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Let’s Talk Turkey

Young girl smiling and holding a platter of roast turkey.

Turkey is synonymous with family, friends and giving thanks. Today 97 percent of Americans will eat turkey on Thanksgiving. Turkey is a great combination of flavor and nutrition. A turkey is 70 percent white meat and 30 percent dark meat. The white meat is lower in calories but dark meat offers a rich flavor for soups and stews. Americans generally prefer white meat while people in other countries choose dark meat.​​​

Turkey is an inexpensive source of protein, niacin, vitamin B6, phosphorous and zinc and is low-fat. To cut the fat even more, go skinless. This can reduce the calories by 20 percent. Turkey is also a good source of selenium, which has been recognized for its role in cancer prevention.

Buying the Right-Size Turkey

Whether it’s your first turkey or your 10th, there’s always the question of what size bird to buy. Generally, you should figure on one pound of uncooked turkey per person, depending on the age and appetite of your guests. Turkeys under eight pounds are rare. If you’re having a small group, you may want to consider buying a small turkey breast or several individual game hens. Hy-Vee provides a wide selection of fresh, frozen and processed turkey products.

Thawing Your Bird

Most whole turkeys are frozen when you buy them. The tried-and-true method for thawing is to leave the turkey in its original wrapping and place it on a tray in your refrigerator. Allow at least one day of thawing for every 4 pounds.

*Food safety experts do not recommend thawing products under water. If you must thaw your bird under water, remember to change the water every 30 minutes - and be sure that the whole bird is immersed under water.

Roasting the Turkey

Foster Farms offers the following “foolproof” tips for your turkey:

  1. Brush turkey with vegetable oil to prevent drying. No additional basting is necessary.
  2. Insert meat thermometer into thickest part of inner thigh, not touching the bone.
  3. Cover turkey loosely with a tent of aluminum foil to prevent splattering and over-browning. For additional browning, uncover turkey for the last 30 to 60 minutes of roasting.
  4. Roast at 325 degrees F using the roasting timetable on the package (or listed below). The turkey is cooked when the meat thermometer reads 180-185 degrees F at the thigh, 170-175 degrees F at the breast, and 165 degrees F in the stuffing. The drumstick should twist easily in its socket and juice should run clear.
  5. For easy slicing, let the turkey stand 20 minutes after removing from the oven.

Roasting Times

10 to 18-pound turkey: 3 to 3 ½ hours if unstuffed, 3 ¾ to 4 ½ hours if stuffed
18 to 22-pound turkey: 3 ½ to 4 hours if unstuffed, 4 ½ to 5 hours if stuffed
22 to 24-pound turkey: 4 to 4 ½ hours if unstuffed, 5 to 5 ½ hours if stuffed
24 to 30-pound turkey: 4 ½ to 5 hours if unstuffed, 5 ½ to 6 ¼ hours if stuffed

Storage and Handling Guidelines for Turkey

Delicious turkey isn’t good enough…it must be safe, too!

  • Store uncooked turkey, in unopened wrapper, under refrigeration at 40 degrees F or below. Cook thawed turkey within two to three days.
  • Stuff turkey just before roasting. Do not stuff ahead of time.
  • Finish the cooking once it is started. NEVER partially cook a turkey.
  • Don’t leave cooked stuffing or turkey at room temperature more than two hours. Place in the refrigerator as soon as the meal is over.
  • Cooked poultry may be kept refrigerated for two to three days.
  • Your hands and utensils, such as knives and cutting boards that have been used to prepare raw poultry, must be washed thoroughly with hot soapy water before used for other foods.

Carving your Turkey

Butterball recommends the following steps for carving your holiday turkey:

  1. Cut band of skin holding drumsticks. Grasp end of drumstick. Place knife between drumstick/thigh and body of the turkey and cut through skin to joint. Remove entire leg by pulling out and back, using the point of the knife to disjoint it. Separate the thigh and drumstick at the joint.
  2. Insert fork in upper wing to steady turkey. Make a long horizontal cut above wing joint through to body frame. Wing may be disjointed from body, if desired.
  3. Slice straight down with an even stroke, beginning halfway up the breast. When knife reaches the cut above the wing joint, slice will fall free.
  4. Continue to slice breast meat, starting the cut at a higher point each time.

Healthy Ways to Use Thanksgiving Leftovers

Turn that Thanksgiving turkey into several other meals that will both satisfy your family and prevent waste!

Turkey is easy to use. Simply chop leftover turkey and use in the following ways.

  • Turkey Avocado Wrap – Use whole-wheat tortilla, a spreadable light cheese wedge, avocado slices and chopped turkey to make a delicious wrap
  • Soups – Place chopped turkey in soups…turkey noodle soup, turkey chili, turkey and rice soup and more!
  • Turkey Omelets – Use turkey, Havarti cheese and salsa in an omelet.
  • Salads – Toss turkey in lettuce salads along with dried cranberries, walnuts, green onion, shredded carrots, feta cheese and a light dressing.
  • Pizza – Top a whole-wheat pizza crust with ½ cup barbecue sauce, 1 cup chopped turkey and 1 cup shredded cheese. Bake for 10-12 minutes at 450 degrees F.
  • Turkey Tacos – Sprinkle turkey with low-sodium taco seasoning. Fill taco shells with seasoned turkey, fat-free refried beans, shredded lettuce, salsa and shredded cheese.
  • Turkey Stir-Fry – Heat 1 tablespoon peanut oil in a wok and add stir-fry frozen veggies. When veggies are crisp-tender, add 1 to 2 cups cooked turkey. Add your favorite stir-fry sauce and serve over cooked brown rice.

Leftover Turkey and Potato Casserole

Makes 10 (1-cup) servings.

All you need:

1 (10 ½ oz.) can Hy-Vee Healthy Recipe cream of chicken soup
1 cup Hy-Vee light sour cream
⅓ cup Hy-Vee skim milk
3 cups chopped leftover turkey
2 cups Hy-Vee shredded Mexican cheese, divided
Hy-Vee pepper to taste
1 (32 oz.) pkg Hy-Vee frozen potatoes O’Brien, thawed

All you do:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Stir together soup, sour cream, milk, turkey, 1 cup cheese and pepper. Spread half the mixture on the bottom of a greased 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Top the turkey mixture with potatoes, remaining turkey mixture and remaining 1 cup cheese. Bake uncovered 45 minutes or until cheese is melted and golden brown.

Nutrition facts per serving: 250 calories; 10 g fat; 6 g saturated fat; 0 g trans fat; 60 mg cholesterol; 20 g carbohydrates; 2 g fiber; 19 g protein; 320 mg sodium.

Crispy Turkey Tostadas

Serves 4 (2 tostadas each)

All you need

1 (14 oz.) can petite diced tomatoes, preferably with jalapeños
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
3 cups shredded cooked turkey (12 oz.)
8 corn tortillas
Canola or olive oil cooking spray
1 avocado, pitted
¼ cup prepared Hy-Vee salsa
2 tablespoons reduced-fat sour cream
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1 cup shredded romaine lettuce
½ cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese

All you do

  1. Position racks in upper and lower thirds of oven; preheat to 375 degrees F.
  2. Bring tomatoes and juice to a boil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add onion; cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft and most of the liquid has evaporated, 15 to 20 minutes. Add turkey; cook until heated through, 1 to 2 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, coat tortillas on both sides with cooking spray. Divide the tortillas between 2 large baking sheets. Bake, turning once, until crisped and lightly brown, about 10 minutes.
  4. Mash avocado in a bowl. Stir in salsa, sour cream and cilantro until combined. To assemble tostadas, spread each crisped tortilla with some of the avocado mixture. Top with the turkey mixture, lettuce and cheese.

Source: adapted from Eating Well, Inc.

Nutrition facts per serving: 397 calories; 15 g fat; 86 mg cholesterol; 34 g carbohydrate; 33 g protein; 8 g fiber; 621 mg sodium; 709 mg potassium.