Fresh or frozen, poultry of excellent quality is available all the year round from butchers and supermarkets.
Poultry is defined as a bird bred for the table: chicken, boiling fowl, duck, goose and turkey come into this category. So does guinea fowl, which used to be a game bird.
As with meat, decide in advance what you want in terms of your budget and the number of portions you will serve. Don’t think of chicken only in terms of roasting: you will often find an old, tough bird which will make an excellent casserole, cooked with vegetables and herbs. Many butchers sell packs of giblets — necks and internal, edible parts of chicken — from which you can make broth or stock. Chicken livers, fresh or frozen, can be used, fried and served on toast or made into a pâté.
When you buy frozen poultry, make sure it is completely thawed before you cook it; there is a risk of salmonella poisoning from partly-thawed poultry. Once thawed, take out the giblets. Rinse the inside of the bird by holding it under a running tap and letting the water run through. Dry the bird carefully, inside and out, with kitchen paper.
Turkey tends to be dry and generous barding of the breast with streaky bacon will help keep the flesh moist. Duck is honey and even a large one will not feed more than four. Goose is flavourful but fatty and, like duck, will not go as far as chicken. To get extra value from your bird, use the bones for stock and the tasty fat for cooking.