When you talk turkey, you're talking money and what is on the bird's label makes all the difference. Depending on what it says, you can spend anything from 79 cents to a whole twelve dollars a pound (plus shipping) on your Thanksgiving masterpiece. So here's a short take on what those labels mean, and what they deliver for the money.
Heritage Turkeys: At top dollar these are the biodiversity beasts, that is older breeds making a come back. Flavors are more distinctive than with the super market turkey, but there will be more bone to meat and less fat.
I don't know why so many recipes say brine these turkeys. If you buy them for their flavor, why mask it with salty brine. Instead slow roast them and make a simple pan gravy to moisten the meat.
A big bird runs well over $100. Obviously not an option for all.
Certified Organic: You know what this means. For many, politics and flavor drive this choice. It's what I buy if I am flush.
Free Range: This is tricky because by regulation free range means only that the turkey has access to the outside. That access could be a small opening 'way across a crowded hen house.
Natural: Government regulation says "natural" can have no artificial ingredients. But nothing is said about how the turkey grows up, or what's in its feed. Paying extra for "natural" comes down to whether or not we know a trusted source that uses vegetarian feed and other positive practices. If not, save your dollars.
Self Basting: This is a brined or marinated bird. If wrestling a big turkey into submission in bag full of brine isn't your thing, it's a convenience (but read the label to see what is in that brine).
If you like DIY, you save a little by not paying for the water and salt in the turkey. Either way, self basters are usually not expensive.
Turkey, plain and simple: Be it frozen or fresh, this is the bargain bird that will not break the bank.
Remember this is just one dinner, and with a good recipe, any turkey will taste just swell.
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Lynne Rossetto Kasper has won numerous awards as host of The Splendid Table, including two James Beard Foundation Awards (1998, 2008) for Best National Radio Show on Food, five Clarion Awards (2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2014) from Women in Communication, and a Gracie Allen Award in 2000 for Best Syndicated Talk Show.