A Fowl Choice: Make It Turkey

Does turkey show up regularly on your table? Americans are gobbling more and more of this lean bird.

U.S. turkey consumption has more than doubled since 1970, the National Turkey Federation reports. What's more, we're not just flocking to turkey around Thanksgiving. Year-round, we're buying a variety of sizes, shapes, and textures of turkey.

In your grocer's case, you'll find whole turkeys and parts--fresh, frozen, and smoked. You'll also see ground turkey, turkey cutlets, turkey hot dogs, turkey sausage, and turkey burgers.

A well-stocked deli offers sliced turkey a half-dozen ways, from roasted to barbecued. And how about turkey pastrami?

Ground turkey can be a great, lower-fat alternative to ground beef in spaghetti sauce, chili, and stews. Just be sure to choose lean ground turkey.

On the lean side

With the current health concerns about saturated fat, people are searching for the leanest cuts of meat and/or poultry, and turkey can be lean. Also, turkey offers more iron and vitamins than most fish.

Some turkey products draw criticism for being too tough or too dry, but that's often because of how the turkey is cooked. Turkey can dry out easily because there's not much fat to maintain moistness.

A meat thermometer can help ensure a moist meal. The bird's internal temperature is the true indicator of readiness: 165 degrees Fahreinheit or 74 degrees Celsius for the breast, and 165 to 170 degrees Fahreinheit or 74 to 77 degrees Celsius for the thigh. And when it's done, it's done.

Turkey talk:

  • More than one-fourth of all households consume turkey deli meats at least once every two weeks.

  • A 15-pound turkey has about 70 percent white meat and 30 percent dark meat. The white meat has fewer calories and less fat.

  • Benjamin Franklin proposed the turkey as the official U.S. bird and reportedly was dismayed when the bald eagle won out.

  • Only tom turkeys gobble. Hen turkeys make a clicking noise.

  • The top five most popular ways to eat leftover turkey? A sandwich; soup or stew; salad; casserole; and stir-fry.