taste the brine to see how the flavour is coming through.
- Cool the brine down to room temperature and then add the cold water. Pop the mixture into the fridge until it’s cool. (I will often have the brine in the fridge overnight as I am defrosting the turkey.)
- Remove the brine from the fridge and place in a large cooler, bucket or brining bag. The container you’re using needs to be large enough to fit your turkey and the brine mixture.
- Put your turkey in the bucket with the brine mixture and add enough water to the mixture until the turkey is covered.
- Put it in the refrigerator and let sit for at least 24 hours flipping the turkey over every 12 hours. (I usually let mine sit for 48 hours.)
- On turkey day, remove your turkey from the fridge and the brine mixture and pat down the turkey with some paper towel one hour before you want to start cooking. This is what gives a turkey that beautiful brown skin!
- Preheat your oven to 500 Degrees Fahrenheit
- In your roasting tray, line the bottom of the tray with carrots and celery for extra flavour and add a sprinkle of water.
- Liberally coat the outside and the cavity of the turkey with olive oil (you can use a pastry brush). Salt and pepper the outside of the bird and the cavity.
- In the cavity of the turkey, add a whole head of garlic, an onion (roughly chopped with skin), an apple (chopped core removed), and a bunch of savory.
- Place the bird in the roasting rack on an angle with the legs pointing up and the breast facing down.
- Put the turkey in the oven for 30 minutes.
- After 30 minutes, remove the turkey from the oven and baste the turkey.
- Reduce the temperature to 350 degrees.
- Every 30 minutes remove the turkey from the oven to baste. Keep cooking the turkey until 160 degrees Fahrenheit (remember to test the breast and the thigh!). A 12 lbs turkey usually takes me two hours to cook.
- Once your turkey is cooked, remove from oven and cover with foil. Let it rest for at least 15 minutes before carving. This way your delicious turkey juices will remain in the bird where you want them.
BONUS TIP – Easy Gravy!
Once your turkey is out of the oven and resting, take the juices from the pan and put them through a strainer and put them in a pot. Put the pot on the stovetop on medium heat until simmering. Separately, fill a mason jar with warm water and add in 3 to 4 tbsp of flour. Put a lid on the jar and shake the components until you have a thick white liquid. Slowly pour the flour water into your turkey dripping over the stove until your gravy has thickened to desired consistency. Now, don't forget that cranberry sauce!