Sixty-nine percent of people buy their birds frozen, according to a poll by the National Turkey Federation. But your basic Butterballs aren’t the only ones on the block. We size up three labels to see which birds are really worth their weight and let you in on some defrosting tips.


 At its best, this label means the bird has no added colorings or artificial ingredients. At its worst, it's a marketing gimmick.

"USDA Organic"
 This seal means the antibiotic-free bird was fed an organic diet and had free-range access. Translation: healthier turkey.

 This bird is pre-brined, making it the juiciest of the bunch. So it's flavorful and moist -- even the day after.


Get Your Fridge Ready.
 Sit your bird in a sturdy pan that won't leak and cross-contaminate other foods.

Kill Two Birds with One Stone.
 Marinate your turkey during its last three hours of defrosting time. That's when it's supple and ready to soak up whatever seasonings your heart desires, be it soy sauce and ginger or lemon, olive oil and herbs.

Give it a Brining Bath.
 That's 1-1/2 cups kosher salt dissolved in 2 gallons of cold tap water. Change the brine every 30 minutes. We tried this in our test kitchen with a 16-pounder -- and shaved the thaw time from seven hours to four!

No Room In There?
 No problem. Let your turkey chill with the cool crowd. Replicate fridge-like conditions and thaw it in an ice-filled beer cooler.

Finish Off the Job In the Microwave.
 If your bird's still partially frozen come roasting time, cut off the leg/thigh portion, microwave the white and dark meat separately, then lean them right back on the body before roasting.