What brand of turkey cooks up the best?
I'm investigating turkeys for Chow, and curious what the Home Cooking community thinks about the brands out there. I'm hoping to compile the reviews from CH into a brand comparison chart on Chow for people to reference. So what will you cook? A Diestel? A fancy heritage bird? A Butterball? What type have you had the best luck with in the past?
Which brands stay nice and juicy, and which dry out?
Do the expensive turkeys taste any better than the cheap ones?
Are any brands super bland and gross?
What kind of giblets and bits come with the respective birds?
Do you buy your turkey direct from a farm? If so, how do you find one in your area?
Thanks for your input!
Roxanne, Associate Editor, Chow.com
Jaindl Farms - there is a reason they have been on the White House table for generations
Our worst turkeys have been frozen store brand turkey
From what I've found, preparation is as important, if mot more than, brand. even the most expensive bird can turn to sawdust if cooked too long or improperly. The recipe I use calls for putting an apple, onion, and celery inside. The veggies help keep it from drying out.
Of the value brands, I'm going to have to go with Butterball. My Mom used it when I was little, and they always turned out moist and delicious. When she bought other brands, it wasn't as tasty...a lot dull, bland, and dry. I use Butterball now when my Mom comes over...though I'd love to try a Heritage turkey...but at high prices Heritage turkeys run for, it's not as easy to splurge on the bird.
In the past I’d always bought Empire Kosher turkeys, but last year I bought a free-range heritage breed (if it had a brand name, I’ve since forgotten). Because of the butchering process, kosher birds don’t need brining—a big plus in my book, since I really don’t have the room for it.
A negative for kosher birds is that you can’t count on the package containing giblets. Here’s the quote from the Empire Web site: “We cannot guarantee the giblets, therefore the package states ‘Some giblets may be missing’. The kosher process requires separate processing to remove, clean and package the giblets. If the giblets are damaged or unclean they can not be sold or packaged.” And because Kosher turkeys are defeathered in cold rather than hot water, there are often a few feathers remaining. Some people find this very off-putting. But I just grab a hemostat and pull them out.
As for flavor, my family preferred the kosher bird, and I’ll return to it again this year. It may just be that that’s what they’re used to, but we found the kosher bird to be more tender and flavorful than the free-range heritage bird.