Talking turkey…What kind, how much, how to & more…

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Ever wonder what the turkey labels really mean? And is fresh better than frozen? Organic healthier than not? Should you spend the extra dollar amount on a “natural” turkey?

Every year I look at the turkeys other than my usual Safeway or Butterball frozen ones I buy and consider spending the extra money…but I don’t. I have been buying frozen turkeys (either name or store brand, depending on the price) ever since I started cooking turkey and every year, everyone loves the it. But to each their own and I do have several friends that will spend $60 or $70 on the same size one I get for $10 to $12…not saying that’s wrong.

Whichever type of turkey you choose to serve this year, they do have about the same health benefits. Turkeys are naturally low in fat (without the skin), and contain only 1 gram of fat per ounce of flesh. A 5-ounce serving provides almost half of the recommended daily allowance of folic acid, and is a good source of vitamins B, B1, B6, zinc, and potassium.

For more information on what those turkey labels mean….


Plan on 1 to 1 1/2 pounds turkey per person. For big groups, consider roasting 2 small birds; they’ll cook faster and more evenly.

Defrost your turkey in its wrapping on a rimmed baking sheet in the refrigerator. According to you should allow 1 day for every 4 pounds of turkey. Or you can use the cold water method-completely submerge the turkey, breast side down in cold water and change the water every 30 minutes-which hastens thawing, and allow about 30 minutes per pound of turkey.

I have seen cooking times vary as much as an hour, depending on what recipe you use and what kind of turkey you buy. So follow the directions that come on your turkey label and know that it’s done when, according to the FDA, the temperature reaches 165 degrees (use a meat thermometer), in the thigh, breast, and stuffing (if stuffing).

If you decide to brine your turkey, which isn’t a must but makes it extra-juicy…Use 3/4 cup Kosher salt for every gallon of liquid needed to cover the bird. Dissolve the salt in water, stock, juice or even beer, and whatever spices or herbs you want to use, in a bucket or stockpot. Remove the neck and giblets from the thawed turkey and submerge it in the brine; refrigerate 8 hours. DON’T brine Kosher or self-basting turkeys.

If you want to stuff your turkey, make sure the center of the stuffing reaches 165 degrees. We personally don’t stuff ours because the meat can overcook before the stuffing reaches a safe temperature.

Tammy’s Tip ‘O the Day
You are more likely to get sick from a turkey, not because of what kind it is, but rather, because of cross contamination or the turkey not being cooked enough.

Here’s a few tips on “mishaps” that can occur the day you cook your turkey….

  • If it’s still frozen…finish thawing it in cold water (as mentioned above).

  • If it’s late going in the oven…cut into legs, wings and breast (take the breast meat off the bone) and roast on a baking sheet.

  • If it’s done too early…tent with foil, keep in a warm spot.

  • It it’s not crisp…cut into pieces and broil to crisp the skin.

  • If it’s too dry…slice the meat and drizzle with hot gravy or broth.

  • If you discover you don’t have a roasting rack (or can’t find it), you can line the bottom of your roasting pan with celery and carrots and place the turkey on that.

If you have any “turkey tips” you’d like to share, we’d love to hear them in the comments below.

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