Thanksgiving is fast approaching, and with it, dozens of hungry family members and guests eagerly await the holiday meal. As they scramble to take their seats, all eyes will be focused on the centerpiece: your Thanksgiving turkey. The question is, how does it taste?
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A lot can go into a Thanksgiving meal and there can literally be dozens of side dishes if the group is big enough. But no matter what the window dressing is, people can taste a good turkey. That’s why you have to make the best choice if you plan to please the family.
The Benefits of Heritage and Organic, Free-Range Turkey
With an organic, free-range turkey, you can rest well knowing that farmers haven’t injected it with any growth hormones or antibiotics. Instead, the turkey will have been raised on healthy, natural feed and a lifestyle full of natural exercise. Traditionally, factory-farm turkeys are fed animal by-products in addition to their grains, making their product both unhealthy and unnatural. Free-range meat is always a great choice, whether it is chicken or free-range beef.
When it comes down to it, organic and free-range turkey is just more humane. On a free-range farm, the turkey isn’t kept in crowded, stressful conditions. While this may seem trivial, the truth is that many factory-farms are incredibly grotesque. Whether it be chickens or turkeys, the birds literally must walk around the dead and are treated with zero respect. If anything, getting a healthy, well-treated turkey helps to settle a moral dilemma. Plus, your guests will appreciate the extra effort on your part.
Chemically treated turkeys also tend to be drier and less tender. Because the overall health of the bird is different, the overall quality of the product is different too – and the majority of the time non-organic turkey is adversely different.
The one difference with Heritage turkeys is the breed. “Heritage” refers to the fact that they contain certain traits and characteristics of domestic turkeys, which have been lost since the 20th century. For example, they are more resistant to diseases and live longer lives. A Heritage turkey will also have a grass and insect diet, meaning that along with its longer life it also is probably happier. While they are more expensive, they’re famous for their taste. One note, though, is that they have more dark than white meat.
Choosing your Weight and Brining
Depending on how many you’re cooking for, the size of your turkey will change. Here’s a quick breakdown (yes, leftovers have been factored in):
6-8 people = 10-12 lb turkey
9-11 people = 14-16 lb turkey
12-14 people = 18-20 lb turkey
14-16 people = 22-24 lb turkey
Of course, you can always go with two small turkeys if you have the oven space. Last year at my house, we did just this. We were able to flavor the turkeys a little differently too; one was apple wood smoked and the other was a traditional flavor.
Once you’ve chosen your bird(s), the next thing to do brine! While this is by no means a necessity, brining has long been known to keep the turkey moist. When you cook any type of meat, moisture loss is inevitable. Usually, a turkey will lose 30 percent of its weight in moisture after cooking. After brining, though, that loss can be as low as 15 percent. That’s twice as much juice! The secret lies in the fact that brining not only adds moisture, but also helps the bird retain it.
Making brine is simple and you can add your own herbs to the mix while you let it sit overnight, allowing you to truly make your turkey your own!
At the end of the meal this year, your family and friends will be sure to say they were thankful for at least one common thing: that amazing turkey! Making your choice all natural, free-range, and organic means you’re making the healthiest, most humane choice. Not only will your body thank you, but so will your conscience.
From everyone here at organic soul, have a healthy, happy Thanksgiving!