Turkey Talk

Turkey Talk

A lean, versatile choice for the center of the plate and more.

Turkey is a versatile protein option that's healthful too. With just 6 grams of fat per 6-oz. serving, turkey can be a go-to player on the more nutrition-conscious menus customers are seeking out today. It's also one that's come into wider use as suppliers have brought a wider selection of foodservice-specific turkey products to the marketplace.

Here's a quick guide to the different cuts of turkey, as well as some pointers on thawing, preparation and storage.

Sliced, Diced and More

  • Whole turkey breast is all white meat. It can be bone-in or boneless, fresh, frozen, or fully cooked. It typically weighs between 4 and 9 lbs.

  • Breast roast is uncooked and boneless. Weighing between 1 ½ and 5 lbs., the breast roast is available fresh or frozen and in low-salt and no-salt-added forms.

  • Turkey Cutlets are made from breast meat that has been sliced across the grain. They are boneless and skinless, and typically weigh between 3 and 6 oz.

  • Turkey drumsticks are dark meat with skin. They come bone-in or boneless; fresh or frozen. Each drumstick weighs between ¾ to 1 ½ lbs. are often available smoked.

  • Ground turkey is a blend of white and dark meats or all dark meat with a natural percentage of skin. It can be fresh or frozen and is at least 85 percent lean, depending on supplier. Ground turkey breast is lower in fat than ground turkey because it is all breast meat.

  • Sliced deli turkey comes in a variety of types. Smoked turkey breast is the whole muscle breast meat, cooked, seasoned, cured and smoked. Turkey salami is dry/cooked. Turkey pastrami is all dark turkey, cooked, seasoned and cured. Turkey bologna is all turkey, cooked, seasoned and cured. Turkey Canadian bacon is all turkey thigh meat or thigh and dark meat. It's cooked, seasoned, cured and smoked. Turkey ham is all turkey thigh meat, skinless and boneless, cooked, seasoned and cured. Turkey pepperoni is fully cooked dark meat with added salt and natural flavorings.

  • Tenderloins are cut from the muscles inside the center of the breast. They are skinless and weigh between 7 and 15 oz.

  • Thighs are available bone-in, boneless, with skin or skinless. Each thigh weighs between ¾ and 1½ lbs.

  • Turkey sausage typically comes in four different types. Turkey breakfast sausage is a blend of dark and white or all dark meat, coarsely ground, seasoned, and individually quick frozen. Turkey Italian sausage is a blend of seasoned ground dark and white meat, and is often lower in fat than other types. Turkey smoked sausage and turkey kielbasa and bratwurst are made from dark seasoned meat.

  • Wings are all white meat and skin. They are available whole or with wing tips removed.

All in all, there is a vast amount of pre-cooked, pre-sliced turkey products available these days. Whether you want ground turkey to make your own turkey burgers, or a bacon-wrapped cutlet to serve as center of the plate, chances are you can find exactly what you're looking for.

Whole Turkeys

Whole turkeys can be perfect for foodservice celebrations of Thanksgiving and Christmas, and turkey legs can work great as a novelty item in a county fair style promotion (think “Giant Turkey Legs!”) or for theme dinners like a Medieval fair. Whole turkeys and turkey cuts are available cooked, smoked, seasoned or barbecued. Frozen turkeys can be stored for up to 12 months.

Traditional cautions are in order: Never defrost a turkey on the counter. Thawing can be done in cold water, in the refrigerator, or in the microwave. Whole turkeys take about 24 hours per four to five pounds in the refrigerator.

In cold water, changed every 30 minutes, turkey takes about 30 minutes per pound to thaw. When using a microwave, follow the manufacturer's instructions. Once a turkey is thawed, keep it refrigerated at 40°F or below until it is ready to be cooked. Turkey thawed in the microwave should be cooked immediately.

Safe Prep

To maintain quality, hot turkey should be held at a safe holding temperature for no more than 20 to 30 minutes. Maintaining moisture is key, so place turkeys not for immediate use in shallow pans, cover them with plastic film, and keep them refrigerated at 35 to 40°F. Leftover cooked turkey keeps for three to four days at 35 to 40°F and three to four months at 0°F or below.