11.15.10

The Best Turkeys for Thanksgiving

Jacquelynn D. Powers on where to find the healthiest, tastiest birds for your Thanksgiving feast.

Whether it’s organic, free-range or Kosher, now is the time to order your artisanal Thanksgiving turkey. Going to the supermarket to pick up your bird two days before Thanksgiving can lead to disastrous results. Everyone has a horror story of buying a turkey and taking it home—only to discover that it was frozen and there was not enough time to defrost it before the big meal.

Plus, with many of us aiming for a more organic, healthful lifestyle, it only makes sense to source a humane, eco-friendly turkey. The rise of artisanal turkeys in this country has grown substantially in the last few years as farmers are trying to preserve heritage breeds of the fowl before they disappear entirely. The irony is that by purchasing one of these turkeys, you are actually helping to save the breed. Here are some of the best of the best:

1. Williams-Sonoma Willie Bird Fresh Organic Turkey

Williams-Sonoma has gotten into the artisanal turkey market with their fresh organic turkey from Willie Bird ranch in Sonoma County, which has been raising turkeys since 1948. The limited-quantity fowl is free of artificial pesticides and chemicals. Prices range from $79.95 to $159.95 (plus a $15 shipping charge). Williams-Sonoma also offers a fresh free-range turkey, also from Willie Bird ranch. In order to receive your turkey before Thanksgiving, orders must be placed by noon on November 19.

2. D’Artagnan Organic Free-Range Turkey

This purveyor of fine fowl (they are mainly known for their duck and foie gras), is selling organic free-range, heritage and wild turkeys just in time for Thanksgiving. Their heritage turkeys, for example, come from Standard Bronze and Bourbon Red stock, which means they are original breeds of turkeys, and not ones raised for mass commercial purposes. This results in a tastier, fresher bird sans antibiotics and hormones. The heritage option is priciest with birds ranging from $129 to $179; their certified organic turkeys are more reasonable with prices from $49 to $129. All orders must be processed by November 19.

3. Aaron’s Gourmet Kosher Organic Turkey

These turkeys have more certifications than Colin Powell. Not only are they organic but they have also been slaughtered and prepared in compliance of Jewish dietary laws. That means you can please both strict religious tribe members, as well as any health-conscious shiksas that may show up for your holiday feast. The turkeys cost $5.99 a pound and must be ordered up to 48 hours in advance.

4. Turducken

This Southern Thanksgiving delicacy is a study in excess. Imagine a semi-boneless turkey, stuffed with a deboned chicken that is stuffed with a deboned duck. That’s a helluva a lot of poultry. Cajun Grocers has upped the gourmet ante by adding cornbread stuffing, seafood jambalaya and Creole pork stuffing to the bird within a bird within a bird concept. Prices are all under $70, and they ship next day delivery for an extra fee.

5. Deep Fried Turkey

Calories, be damned. A deep-fried turkey is the ultimate indulgence over the holidays. And “Uncle Ray” Hartfield has been frying up fowl for over thirty years out of Jackson, Mississippi. His Southern turkey is deep fried and deftly spiced; there is also a Cajun version with a spicy kick. The turkeys range in size from 10 to 14 pounds and are under 50 bucks (plus added shipping). These tasty turkeys ship out within two days in special polar ice packs.

Plus: Check out Hungry Beast, for more news on the latest restaurants, hot chefs, and tasty recipes.

Jacquelynn D. Powers is a writer based in Miami Beach. Her work has appeared in the Miami New Times and slashfood.com. Prior to that, she was the Senior Editor of Ocean Drive magazine for over a decade.