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Thanksgiving is the perfect time of year to pointlessly exaggerate your blessings with neighbors, family and friends. All of those little white lies might not look so believable if you can't present the best turkey possible. Before you start thinking about preparing the other traditional foods that are served at Thanksgiving dinner, you will need to choose the perfect turkey for your celebration. Here are some helpful tips for finding that turkey.
Before You Buy, Have A Plan!
Step 1: Make a guest list so you'll know how many people you will be serving, then add another 10 people to that estimate. You want to have plenty of leftovers. It's more than likely that somebody is going to flake on you, so allowing two pounds of turkey for each person should be perfect. So if you plan on having 12 Thanksgiving guests, you need a 44 pound turkey. (If you have large family members, make it 52 pound turkey).
Step 2: Do not buy pre-stuffed turkeys because the only person who should be fisting that tasty stuffing up your glorious bird is you. The USDA does not recommend stuffing turkeys because of health risks but they can go to hell as far as I'm concerned because real people crave real stuffing.
Step 3: Don’t buy your Thanksgiving turkey too early. You should only buy a fresh turkey and it shouldn't be spending an entire week in the refrigerator. By the time Thanksgiving comes around, it's not really fresh anymore. Purchase a fresh turkey one or two days before Thanksgiving and store it in your refrigerator. If you make the mistake of buying a fresh turkey weeks in advance, only to stick it in the freezer and follow the USDA safety regulations to defrost it, your bird is going to taste like shit. Frozen turkey smells like a rotting corpse when cooked, no matter how hard you try to season it away.
Getting Inside The Store
There are many potential pitfalls to think about when you attempt to go shopping for a turkey. The freshest turkeys will be at the busiest stores in the area, so choosing an appropriate time and place to shop is key. If you live in a rural area with live turkeys running around all over the place, then you should ignore the rest of this article and prepare your weapon of choice for some hunting. If you live in a rural area where there are no live turkeys available, you may be forced to drive for hours just to get to your nearest grocery store. Good luck!
The Elderly: Avoiding streets and stores filled with old people is just plain common sense. Is saving a couple dollars really worth standing behind some loopy senior counting out pennies from a coin purse to make exact change? No, that's why you pay a little more at the higher-priced stores where old people collecting Social Security don't shop. Old people tend to shop at discount stores and usually don't leave their homes before 10:00am, so shopping in the early morning hours is ideal. Old people don't stay up late either, so shopping anytime after 7:00pm is also a good idea.
Bell-Ringers: People drive to the supermarket to buy food, not to be accosted by Salvation Army bell-ringers. Crowds of suckers that don't understand this principle are always blocking the entrances and exits of busy grocery stores to put money in some red kettle. If you're fortunate enough to arrive at the store when there's only a few people around, you will still have to endure the "god bless you" from some bell-ringer. Even after you've refused to make eye contact with them or acknowledge they exist, they just have to say it. What are they trying to tell you here? "God bless you even though you're too damn selfish and cheap to give to the poor?" "Fuck you asshole, I AM THE POOR" is what I usually say when some lousy shit-hole gives me the guilt blessing.
Inside The Store
Hopefully you've made it this far, now there's just a few more trials and tribulations before tender Tom Turkey is on his way to your home. Getting to the meat department to choose your turkey has its obstacles.
The Aisle Hog: One wonders how a single person can possibly clog an entire, extra-wide aisle in the supermarket but the aisle hog is a professional. With an obese body blocking one half of the aisle and the shopping cart blocking the other, the aisle hog brings the wheels of commerce to a screeching halt. You'll be amazed at how much time it can take for an aisle hog to pick a fucking can of kidney beans. In order to avoid the aisle hog, you must first be conscious of their presence and see the blockade before it happens.
The Breeding Frenzy: A parent with a loaded shopping cart and four kids in tow is nothing more than a hurricane of frenzied little arms, legs and voices. The breeding frenzy consumes all that crosses its path. The best way to avoid the breeding frenzy is to hear its approach in the distance and take evasive actions. If you see the breeding frenzy before you hear it, chances are good that it's already too late. Since a fully laden shopping cart is easily capable of maneuvering through small children instead of around them, it might seem like a more efficient alternative to evasive actions but that might result in delaying your holiday dinner instead of expediting it.
The Meat Blocker: "This land is your land, This land is my land" but when a meat blocker sets up camp in front of the fresh turkeys, it becomes every land for themselves. The meat blocker is a master of zone-of-control tactics as they attempt to personally inspect every bird before anyone else is allowed to touch one. Only people with experience in Rugby, Football and Ice Hockey should attempt to physically challenge the meat blocker. Diplomacy should only be attempted if you have professional experience in hostage negotiations or dysfunctional families. Should you lack the skills to engage the meat blocker, may god help you and silence the inner voices while you're waiting.
Choosing The Bird
Now that you've assumed control of the turkey section for yourself, how do you know which turkey is worthy of a space at your holiday table? Most people rely on their senses of touch, sight and smell to evaluate which bird is best. One of the secrets that a good chef learns is to trust his eyes.
Look at the label: The label has almost all of the information you need to know. It has the weight of the turkey, the expiration date and the price. Choose a turkey with a label that has the word "fresh" on it. It also helps if the word FRESH is capitalized and printed with a bright color to draw attention to itself. Also check the label for an expiration date that's at least one week away from the day you're buying it. Then, check the label to make sure that the turkey is the correct weight for your needs. When you've found a turkey that passes the first screening process, it's then time to bounce the bird.
Bounce The Bird: A perfect, fresh turkey that's good enough for your table has something that chefs call resilience, which indicates a healthy and firm structure. The only way to test resilience is to lift the bird with your hands and suspend it roughly three feet above the ground. Release the bird and pay close attention to how high the turkey bounces after impact with the floor. If it doesn't bounce at least a few inches, you'd best put it back and try another. Don't worry about anyone around you, they can wait their turn.
Hurry Home With Your Turkey
After you find the perfect bird, it's highly important that you get home as quickly as possible. Every second that passes is another second of freshness lost forever. I highly suggest placing the bird in a large container with copious amounts of liquid smoke to seal in the freshness until you're ready to cook it. Hopefully you've done well for yourself and survived the tribulations of turkey shopping!