Fresh turkey storage?
December 20, 2005 10:37 AM   Subscribe

Turkeyfilter. How long can a fresh turkey be kept refrigerated? We are planning to cook a fresh bird on Christmas day. I just phoned the store, and they said they received a shipment today that will be good for seven days. Can this be possible?

It's a grain-fed, free range turkey. As a side question, should a fresh bird be prepared any differently than a frozen one? We will be brining. I'm considering grill smoking it, but I'm a little wary of that since I've never grilled a 15 pound hunk of meat before, and I don't want to be "the guy who ruined Christmas."
posted by Otis to Food & Drink (13 answers total)

Do you mean the store will refrigerate it for seven days or that you will. If it's the store, I'd check with them on how they're storing it. Most supermarkets "refrigerate" poultry at 26-30 degrees F since any poultry can be called fresh if it is stored above 26.

Here's the USDA turkey page.
posted by dchase at 10:57 AM on December 20, 2005

I won't comment on the longetivity, as trevyn looks like s/he has it covered. Brining is absolutely the move. Last Saturday night we had our solstice party and they raved about the turkey. Salt, sugar, peppercorns, garlic cloves, herbs, boom, 24 hours later it's magic. If you are gonna cook the turkey on the grill (I didn't this time but I have in the past made it on the grill for Thanksgiving) I hope you don't really mean you will be 'smoking' it. You are still roasting it, just on a BBQ grill vs. in an oven. We used a Weber grill with the hinged sides, and a drip pan under the turkey - vitally important. Two strips of hot coals on either side, refresh coals as necessary. Fifteen pounds = 2.5 to 3 hours. One of those remote reading transmitter thermometers is great if you have one or can borrow one. It can be set to sound an alarm on the receiver you can clip to your belt when it hits the magic temp.
posted by fixedgear at 11:00 AM on December 20, 2005

Response by poster: I did do my googling. Promise. I am trying to reconcile what the store is saying (7 days) vs. what the internets are saying (3-4 days tops). Obviously, the store doesn't want to poison their customers. So, just trying to see what the consensus is here.
posted by Otis at 11:02 AM on December 20, 2005

Best answer: I bought a fresh, free range bird for Thanksgiving about 6 days before and I remember that the sell by date was Dec. 1! I brined it for 24 hours (my brining recipe also called for two oranges cut in quarters.) I also injected cajun butter under the skin. Didn't stuff it. Basted with my home made turkey broth a few times and it was fantastic. Really. My husband raved. And nobody got sick. So I guess it was OK.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 11:41 AM on December 20, 2005

Best answer: I bought my turkey the Sunday before Thanksgiving, and am still alive (it spent 4 days in my fridge). I don't remember what the label said, but as I recall, it was an "organic farm" bird.

Oh, and ditto the brining. Didn't have time to do it this year, but several relatives have done it, and I can testify firsthand, it's delish!
posted by ObscureReferenceMan at 11:43 AM on December 20, 2005

Best answer: My farmers (I bought direct) told me I could store my free range organic turkey for up to 7 days.
posted by miss tea at 11:52 AM on December 20, 2005

As for your side question, I've done the conventional oven-route, deep-fried and Brined. Brining is the ONLY way to go. We brined this year (copped out an bought the brining spices from Williams-Sonoma) and my GF some how manage the feat of cooking it to perfection (simultaneously achieving the different optimum temps for white and dark meat).

It was UNFRICKIN' real. So, so, so moist. Brine, baby, brine.
posted by Heminator at 12:04 PM on December 20, 2005

I'm fourthing (?!) the brining. Our Thanksgiving bird was great. And it was still great the next day, and the day after that, and the day after that. Oh wait, and the day after that.
posted by clh at 12:54 PM on December 20, 2005

Response by poster: fixedgear,
I've got a Silver Smoker, so I was mulling over the idea of smoking the turkey, using the instructions in the The Cook's Illustrated Guide To Grilling And Barbecue.

Thanks for all the answers so far everyone.
posted by Otis at 12:59 PM on December 20, 2005

If you air-dry the turkey for at least a few hours after brining and before roasting, you will be rewarded with a super-crispy skin. Brining and air-drying are so worth it!
posted by houseofdanie at 1:18 PM on December 20, 2005

Otis: Smoking is lower and slower, so allow lots and lots of time. It's a big bird and if you don't get the inernal temp up high enough it will be a very unhappy Christmas.
posted by fixedgear at 1:50 PM on December 20, 2005

By "fresh" the grocer may actually mean "partially frozen". I've bought "fresh" turkeys that were kept on ice until sale and were more than a little bit frozen inside.

They're just not "deep frozen" like a Butterball, which is like 20 pounds of solid ice when you buy it.
posted by briank at 1:54 PM on December 20, 2005

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