Almost no Thanksgiving meal is complete without the turkey. In fact, according to the National Turkey Federation, 95 percent of Americans eat turkey at Thanksgiving—that’s a lot of birds getting gobbled up in one day.
But before you head to the meat counter, you should know that turkey is not “one size fits all.” When it comes to selecting the right turkey for your family’s feast, you need to know the lingo.
Here’s a breakdown of turkey terms to make decoding those labels a little easier.
- A natural turkey has no artificial ingredients, no added color and is minimally processed.
- An organic turkey is a free-range bird, fed an organic diet, and given no growth hormones or antibiotics.
- Free-range means the bird has been allowed access to the outdoors. An organic bird is always free-range, but a free-range bird is not necessarily organic.
- Frozen poultry has been kept at 0 degrees or below and may need several days to defrost, so plan accordingly. A 16-pound turkey will serve about 10 people and take about 4 days to thaw in the refrigerator.
- Fresh poultry has never been below 26 degrees, so pay close attention to expiration dates and buy no sooner than two days before your holiday meal, unless you plan on freezing the bird at home.
- A basted or self-basted bird has been injected or marinated with a solution of butter, broth, stock or water and spices or other seasonings. The purpose: a moist, juicy bird.
- A hen is a female and a tom is a male turkey. Gender does not affect the tenderness of the bird, only age does.
- Giblets are the gizzard, heart and liver, and can actually be a great addition to your Thanksgiving meal. Cooked, they can add lots of flavor to soups, gravy and stuffing.
- Dark meat comes from active muscles, which store a lot of oxygen like the legs and thighs, whereas white meat comes from well-rested muscles like the breast. Both are delicious and nutritious.
So we’ve got turkey lingo covered, but what about turkey mathematics? How big of a bird do you need? A turkey calculator eliminates the guesswork. It will even tell you how much stuffing to make. Lastly, it never hurts to have a coupon when purchasing your turkey.