We eat a lot of turkey in America. Each of us eats around 16.5 pounds of turkey every year equating to over 5.5 billion pounds nationwide. The lion’s share of that turkey is eaten every day on turkey sandwiches and the rest is downed this week, during Thanksgiving when we eat close to two of those 16 pounds over the coming days. That’s a lot of turkey.
With the prime turkey buying season upon us, we figured it’s time to throw down some hard and fast rules for purchasing the center of Thursday’s big meal. Let’s face it, the best meals come from the best products. There are a few nuances here and there that make a huge difference even to the most basic recipes and having a great main ingredient is the biggest one. This isn’t about the overall, it’s about the details that are often overlooked and can make or break your meal.
Air-chilled, heritage bird, pre-brined, free range: These are the four phrases you want to be aware of. Let’s dive in.
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This means the bird wasn’t put into an ice water bath to cool it down as quickly as possible after slaughter. The USDA allows all poultry to contain 15 percent of that water as part of its weight to accommodate this process. You’re basically throwing 15 cents on the dollar away on bloody, chlorine infused slaughterhouse water when you don’t buy air-chilled poultry, and that’s just bad accounting.
There’s also a much higher chance of cross-contamination in those cooling baths that can lead to foodborne illnesses if the turkey isn’t handled correctly on your end in the kitchen. This is not a great situation.
Air-chilled means the bird never touches that water. Instead, the freshly slaughtered birds are run through a cooling room that does the same thing to the carcass without it ever getting bogged down with dirty water or touching any other turkey. It’s safer, cleaner, and doesn’t add chlorine water to your Thanksgiving turkey. Overall, air-chilled is the only way to go here.