Let’s Talk Turkey!


It’s Thanksgiving Day, and everyone gathers around the kitchen making small talk. This year everyone is talking politics, jobs and the economy. You’ll hear the occasional story about Aunt Bertha and her fibromyalgia. Another glass of wine, please.

What’s really happening though, is folks are waiting for that moment the golden-brown, succulent bird emerges from the oven. The house is already filled with the smell of slow roasting and it doesn’t make the wait any easier every time the oven opens for another brush of butter over that crispy, seasoned skin.

Cooks who are serious about Thanksgiving dinner start planning now. That means ordering a turkey or deciding you’ll go with what your grocer provides (there ARE some great choices in stores these days).

I’ve been down the path of turkey experimentation for several years now. Yes, it’s true. I can inhale a turkey with the best of them. Here are my impressions of some of the types available to make your decision a little easier.

If you want to be adventurous (short of going hunting yourself) you might consider a Heritage turkey. It’s the closest you’ll find to a wild turkey and you’ll notice a remarkably heavy game flavor. The breast is smaller and dark meat is predominant. You need to be aware that this type of turkey will cook faster and tend to dry out easier. Basting this turkey every 15-20 minutes is important.

Another type of turkey I’ve tried that I thought was succulent and moist is a brand from a California ranch called Willie Bird. These turkeys are in high demand and they tend to run out of them quickly. Williams-Sonoma sometimes carries a certain number of them for special order. Again, the breast will be somewhat smaller than a conventional bird, and these are flavorful turkeys.

My all-time favorite turkey is still Bell & Evans, suppliers of the White House turkey each year. These free-range birds are allowed to mature slowly and still have as much breast meat as any conventional brand. The meat has a slightly rich turkey flavor without crossing into game territory. Every Bell & Evans turkey I have roasted has been juicy on the inside and beautifully bronzed on the outside. They do tend to cook a little faster than conventional turkeys however, so be sure and keep your thermometer handy.

As I do every year, I’ll be writing/tweeting/posting some quick tips and tricks to get through the holidays in a stress-free and organized way. So, tell Aunt Bertha to settle down, you’ve got dinner handled.

Elizabeth Dougherty has been a food writer for over 10 years, attended culinary school and holds a Bachelor’s degree, Magna Cum Laude in Hospitality, Business and Labor Relations from NYIT. She has been a talk show host of nearly 150 episodes of Food Nation Radio which airs each Saturday afternoon at 4 on WWBA AM820 News and  other stations. You can read her articles and hear previous shows on her podcast page on the Food Nation Radio Network website and on Facebook.