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Nov 23, 2003 11:18 AM

More Turkey Decisions: Hen or Tom, does it make any difference?

  • z

I was perusing the selection of free range turkeys at the grocery store last night, and some brands state whether it is a Hen or a Tom. What's the difference flavor-wise? Any difference in cooking time?

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  1. As far as I know it is only the size of each. Hens are smaller and as such will be a little more tender.

    As far as taste they should be the same. The cooking time depends on the size. The larger the bird the more time to cook.

    5 Replies
    1. re: Yimster

      I've heard that the description on the package (hen or tom) is not related to the genetic sex of the bird inside, but is, rather, a description of its weight. In other words, each packer has a range of weight for hens and a range of weight for toms, and the bird goes into a bag appropriate to its weight.

      That said, if economy is a/your goal, the larger the turkey, the higher the meat to bone ratio. In other words, the carcass weighs about the same regardless of the size of the bird. Think about it -- adjusted for height, Calista Flockheart's skeleton weighs almost as much as Lou Ferigno's.


      1. re: Dorothy

        No difference in breast size, either, so I guess the Toms are trannies, if that has any relation to desirability or cooking time.

        1. re: Dorothy

          I've heard that a hen will have more white meat as they have bigger breasts (go figure).

          1. re: Dorothy
            Zach Georgopoulos

            Interesting, if somewhat unappetizing, analogy! I actually need to keep the bird fairly small, as I'm making it on an electric rotisserie. The rule of thumb I read somewhere is to figure one pound per serving. But now, reading your post, I wonder if that rule is applicable mostly to big, commercial hormone fed bird-beasts (with more meat to bone ratio), as opposed to the scrawny free-range turkeys I'm looking at.... E.g., if I buy an 11 pound free-range Hen (because, on second look, it seems like all the birds in that pound range were labeled Hens), will it feed 7 people? I think this is the first and last time I'll make the Turkey -- I have too analytical a personality to be doing this...

          2. re: Yimster

            The mainstream turkey industry doesn't bother sexing turkey chicks; they just go by size of the bird. But a small grower raising heirlooms conceivably might. I doubt it would make much difference.