Get the Best Bird for your Buck

Time, taste and even the size of your fridge can determine what's the best turkey for you. Here's how much you should expect to spend, and clever ways to save.
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TURKEY TYPE: FRESH

turkey

Costs $1 per pound and up. You'll pay a bit more for the freshness and convenience.

Goes straight from store to oven. No need to deal with a four-day defrosting -- or the fridge space required for it. Pick it up at the store in the a.m. (yes, most stores are open Thanksgiving morning!), season and put right in the oven.

Must be ordered ahead. Give the supermarket butcher at least two weeks' notice. The plus side: You're guaranteed to get the size you want and a superfresh bird!

Tip: Prebrined fresh birds are hard to come by. Find them at Trader Joe's (brined in sea salt).

TURKEY TYPE: FROZEN

turkey

Costs less than $1 per pound. Frozen is usually the cheapest (and most common) option in the supermarket.

Requires a not-so-packed fridge. That's the safest place to defrost before cooking.

Needs three to four days to defrost. Plan for approximately one day for every 5 pounds of meat.

Saves you prep work. If the label says "basted," that means the turkey's been prebrined (treated with a salty solution to keep the meat moist).

TURKEY TYPE: ORGANIC

turkey

Starts at $3 per pound. This option (fresh or frozen) is the most costly, but it's also the healthiest.

No artificial stuff! The USDA label means the turkeys ate organic feed, were spared antibiotics and growth hormones, and were grown free-range.

More flavor! "Turkeys that are allowed to roam and graze [called free-range] have more natural flavor," says Theo Weening, meat buyer for Whole Foods Market.

Tip: Many stores now offer a private-label free-range option (like Safeway Open Nature) for up to 20 percent less than organic.