Turkey is one of the most popular forms of poultry, along with chicken, ducks and Geese. Wild turkey is domesticated for its meat and eggs and known as domestic turkey. Turkey meat was considered very expensive but industrialization has made it very cheap and easily available. ‘Hen’ is the name given to the female domesticated turkey and male turkey is referred to as ‘tom’ or ‘stag’ in US and Europe respectively. Turkey is also considered as the centerpiece of traditional Christmas and Thanksgiving meals. Various turkey recipes are popular across the world and some of them are turkey breast with cranberry sauce, turkey bacon and turkey hot dog.
History of Turkey Recipes
Despite having the same names, turkey (bird) has no connection with Turkey, the country. Turkey meat is believed to be the native of Northern American cuisine. The people of Central Mexico, the Aztecs were the first ones to domesticate the turkey for its meat and eggs. Feathers of turkey were used by Mesoamericans for the purpose of decoration. Spanish natives brought the turkey to the European continent where various varieties of turkey dishes were developed from the meat of the bird.
Culinary Uses of Turkey
Turkey being considered as the most commonly used form of poultry is widely customized according to the turkey recipes prevailing around the world. Apart from being the traditional dish at Christmas and Thanksgiving dinners, turkey dishes are quite popular as a part of everyday meals. Turkey is available as a whole after removing its head and other inedible parts such as feet and feathers. Ground turkey and turkey slices are also widely used in making turkey dishes such as sliced turkey sandwiches and burgers. Turkey can be easily substituted with chicken. Roasted turkey is a very popular and tradition turkey recipe and its left over pieces are sold as cold cuts in Canada on 26th December known as ‘Boxing Day’. Turkey has a very intense flavor with dark meat and even there is a difference between the taste of wild turkey and domesticated turkey. The intensity of turkey gives a nice flavor to soups and stews and even to gravy dishes. Frozen turkey meat is very popular among various cuisines, however fresh turkey meat is always preferred. Turkey meat is widely used for processing purposes and popular processed turkey recipes are turkey ham and turkey bacon. Careful preparation of turkey is very important as carelessness may end up producing a less-moist meat.
Popular Turkey Recipes
• Roasted stuffed turkey – This is one of the most popular turkey recipes mainly served at traditional holiday meals in Canada and America. Turkey is stuffed with sausages, liver and other vegetables and roasted in oven.
• Turkey twizzlers – It is made with processed turkey meat and deep-fried to make twizzlers. Basically, it is in the shape of helices.
• Turkey wild rice soup- Chicken broth and wild rice are cooked and served with turkey bacon and cream.
• Five spice turkey cheeseburger – Ground turkey is used to make these burgers that are seasoned with Asian five-spice powder and garnished with gouda cheese.
• Turkey posole – It is a thick Mexican soup with turkey and other ingredients.
Cuisines Commonly Making Turkey Dishes
Turkey is a very popular domestic bird in American as well as Canadian cuisines. Christmas and Thanksgiving dinners are incomplete without turkey dishes. It is also a popular holiday dish that makes the meal exotic. European and Australian cuisines are also making most of turkey. In almost all European countries, turkey is the mainstay in traditional meals. Various turkey recipes are prepared according to the occasion.
Preferred Methods of Making Turkey Dishes
Turkey is such a versatile meat that it can be cooked with several methods. Some of the preferred methods are as follows:
• Roasted – Turkey is mostly cooked with oven-roast method. This method allows turkey to cook fully from inside without losing its moisture.
• Fried – Turkey can also be fried in peanut oil with the help of a turkey fryer.
• Stuffed – Oven-roasted turkey is often stuffed with sausages, vegetables and ground meats to make one of the most exotic turkey recipes.
• Brined – Turkey is brined before keeping it for roasting. Brining makes the turkey meat flavorful and moist.
• Smoked – Turkey meat is processed and smoked to make various turkey recipes.
Nutritive Value of Turkey
Both the dark and white varieties of turkey meat are equally nutritional, but white meat variety contains less fat contents as compared to dark meat variety. Like other poultry birds, turkey is also an excellent source of protein and most of the B vitamins. Proteins provided by turkey dishes help in building and repairing body tissues. Vitamin B is also useful for healthy nervous system. Turkey liver is an excellent source of vitamin A, which is needed for healthy skin and resistance to infection.
Buying and Storing Turkey
Turkey is available in different forms: stuffed, frozen, fresh or basted. Few tips are here that should be kept in mind while buying the turkey:
• Always check for USDA mark on the turkey.
• A-grade turkey is always meaty, free from feathers and best product to buy.
• If tender birds are to be purchased then select ‘young turkey’. These birds are more flavorful and easy to cook.
• Selection can be made from fresh as well as from frozen turkey but fresh turkey is highly recommended due to its perishable nature.
• Always check the ‘sell by’ date before buying the turkey.
Storage of Turkey
• Fresh turkey can be stored in refrigerator for up to 24 hours.
• Fresh turkey can be kept in freezer for at least six months to one year.
• Pre-stuffed turkey can be kept in freezer until cooked. Thaw it only when ready to cook as stuffing can catch bacteria very easily.
• Leftover turkey dishes can also be stored in freezer for up to 4-5 days.
Types of Turkey
Turkey can be classified according to class and forms in which it is available in the market. Some classifications of turkey are as follows: Class of turkey
• Fryer – Fryer turkey is usually 4 months old and very tender
• Young – Young turkey is the tenderest of all turkeys and it is between 4-8 months old.
• Yearling – Turkey that is 12 months old is referred as yearling. Its meat is relatively tender but not more than young.
• Mature – This type of turkey is 15 months or older than that. This meat is not suitable for roasting purposes as meat is very tough.
Another classification of turkey can be based on the following types:
• Fresh – Fresh turkey is stored at the temperature of 26 degree F, so that the meat doesn’t freeze.
• Frozen – Frozen turkey is stored in the freezer and labeled as ‘frozen’.
• Pre-stuffed – Some turkeys are stuffed with ingredients and come in various sizes.
• Self-basting – This type of turkey is infused with various spices, seasoning and oils before being frozen.
• Despite being a bird, domesticated turkey doesn’t fly.
• North Carolina is the only state that produces 61 million pounds of turkey every year.