It’s Turkey Time: Getting the Right Turkey
Andy Anderson !
The question is not how to cook it, but what type of turkey to get. Years ago, that was an easy question to answer; however, today it seems like there's more information out there, threatening to overwhelm both seasoned cooks and first-timers alike.
So, lets take a good look at the different turkey types, and which one might be the best for your Thanksgiving table.
You ready… Let’s go. It’s time to go in search of the perfect turkey.
How to Make It’s Turkey Time: Getting the Right Turkey
- Not raised in a cage.
Free to graze on any grasses or grains it can find in its enclosure.
A more humane and healthy poultry farming process.
The Department of Agriculture's (U.S.D.A.) food safety agency inspects all poultry processors that carry the term "free-range" to ensure that their birds really are allowed access to the outdoors.
- Let the Buyer Beware
Not all natural turkeys are created equal. Read the label to find out if the bird you're considering is antibiotic-free, free-range, and/or raised on a vegetarian diet.
Many products that claim to be natural also claim to be hormone-free; however, poultry products sold with the U.S.D.A. seal are hormone-free, whether advertised or not because the U.S.D.A. has never approved the use of hormones in poultry production. And, of course, we trust our government to inspect our food, right?
- Farmed according to Jewish dietary customs, with strict rabbinical supervision.
Fed a vegetarian diet
Free from antibiotics.
Undergone a salting process (after slaughter) that gives the bird a moist and juicy texture when roasted (similar to brining).
Chef’s Note: NEVER brine a kosher bird; unless you want a saltlick, as opposed to a nice turkey dinner.
- Bottom Line
Basically a good bird for those that want the flavor of a brined bird, but don’t want to go to the trouble of brining. Depending on when the bird has gone through the koshering process, the meat can begin to get a bit mushy over time. Find out when the bird was slaughtered and get one as fresh as possible.
- History Note: From the 1920's through the 1960's, turkeys were selectively bred to create a plumper, broader breast. By the 1960's the only type of turkey available was the suggestively named Broad-Breasted White, also less appetizingly known as the standard supermarket turkey. This is a bird so busty it's unable to stand up without tipping over—a sad state of affairs if your family consists of dark-meat lovers. Broad Breasted Whites are also very susceptible to disease, a condition not helped by the modern practice of keeping poultry caged in close quarters. This, in turn, led to the rise in the use of antibiotics to prevent illnesses from spreading and infecting a whole flock.
- Most traditional chefs swear by a fresh turkey. The claim is that fresh birds are juicer, and more flavorful. This is undoubtedly true of heritage or organic birds (assuming you’re lucky enough to have a local farm to get one). However, if you’re talking about the standard “supermarket” brand of bird, I sincerely doubt if there is much, if any difference. Though fresh supermarket turkeys cost more than frozen, you won't get much more for your money. This is because the U.S.D.A. allows turkeys designated as "fresh" to be chilled as low as 26°F which is well below the freezing point of water. This allows ice crystals to form and the meat to begin drying out just as it would in a fully frozen bird.