Tips on turkey labels
Turkey labels can be perplexing to shoppers. Here is a short guide to help you decode the labels.
The centerpiece of so many Thanksgiving feasts, a plump turkey can confound even savvy cooks with label lingo (Bourbon Red? Free-range?).
With Americans expected to eat 68 million turkeys this year (46 million on Thanksgiving) we'll be studying labels and lugging 15-pounders (the average T-Day bird) around our kitchens.
"Probably the biggest challenge for most consumers when it comes to Thanksgiving is that we don't spend very much time in the kitchen anymore," says Sherrie Rosenblatt of the National Turkey Federation in Washington. "Thanksgiving is the time when we get back into the kitchen, and we go back to basics — but we forget the basics."
Perplexing shoppers? The variety of turkey types.
"We're not cookie-cutter consumers," she says. "Everybody brings their own values to the table. Your value may be that you're looking at price or that you appreciate a free-range turkey." Here are a few tips from Rosenblatt:
Conventional: Usually sold fresh and frozen in supermarkets.
Free-range: Limited-production birds "allowed access to the outside," per the USDA.
Organic: USDA-approved per rules on feed, no antibiotics, etc.
Broad-breasted white: Farm-raised, domesticated, more breast meat.
Heritage: Indigenous breeds, i.e. Bourbon Red and Narragansett.
Label Lore, Part 2
Natural: Minimally processed, not enhanced with anything. "A lot of home cooks who are very comfortable with preparing the meal might want that blank canvas of a natural turkey so they can add flavorings they choose," says Rosenblatt.
Fresh: Store one to two days in refrigerator; place a pan underneath to catch leaking juices. (The USDA does not recommend buying fresh prestuffed turkey.)
Frozen pre-stuffed: Do not thaw before cooking.
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