Turkey is a great medium for all kinds of cooking. "Versatile" doesn't begin to describe this bird. Of course, a roast turkey remains the star of the winter holiday dinner table, but turkey can be turned into hearty stews, satisfying braises, simple sautés, and more, all year long. And turkey can do it with less fat and more flavor than its cousin, the ubiquitous chicken.
Beyond a whole bird, the supermarket offers a variety of turkey options: boneless and skinless cuts; turkey parts in their natural, skin-on, bone-in state (such as drumsticks and wings); ground turkey; and processed turkey products like fresh Italian and breakfast sausages and cooked sausages. These recipes will show you how to cook with different turkey parts to create more than the centerpiece at your Thanksgiving table. So break out of the turkey-for-holidays-only syndrome, and make it a regular ingredient in your everyday cooking.
Turkey Cooking Tips
The main thing to consider with turkey is the old white versus dark meat issue. White meat is very lean. Its lack of intramuscular fat (which melts during cooking and contributes to moistness) can make the cooked meat dry, but only if cooked improperly. There are a few tricks to avoid this mistake.
• When appropriate, choose a method that creates a moist cooking environment, such as braising.
• Use medium heat when cooking boneless white-meat cuts on the stovetop. High heat forces moisture out of the meat.
• Don't cook thick white-meat cuts, such as breasts or tenderloins, above 170°.
• Dark meat is fattier, which translates into moister end results. Dark meat comes from areas that get lots of exercise, so it's tougher and needs a longer cooking time. I don't find that dark meat is tender until it reaches 180°.
As a chef, cooking teacher, and former spokesperson for a major poultry producer, Rick Rodgers knows all about turkey. And as the author of Thanksgiving 101: Celebrate America's Favorite Holiday with America's Thanksgiving Expert, Rodgers takes the most pride in applying this knowledge to everyday cooking for "real people."