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Let's Talk Turkey

Let's Talk Turkey

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Hot, cold, spicy, elegant, zesty or nutty, turkey's versatility makes it both a flavorful and a healthful option, too. And with only 6 grams of fat per 6-oz. serving, turkey is a great building block for the more nutrition-conscious menu items more customers are demanding today. Here's a "crash course" on the different cuts, as well as some pointers on thawing, purchasing, preparation and storage.

Sliced and Diced

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 11/2 and 5 lbs. the breast roast is available fresh or frozen and in low-salt and no-salt-added forms. The skinless form is up to 99% fat free.

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 3/4 to 11/2 lbs. and 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% 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 and cotto. 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 3/4 and 11/2 lbs.

TURKEY SAUSAGE 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.

GIBLETS are the turkey's gizzard, heart and liver. Most commonly cooked until tender the giblets are added to gravy or stuffing.

I thought I thaw a turkey!

It's important to choose the best type of product to meet your needs. Fresh turkeys have a shorter shelf life, but are often more convenient because they don't require thawing. Frozen turkeys are "flash frozen" to 0°F and, once defrosted, are practically as fresh as the day they were processed.

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 the 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.

Purchasing and Prep

Whole turkeys often have valueadded features, including pop-up timers, net bags for easy carrying and self-basting solutions. Whole turkeys and turkey cuts are available cooked, smoked, seasoned, or barbecued. Frozen turkeys can be stored for up to twelve months.

To maintain quality, hot turkey should be held at a safe holding temperature for no more than 20-30 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 35-40°F. Leftover cooked turkey keeps for three to four days at 35-40°F and three to four months at 0°F or below.

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