To make sure you have enough turkey, buy 1 to 1-1/2 pounds of bird per person; for every pound of bird you buy, expect slightly under a half a pound of usable meat after cooking and carving. As to whether to buy fresh or frozen, the decision comes down to how long you want half a shelf in your fridge occupied. The quality is about the same, but fresh turkeys take up space only for a day or two, while frozen turkeys must spend up to a week thawing. For a fresh turkey, check the sell-by date. The unopened turkey will taste best and be safe to use for 1 or 2 days after the date on the wrapper. If you're buying frozen, look for one that is clean, undamaged, and free of ice crystals.Thawing
For a whole frozen turkey, leave the bird in its wrapping; place on a tray or platter in the refrigerator for 2 to 5 days. Plan on 24 hours for every 5 pounds; don't count the day you'll be cooking. For instance, a 15-pound bird should start thawing Sunday night to be ready for Thanksgiving. Thawed birds will keep 2 days in the refrigerator. The bird is ready for roasting if the giblets can be removed easily and there are no ice crystals in the body cavities. If the center is still frozen, the bird will cook unevenly. If your turkey is not completely thawed on the day you plan to roast it, place the bird in a clean sink full of cold water and change the water every 30 minutes. This method works like magic, so don't try thawing at room temperature, in the microwave, or in warm water; these methods can cause bacteria to grow to dangerous levels. After thawing, remove giblets and neck from the interior. If you wish, rinse the bird. In either case, pat dry with paper towels.