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Thanksgiving Turkey Guide

Get Your Gobble On!

Learn how to Gobble Gobble

Is it really Thanksgiving if you don’t cook a turkey? At Lake Geneva Country Meats, we feel everyone should be able to experience the joy of cooking—and eating—a delicious turkey. In our Thanksgiving Turkey guide, we’ll run through how to order a turkey, how to cook a turkey, and how to carve a turkey.

How to Order a Turkey

At Lake Geneva Country Meats, we get a ton of questions asking what the best type of turkeys are, if buying a fresh turkey is important, and, most importantly, how big of a turkey to order! In this section, we answer all of your pressing turkey questions.

Yes, there definitely is! 

Frozen turkeys lose moisture in the freezing process. Losing moisture means that the meat becomes less juicy when you cook it, and no one wants a dry turkey!

Frozen turkeys cost less, and can be purchased throughout the year, but if you want the juiciest, most flavorful bird, we definitely recommend a fresh turkey.

Here’s our short answer: heck no!

We 100% do not recommend buying a turkey that has been pre-brined. If you see “enhanced” or “self-basting” on a turkey, it’s already been brined with a salt solution. Supposedly this helps add more flavor, but in our experience you will get a bird that has less flavor, takes longer to cook, and doesn’t get beautiful, crispy skin.

Many people are curious about “organic” or “free range turkeys.” Do they taste different (or better), and are they healthier. Here are a few explanations:

  • Organic turkeys are raised only using organic feed, must have access to the outdoors, and have never been given any antibiotics. They can be any breed, and, unless they’re a heritage breed (see below), they generally taste like a turkey.
  • Free range turkeys are raised with access to the outside, but again can be any breed, and, in our experience, generally taste like turkey.
  • Heritage breed turkeys come from traditional domestic turkey breeds that haven’t been bred for mass consumption. They will generally have a smaller breast and a stronger flavor than your traditional birds. They may also be free-range and / or organic depending on the producer.

We recommend ordering at least one pound of turkey per person to feed everyone. If you really like leftovers, order a pound and a half per person. Thanksgiving isn’t a Holiday to be skimpy!

Turkeys heavier than 20 pounds take significantly longer to cook, don’t cook as evenly, and the skin doesn’t crisp as much. If you can cook two smaller turkeys instead of one bigger turkey, we recommend cooking two smaller turkeys.

The best part of cooking two smaller turkeys is you can try two different methods or seasonings for your turkey!

We recommend picking your turkey up at least 2 days in advance of the day you want to cook it – more if you are picking up a frozen turkey. You want to have the turkey in your house at least a day ahead to season and prep – it’s not good to rush around last minute for Thanksgiving!

If you buy a frozen turkey, you’re going to need a bit to defrost it.

  • Method 1: Place in your refrigerator for about 4 days for a 16 pound turkey.
  • Method 2: Place in a large cooler with cool water, changing the water every hour. This will take about 12 hours.

Please, do not microwave defrost your bird or leave it on the counter to defrost, these are not safe methods!

Finally, no, we do not at all recommend cooking your turkey from frozen.

We recommend keeping your turkey in your refrigerator for no more than 4 days. 

Thanksgiving Turkey Guide


Our Country Day turkeys are raised cage free in Minnesota by the grower-owners of Turkey Valley Farms. They are all-natural, fed a vegetarian feed with no growth hormones or steroids, and are anti-biotic free. After they’re processed, our turkeys are rinsed clean and flash-chilled to keep them fresh on their way to our store. There’s no added solution, no artificial seasoning, just delicious, natural turkey for your Thanksgiving table.

Please call 262-248-3339 to check turkey availability


New to Lake Geneva Country Meats in 2023, we are pleased to offer turkeys from Alden Hills Organic Farms in Walworth, WI. These organic turkeys are pasture-raised and certified organic. Compared to our Country Day turkeys, you will notice a more robust turkey flavor, and by purchasing one of these turkeys, you will be supporting local agriculture in Walworth County!

Please call 262-248-3339 to check turkey availability.

How to Cook a Turkey

There are many ways to cook and carve a turkey. Here are the most common questions asked—and answered—along with some of the best Thanksgiving turkey recipes in our Thanksgiving recipe collection!

There are a ton of factors that go into how long you should cook your turkey, and we really recommend cooking to temperature, not time. However here is a rough guideline:

Cook 13-15 minutes per pound at 350ºF until the turkey reaches 150ºF in the breast, and 165ºF in the legs.

We highly recommend cooking to temperature, using a probe thermometer to monitor the breast temperature. You can buy one at LGCM or from Amazon here.

Your turkey is done and ready to eat when it reaches 150ºF in the breast, and 165ºF in the legs.

No, you do not need to baste your turkey.

It doesn’t add moisture to the turkey, but it can add flavor on the outside if applied evenly.

The ‘stuff’ inside your turkey is the giblets!

Giblets include a turkey neck, heart, and liver. Take them out of the turkey (along with any plastic cage) before cooking.

You can discard the giblets, or use them to make super flavorful gravy and stuffing.

We don’t recommend cooking turkeys with stuffing inside.

If you cook the turkey long enough to get the stuffing to a safe temperature, the turkey will be overcook and no longer delicious!

Our Favorite Thanksgiving Turkey Recipes

Our Favorite Traditional Turkey Recipe

If you’re going for the ‘Norman Rockwell’ Thanksgiving, with a whole roasted turkey sitting in the middle of the table, you’re going to want to try this recipe. 

We aren’t always a big fan of roasting turkeys whole (it can cause uneven cooking, especially for bigger turkeys), but we have two tricks that make this recipe work:

  1. By roasting the turkey on a V-rack over a preheated ceramic stone, the turkey will roast more evenly than if it’s just on a sheet pan.
  2. A special seasoning rub helps crisp up the skin.

Spatchcock Turkey Recipe

We love spatchcocking (or butterflying) turkey to cook them. 

This process involves cutting out the backbone of the turkey, and then pressing it flat to roast. You’ll need a good pair of poultry shears to do this, but there are three big benefits to cooking this way:

  1. Your turkey cooks faster.
  2. Your turkey cooks more evenly.
  3. Your turkey is easier to carve!

If this recipe sounds like something that interests you, you’ll want to click the button below to see the entire recipe.

Sidepork Roast Turkey Recipe

When it comes to roasting a whole turkey evenly, we think this one little trick makes a huge difference:

Cover the turkey breast with sidepork (unsmoked bacon) for most of the cooking time!

By covering the breast with the flavorful pork, you insulate the white meat so it doesn’t cook as fast as the dark meat.

You also baste the turkey with delicious pork fat. It’s a win-win! 

You can order side pork from Lake Geneva Country Meats for this recipe whether you order a turkey from us or not.

Deep Fried Turkey Recipe

Deep frying a turkey is fast and makes a delicious bird, but it also comes with some dangerous steps. 

Our recipe teaches you how to safely make a deep fried turkey and also includes links to purchase all the accessories you need to make an incredible deep fried turkey.

So this year, try something different – have a little fun and deep fry your turkey!

Smoked Turkey Recipe

If you want to get outside while cooking your turkey, we highly recommend trying it on your smoker.

Smoked turkey is incredibly flavorful, and if you are a skilled smoker, you will be able to slowly cook the turkey to perfection.

Here are two tips to make sure your turkey has great flavor:

  1. Inject your turkey with a lemon / butter / garlic solution before smoking. It will help keep your turkey juicy and add flavor.
  2. Use a lighter wood like apple, cherry, or pecan for smoking. You don’t want to overwhelm the turkey with a heavy smoke!

Get our complete step by step directions with cooking times and temperature by checking out our smoked turkey recipe!

Turkey Brines

One way to add more flavor to your turkey is with a brine. 

Traditional “wet” turkey brines use a salt based solution to dissolve muscle proteins in meat, which leads to less moisture being lost when the turkey is cooked. That in turns leads to more moisture being left in the turkey – seems like a totally great idea, right?

Well, if you use just a salt and water wet brine, you’ll have a bird that tastes, well, watery. That’s why if you choose to brine your turkey with a wet brine, we recommend you use a flavored recipe, like one of the brine recipes we have for you in the section below.

The other option you have is a “dry” brine. Dry brining is so easy! 

Here’s how:

  1. Combine 1/2 cup kosher salt with 2 tbsp. baking powder.
  2. Pat your turkey dry with paper towels on all sides.
  3. Generously sprinkle the mixture on to all surfaces of the surface – your turkey should be covered, but not crusted.
  4. Let the turkey sit on a rack on a baking sheet in your refrigerator for at least 12 but no more than 24 hours. 

You can then cook the turkey as normal and enjoy a juicy, flavorful turkey!

How to Carve a turkey

Carving a turkey can be incredibly stressful! We’ve gathered our favorite resources from the internet on how to carve a turkey. Check them out!

  • Bon Appetit has put together a fabulous video that we included on this page. Watch it for easy, practical instructions.
  • Serious Eats has a great step by step illustrated guide to carving a turkey if you prefer a pictorial guide!

These guides all use a chef knife and / or boning knife to do the carving, but don’t feel bad if you want to use an electric knife. They definitely make carving much easier and stress free. Here’s a good electric knife you can buy from Amazon!

Happy Thanksgiving From Lake Geneva Country meats!

That’s our Turkey Guide – we hope it answered all of your questions!

If there’s something not answered, just let us know!…we’ll be in touch with an answer. We hope you have a great Thanksgiving (or any other occasion you’re cooking a turkey) and we’ll see you soon at Lake Geneva Country Meats!