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Turkey

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What is it?

The iconic centerpiece of the American Thanksgiving dinner, turkeys are larger than chickens, generally weighing in between 12 to 24 pounds (though some breeders are raising turkeys as small as 5 to 8 pounds). Though similar to chicken in flavor, turkey, especially the dark meat, can have a deeper, fuller flavor. The majority of turkeys are purchased whole for roasting, but you can also buy turkey packaged in pieces, such as a whole breast or legs, and even cutlets. Ground turkey is also a popular alternative for ground beef because it tends to cook up more moist than ground chicken.

Don’t have it?

Chicken is generally the best substitute for turkey. In place of one whole roast turkey, try roasting two large chickens.

How to choose:

When choosing a whole turkey, fresh usually costs more but can have better texture than frozen; you’ll find fresh turkeys most widely available during the holiday season. Turkeys may also be labeled as kosher, natural, free-range, and self-basting. Whichever bird you choose, look for smooth, intact skin, which is a sign that it was handled well.

Read more about choosing a turkey, including what all those labels mean.

How to prep:

If roasting a whole turkey, be sure to remove and giblets stored in the cavity (check the neck cavity, too).

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