Types of Turkey
Turkey, as well as all other poultry, is described
and classified using a number of different criteria:
* Kind: describes if the poultry is turkeys, chickens, ducks, etc. * Class: describes how the poultry is categorized, such as a fryer or roaster. * Grade: describes the quality of the bird based on USDA guidelines. Common grades for poultry are A, B, and C, with A being the best quality. * Style: describes the bird as being whole, cut into sections, (halves, quarters, etc.), or cut into individual parts, (breast, leg, thigh, etc.). * Size or Weight: turkeys are specified by individual weight. * Type: describes a turkey as being fresh, frozen, hard-chilled, etc. * Packaging: specifies how the turkey is packaged at the processing company. Most turkeys are individually wrapped and may be shipped several to a container. * Temperature: describes the ideal temperature for fresh, frozen, or hard-chilled turkeys for processing, shipping, and storing. * Breed: quality, flavor, size, and the ratio of meat to bone can be affected by the breed of the turkey. White Holland is the breed that is most often raised for commercial purposes.
Classes of Turkey
Fryer / Roaster A small turkey of 4 to 8 pounds is classified as a fryer-roaster and is usually no older than 4 months.
Young A 4 to 8 month old turkey is referred to as a young roaster, which has soft, smooth skin and tender meat.
Yearling A 12 month old turkey is called a yearling and the meat and skin are still reasonably tender, but not as tender as a young turkey.
Mature or Old A mature turkey is 15 months or older and is not well suited for roasting because the meat is much tougher.
Whole turkeys may be labeled hen or tom turkey, but this does not make a significant difference in the quality. The flavor and tenderness of the meat is determined by the age of the turkey at the time it is brought to market, rather than the gender. Most turkeys used for roasting are between 4 and 9 months old and range in weight from 8 to 24 pounds.
Types of Turkey
Any turkey labeled “fresh” in a food store has never been cooled to a temperature lower than 26Â°F, which is the point that turkey meat begins to freeze. A fresh turkey should be cooked no later than 2 days after it is purchased or by the “use by date” on the label, otherwise it must be frozen until it is ready to use.
Some turkey processors label their fresh turkeys as “refrigerated” rather than fresh in order to prevent confusion with the consumer. Fresh turkeys that are chilled to 26Â°F may seem a bit stiff on the surface, as though they have been frozen when they actually have not.
The cost of a fresh turkey may be a bit higher than a frozen turkey because of special handling requirements. The processor must ensure that the turkey remains at a temperature of 26Â°F from the factory to the market and the market must ensure that their refrigerated case does not climb above 38Â°F to 40Â°F.
Although turkey meat begins to freeze at 26Â°F, in order to be considered “frozen”, a turkey must be cooled to a temperature of 0Â°F or below. Commercial processing companies use a flash freezing process that quickly cools turkeys to 0Â°F or below. This ensures that when the turkey is defrosted, the meat will be at the same level of freshness as the day it was originally frozen. There is no difference in the quality of turkey that is fresh or commercially frozen, but fresh turkey that is placed in a home freezer may deteriorate more quickly than turkey that has been flash frozen in commercial equipment. This is because home freezers are not able to cool the meat as quickly as commercial freezers.
Listed below are several other important points to consider when using a frozen turkey.
* A frozen turkey may be safely prepared up to a year after it was originally frozen. * A frozen turkey that has been thawed should not be refrozen until after it is cooked. * A turkey that has been defrosted before it is sold must be labeled "previously frozen".
Listed below are additional types of frozen turkeys that are available in most food stores:
* Prestuffed: Prestuffed frozen turkeys can be purchased with a variety of stuffing flavors and in a large selection of sizes. Prestuffing and freezing a turkey at home can be dangerous. Home freezers cannot freeze as quickly as commercial freezing processes. The stuffing increases the growth rate of harmful bacteria, which may multiply rapidly before the turkey has a chance to freeze properly. * Self-Basting: A self-basting turkey is injected with various ingredients, such as oil, juices, and seasonings, before it is frozen. When the turkey is roasted, the added ingredients keep the meat moist and tender as well as provide extra flavor. * Boneless Turkey Roast: Whole turkeys are available that have been deboned and packaged. The preparation, cooking, and carving are much more convenient. Another type of turkey roast consists of pieces of white or dark meat or both, that are removed from the bones, placed in a foil pan, and frozen to be cooked when needed.
Hard-Chilled Turkeys that are hard-chilled are cooled to temperatures between 0Â°F and 26Â°F. They are not considered fresh or frozen and so they are not labeled as such. Since they are not considered frozen, the turkeys must be handled as though they are fresh to ensure proper food safety.
Turkey Parts Turkey is often cut into parts, packaged, and sold fresh or frozen. Turkey breasts, drumsticks, thighs, and wings are often sold this way. The breast section of a turkey is quite large and it is often cut into smaller cutlets that are thinly sliced.
Turkey parts can be ground and used in the same way as beef cuts that are ground into hamburger. Ground turkey can be used to make patties, meatloaf, casseroles, and many similar types of dishes and it has much less fat than ground beef.
* Smoked: Smoked turkeys are ready to eat because the smoking process cures and cooks the meat with indirect heat. They are available in a wide range of flavors depending on the type of fuel used for the smoking process. * Free-Range: A turkey known as "free-range" indicates that the bird was allowed to roam outdoors, which may have a positive affect on the flavor of the meat, especially if the roaming area was not too crowded. The amount of space that a turkey is given to roam, regardless if it is indoors or out, actually affects the quality to a greater degree than if the bird is simply allowed to be outdoors. * Organic: An organic turkey refers to a bird that is allowed to eat only organic feed and is allowed to roam outdoors (free-range). In order to be classified as organic, the turkey can never receive any antibiotics. Growth hormones are also prohibited, which is the case for all commercially raised poultry. * Natural: This refers to turkeys that have limited processing with no artificial ingredients or coloring added. The term "natural" does indicate that a turkey is free-range. The meat is also be a bit drier than other types of turkeys that have had additional processing. * Kosher: A kosher turkey must be raised and processed with strict guidelines under rabbinical supervision. The turkeys are free-range birds that are fed only grain, are never given any antibiotics, and are individually inspected. When they are processed, the turkeys are soaked in a salty brine solution to provide maximum tenderness and to give the meat a unique flavor. * Heritage Turkeys: Before turkeys were raised in large commercial sites and mass marketed, most people ate a variety of breeds raised on small farms. Today these various breeds are known collectively as "Heritage Turkeys", which are making a comeback. Heritage turkeys are free-range birds and include breeds such as Jersey Buff, Bourbon Red, Black Spanish, and Narragansett. The various breeds generally have a longer body, smaller breast muscles, and are bit leaner than commercially raised birds. Heritage turkeys require an additional 2 to 3 months to grow to the proper size for processing. This makes the turkeys more expensive than commercially raised birds, but most people feel the extra expense is justified because of the excellent flavor and the texture and tenderness of the meat. Most heritage turkeys are raised on small farms where they can be directly purchased or they can be conveniently purchased from a number of online sites and shipped directly to the consumer.
Fresh, Hard-Chilled, Frozen
Any turkey labeled “fresh” in a food store has never been allowed to be cooled to a temperature lower than 26Â°F. Turkeys that are hard-chilled are cooled to temperatures between 0Â°F and 26Â°F. Even though turkey meat begins to freeze at 26Â°F, in order to be considered “frozen”, a turkey must be cooled to a temperature of 0Â°F or below.
A free-range turkey means that the bird was allowed to roam outdoors, which may have a positive affect on the flavor of the meat, especially if the roaming area was not too crowded. The amount of space that a turkey is given to roam, regardless if it is indoors or out, actually affects the quality to a greater degree than if the bird is simply allowed to be outdoors.
An organic turkey refers to a turkey that was allowed to eat only organic feed and was allowed to roam outdoors (free-range). In order to be classified as organic, the turkeys can never receive any antibiotics. Growth hormones are also prohibited, which is the case for all commercially raised poultry.
This refers to turkey that has limited processing with no artificial ingredients or coloring added. The term “natural” does indicate that the bird was free-range. The meat will also be a bit drier than other types of turkeys that have had additional processing.
A kosher turkey must be raised and processed with strict guidelines under rabbinical supervision. The turkeys are free-range birds that are fed only grain, are never given any antibiotics, and are individually inspected. When they are processed, the turkeys are soaked in a salty brine solution to give the meat a unique flavor.
Prestuffed frozen turkeys can be purchased with a variety of stuffing flavors and in a large selection of sizes. Prestuffing and freezing a turkey at home can be dangerous. Home freezers cannot freeze as quickly as commercial freezing processes. The stuffing increases the rate of growth of harmful bacteria which may multiply rapidly before the turkey has a chance to freeze properly.
A frozen self-basting turkey is injected with various ingredients, such as oil, juices, and seasonings, before it is frozen. When the turkey is roasted, the added ingredients keep the meat moist and tender as well as providing extra flavor.
Turkey is often cut into parts, packaged, and sold fresh or frozen. Turkey breasts, drumsticks, thighs, and wings can be sold this way. The breast section of a turkey is quite large and it is often cut into smaller cutlets that are thinly sliced.
Full Breast - Not Boned
Breast Half - Not Boned
Boneless Breast Half
Turkey breast is all white meat, very low in fat, and high in protein. It is available fresh or frozen and bone-in or boneless. Turkey breast can be purchased whole or split.
It is usually less expensive to purchase a whole, bone-in breast and perform the boning and cutting at home. A premium is charged for turkey pieces that have been boned and trimmed because of the extra labor involved.
The meat from the breast is one of the most nutritious meat sources available. It is low in calories, fat, cholesterol, and sodium. If the skin is removed, turkey breast is a good food source for people on low-fat and/or low sodium diets.
Turkey breast can be divided into smaller cuts and packaged such as turkey steaks, slices, or tenderloin. A turkey tenderloin is a small section of the breast meat that is removed from the inside of the breast near the keel bone. They are boneless and skinless and usually weigh between 6 and 12 ounces. They are available fresh or frozen.
Turkey wings are all white meat and can be purchased whole or in sections.
The portion of the wing nearest to the body can be cut between the shoulder joint and the elbow joint. This section, known as the drummette, can be larger than a drumstick of a chicken depending on the size of the turkey.
The flat middle section of the wing between the elbow and the wing tip can be cut as one piece.
Wing tips, which do not contain much meat, may be packaged and sold for the purpose of adding flavor to soups and stocks.
Marketed fresh or frozen, the hind quarter includes the drumstick, thigh, and part of the back. It consists entirely of dark meat and range in weight from 2 to 6 pounds.
The thigh is the upper part of the leg above the knee joint. Thighs are marketed as bone-in, with or without skin, or boneless, with or without skin. Bone-in thighs with skin are usually available in weights ranging from half a pound to 1Â½ pounds and contain all dark meat.
The drumstick is the lower part of the leg below the knee joint. Bone-in drumsticks are usually available in weights ranging from half a pound to 1Â½ pounds.
Neck and Giblets
Giblets consist of the liver, heart, and gizzard. When purchasing a whole turkey that has been commercially processed, the giblets (which are usually placed in a bag) and the neck are inserted inside the body cavity.
Ground, Cut, and Chopped Turkey
Ground, Cut, and Chopped Turkey
Just like beef cuts that are ground into hamburger, turkey can be ground and used in the same way. Ground turkey consists of white or dark turkey meat, or a combination of both. It contains approximately 65 to 75 percent less fat than ground beef. It can be used to make sausages, patties, or in any recipe containing ground beef. Ground turkey is available fresh or frozen, in patties, 1 pound packages, and in bulk.
A turkey burger is a meat product made from ground turkey, which is flavored with various seasonings, formed into a burger shape, cooked, and most often served on a bun in the same manner as a hamburger. It is prepared the same as other ground meat burgers using cooking methods such as grilling, frying, or broiling. Ground turkey is often substituted as a low fat alternative to ground pork or beef.
Julienne turkey is turkey meat that has been chopped into thin strips that are usually not less than Â½ inch long and not longer than 1Â½ inches. Julienne turkey is sold frozen in 5 or 10 pound plastic bags and can be used for a variety of turkey dishes including salads, casseroles, and stir-fry recipes.
Diced or Cubed Turkey
Diced turkey is turkey meat that has been cut into small cubes that are usually Â¼ to Â½ inch. It is sold frozen in 5 or 10 pound plastic bags and can be used for a variety of turkey dishes including salads, casseroles, and stir-fry recipes.
Turkey meat is cut into strips so that it can be used for deep-frying or stir-frying. The strips are available uncooked or fully cooked, unbreaded or breaded, and unflavored or seasoned with various herbs and spices. Turkey strips are usually sold frozen in various quantities.
Sausage made of turkey meat is much lower in fat than sausages made from other types of meat. Turkey sausages are flavored with numerous herbs and spices. Some varieties are smoked and others are not. The varieties of turkey sausage include bratwurst, salami, and bologna.
A sausage made with a combination of ground turkey and several spices, such as caraway, nutmeg, and ginger. Traditional bratwurst, which is German in origin, is made with pork and veal. Turkey bratwurst is a popular alternative to traditional bratwurst because of its low fat content. It is most often available fresh, so it must be well cooked before it is served. Turkey bratwurst is best when it is grilled, fried, broiled, or baked.
A sausage made from ground dark turkey meat, flavored with garlic and other seasonings, and cured to make it safe for eating. The meat is processed, cured, air-dried, and wrapped in a casing. It is course and dry in texture and varies in size and shape. It is generally sliced and eaten as is or served with crackers or bread. Turkey salami contains approximately 50 percent less fat than regular salami.
Bologna is a type of mildly flavored sausage that originated in Bologna, Italy. It is traditionally made from beef and pork, but finely ground light and dark turkey meat, also referred to as MDM or mechanically deboned turkey, is now used as a popular low-fat alternative to beef and pork bologna. Turkey bologna is seasoned, processed, and cured in the same manner as other types of bologna. It is generally sliced and eaten as a snack or with crackers or bread.
Smoked Turkey Sausage
Smoked turkey sausage is a type of lean sausage produced from ground turkey and is seasoned, smoked, and sold in a variety of sizes ranging from small link size portions to rings of sausage measuring approximately 12 inches in length.
Turkey Hot Dog
A turkey product made from finely ground light and dark turkey meat that is mechanically deboned from the turkey. Turkey hot dogs are seasoned, cured, and smoked in the same manner as pork and beef hot dogs. They are also referred to as “turkey frankfurters.”
Miscellaneous Turkey Products
Miscellaneous Turkey Products
Boneless Turkey Roast, Whole
Whole turkeys are available that have been deboned and packaged. A netting is usually placed around the turkey before it is packaged to help hold the shape. The preparation, cooking, and carving are much more convenient. Boneless turkeys are also much easier to handle and there is no waste.
Boneless Turkey Roast, Pieces
Another type of turkey roast consists of pieces of white or dark meat or both, that are removed from the bones, placed in a foil pan, and frozen to be cooked when needed. The roasts are available in various weights.
Both types of boneless turkey roasts are a good alternative for cooks who may be intimidated by roasting the entire bird or for anyone requiring a more convenient method of cooking and serving.
Boneless Roasted Turkey Breast
Boneless turkey breasts are available that are fully cooked and packaged and ready to heat and eat. Full breasts and half breasts can be purchased, depending on the number of servings required. Some of the varieties that are available are oven roasted, glazed, stuffed, barbecued, honey cured, and hickory smoked.
Turkey cutlets are small, thin steaks that are removed from the breast meat and are pounded to flatten and tenderize them. They can be used as a substitute in recipes calling for beef, veal, or pork cutlets. Turkey cutlets are available uncooked or fully cooked, unbreaded or breaded, and unflavored or seasoned with various herbs and spices.
Turkey rolls are fully cooked and consist of all white meat or a combination of white and dark meat formed into a log shape. The roll can be sliced and served as a cold cut or sautÃ©ed and served as a main course.
Smoked Turkey Meat
Smoked whole turkeys or turkey parts are ready to eat because the smoking process cures and cooks the meat with indirect heat. They are available in a wide range of flavors depending on the type of fuel used for the smoking process.
A meat product made from the thigh meat of a turkey, that is cured and smoked, so it can be ready to serve from the package. The size and shape depends on how the meat is processed and it is generally available in whole or half portions. Turkey ham is approximately 95 percent fat-free and is a low-fat alternative to pork ham. It can be served hot or cold and sliced thick or thin.
A meat product produced from smoked turkey, which has a similar appearance and flavor to pork bacon. Because it contains less fat than bacon made from pork, turkey bacon shrinks less when cooked.
Breaded Turkey Products
Turkey meat is used for a number of commercially prepared breaded products such as corn dogs, patties, strips, cutlets, and nuggets. The breading cannot exceed 30% by weight and the products are usually sold frozen. Most breaded turkey products can be prepared by baking, broiling, deep-frying, pan-frying, and microwaving.
Turkey meat can be purchased canned and is available as all white meat or all dark meat. The canned turkey is convenient for use in salads, sandwiches, and casseroles.
Turkey Breast Deli Meat
Turkey breast deli or luncheon meat is fully cooked, sliced, and ready to eat.
This product is produced from skinless thigh and drumstick meat which is ground and seasoned. Like other types of pastrami, turkey pastrami is flavored with peppercorns and other seasonings and then cured and smoked. Turkey pastrami is approximately 95 percent fat-free and can be sliced and eaten hot or cold.
Like beef jerky, turkey jerky is made of long strips of meat that are preserved through drying so that they can be eaten when needed. It is often marinated in various seasoned liquids before it is dried. Jerky is very tough to bite and chew after the drying process is complete, but because it keeps for long periods, it is a convenient food to use for camping and hiking trips.
Turducken is a recipe that consists of a boned turkey layer covering a boned duck layer, which covers a boned chicken layer. Stuffing is placed between each layer and it is then rolled and tied. Commercially prepared versions are available that are ready for roasting.