When To Buy Your Thanksgiving Turkey

Sweet-and-Spicy Roast Turkey
PHOTO: GREG DUPREE; PROP STYLIST: GINNY BRANCH; FOOD STYLIST: CAT STEELE

Before you know it, Thanksgiving will be here, with friends and family lining up for a traditional spread—and that always means turkey. Whether you like it smoked, deep-fried, or dry-brined, one thing’s for certain—you better have that bird.

But do you know when to buy a turkey? Butterball Turkey Talk-Line Expert Tyler Loranger says turkeys should be available in stores beginning in early November, and the best time to buy your turkey will depend on what kind of turkey you want.

When To Buy Frozen Turkeys

Loranger shares that frozen turkeys can be purchased several weeks in advance. That’s assuming you’ve got enough room in your freezer to store it, of course. She adds, “Just make sure you have enough time to thaw your turkey before the big day.”

Butterball recommends thawing in the refrigerator one day for every four pounds of turkey. So, if there is a specific size turkey you want, your best bet is to shop early to ensure you can find it.

Not sure about what size you need? Check out our reviewed and verified “How Much Turkey Do You Need?” guide.

If you’re one of those Southerners who loves a sale and also to get ahead, feel free to buy next year’s turkey now. According to foodsafety.gov, a frozen, never-thawed turkey will last a year in the freezer.

When To Buy Fresh Turkeys

Loranger says that Fresh Butterball turkeys sold in November will be good until Thanksgiving if kept refrigerated, but be sure to check the sell-by date on packages. Butterball offers a general guideline that you should cook or freeze the turkey within four days of the sell-by date.

Some stores and butcher shops will let you reserve fresh turkeys in advance so you’re not scrambling through the cooler for the right bird. Call ahead as soon as you can, and reserve a fresh turkey at the size you need in your name. Then, pick it up within the week before Thanksgiving.

Unsure whether you want to get a fresh or a frozen turkey? Check out our handy fresh-vs.-frozen guide.

When To Buy Heritage Turkeys

Depending upon where you live, you might be able to purchase a fresh heritage bird. More expensive than supermarket turkeys, they can also be much more delicious.

One such top bird is the KellyBronze. Paul Kelly, the second generation owner of KellyBronze, offers turkeys online in the United Kingdom and the United States.

Says Kelly, “Our website is open for orders the day after Thanksgiving right the way through until we are sold out. We only grow to order for our butcher customers and always grow a few extra to ensure we can meet the extra demand we have every year. The time to order is as soon as you can. We normally sell out of the popular weights the first week in November.”

Tracking down in-stock heritage birds can be tricky, especially the later in the season it gets. In case you’re having trouble finding the perfect bird, here’s our list of the best turkeys you can buy online.

Whatever kind of turkey you want, the best bet is not to wait too long. With several retailers lowering turkey prices this year, you’d better believe that shoppers will be out and about. Good luck and Happy Thanksgiving!