I caught a cooking show that nearly stopped my heart: Paul Prudhomme, famed chef from New Orleans, deep fat-frying a turkey. After injecting butter-laden gravy under the bird’s skin with a cooking needle “to marinate it from the inside”, he dunked the carcass in a vat of boiling oil. I had a small myocardial infarction just watching it.
But why not deep-fry it? Who wants a dry turkey anyway?
That’s why Whole Foods Market in Westport held a turkey tasting event last Friday. With so many options to choose from, here was an opportunity for consumers to find the turkey they liked best. As an added bonus, Analiese Paik, founder of Fairfield Green Food Guide, was there to help customers consider their options.
“It can be really confusing for people,” said Paik. “With so many options, all natural versus organic, people can feel a little overwhelmed by the labelling.”
Turkeys come in all different shapes and sizes. And, they come with a just as many labels. Free range. Organic. All Natural. Heritage. It’s hard to make a decision when all you want is a stupid turkey.
The market chain offered three different brands to try: Plainville brined turkey, Whole Foods Market free range turkey, and Kosher Valley turkey. They also offered a dry mix of herbs and spices if you wanted to brine your own turkey.
“I liked the taste of the free range but the brined was moister,” said Robin Richtarich, a frequent customer at Whole Foods Market. “I’ve had the Plainville turkey breast before. It’s a great option if you don’t want to cook the whole turkey.”
Saman Aghdasi, another Whole Foods customer, liked the taste of the free range turkey as well. “The free range has a more milder flavor,” she said. “I thought it would be gamey.”
The Whole Foods brand gets their turkeys from the Jaindl farm, the same farm that has been supplying the White House for the last several decades. But in the end, the kosher turkey won out.
“People like the kosher turkey best for moistness and flavor and it sold out,” Paik said of the event in a recent e-mail. “[They] seemed to be happy with the fact that all the turkeys were at least all natural and from fairly close by in Pennsylvania, so they made their decision based on taste.”
For Paik, buying the right turkey is only half the battle. Cooking it so that it’s healthy and tastes good is the other half. She said she had several conversations with customers about how to prepare the turkey. More than a few said they planned to brine.
While brining can definitely produce a juicy bird, overcooking it can destroy all your best efforts. Paik suggests having a good thermometer on hand so that the meat doesn’t cook past 165 degrees.
“An overcooked turkey is stringy, dry and tough,” she said. “And stuffing the bird only slows down cooking time and the internal temperature must also reach 165 degrees, which sometimes leads to an overcooked bird.”
On her web site, Paik lists a number of places to go in the state that sell organic turkeys. If free range is what you’re after, we offered a list of local places to get free range turkeys in a previous article on this site.
All of the turkeys sold at the Whole Foods Market are free of hormones and antibiotics. They are vegetarian fed and have no added solutions or injections. Each bird is completely traceable to the farm and as local as possible.
If you’d like to order your turkey from the market chain, you can do so at the store, by phone, or online. They stop taking orders on Tuesday, November 24th, at 11:00 p.m. So hurry up! Time’s a wasting! You’ve only got eight more fun-filled shopping days to find the right turkey.