Cooking Tips and Advice - Print - Turkey Products

Turkey Products - Cooking Tips

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Whole Turkeys | Turkey Parts | Ground, Cut, and Chopped Turkey
Turkey Sausages | Miscellaneous Turkey Products


Whole Turkeys

Fresh, Hard-Chilled, Frozen

Any turkey labeled "fresh" in a food store has never been allowed to be cooled to a temperature lower than 26°F. Turkeys that are hard-chilled are cooled to temperatures between 0°F and 26°F. Even though turkey meat begins to freeze at 26°F, in order to be considered "frozen", a turkey must be cooled to a temperature of 0°F or below.


A free-range turkey means that the bird was allowed to roam outdoors, which may have a positive affect on the flavor of the meat, especially if the roaming area was not too crowded. The amount of space that a turkey is given to roam, regardless if it is indoors or out, actually affects the quality to a greater degree than if the bird is simply allowed to be outdoors.


An organic turkey refers to a turkey that was allowed to eat only organic feed and was allowed to roam outdoors (free-range). In order to be classified as organic, the turkeys can never receive any antibiotics. Growth hormones are also prohibited, which is the case for all commercially raised poultry.


This refers to turkey that has limited processing with no artificial ingredients or coloring added. The term "natural" does indicate that the bird was free-range. The meat will also be a bit drier than other types of turkeys that have had additional processing.


A kosher turkey must be raised and processed with strict guidelines under rabbinical supervision. The turkeys are free-range birds that are fed only grain, are never given any antibiotics, and are individually inspected. When they are processed, the turkeys are soaked in a salty brine solution to give the meat a unique flavor.

Frozen Prestuffed

Prestuffed frozen turkeys can be purchased with a variety of stuffing flavors and in a large selection of sizes. Prestuffing and freezing a turkey at home can be dangerous. Home freezers cannot freeze as quickly as commercial freezing processes. The stuffing increases the rate of growth of harmful bacteria which may multiply rapidly before the turkey has a chance to freeze properly.

Frozen Self-Basting

A frozen self-basting turkey is injected with various ingredients, such as oil, juices, and seasonings, before it is frozen. When the turkey is roasted, the added ingredients keep the meat moist and tender as well as providing extra flavor.


Turkey Parts

Turkey is often cut into parts, packaged, and sold fresh or frozen. Turkey breasts, drumsticks, thighs, and wings can be sold this way. The breast section of a turkey is quite large and it is often cut into smaller cutlets that are thinly sliced.


Full Breast - Not Boned

Breast Half - Not Boned

Boneless Breast Half

Turkey breast is all white meat, very low in fat, and high in protein. It is available fresh or frozen and bone-in or boneless. Turkey breast can be purchased whole or split.

It is usually less expensive to purchase a whole, bone-in breast and perform the boning and cutting at home. A premium is charged for turkey pieces that have been boned and trimmed because of the extra labor involved.

The meat from the breast is one of the most nutritious meat sources available. It is low in calories, fat, cholesterol, and sodium. If the skin is removed, turkey breast is a good food source for people on low-fat and/or low sodium diets.


Turkey breast can be divided into smaller cuts and packaged such as turkey steaks, slices, or tenderloin. A turkey tenderloin is a small section of the breast meat that is removed from the inside of the breast near the keel bone. They are boneless and skinless and usually weigh between 6 and 12 ounces. They are available fresh or frozen.

Full Wing

Turkey wings are all white meat and can be purchased whole or in sections.


The portion of the wing nearest to the body can be cut between the shoulder joint and the elbow joint. This section, known as the drummette, can be larger than a drumstick of a chicken depending on the size of the turkey.

Middle Wing

The flat middle section of the wing between the elbow and the wing tip can be cut as one piece.

Wing Tip

Wing tips, which do not contain much meat, may be packaged and sold for the purpose of adding flavor to soups and stocks.

Hind Quarter

Marketed fresh or frozen, the hind quarter includes the drumstick, thigh, and part of the back. It consists entirely of dark meat and range in weight from 2 to 6 pounds.


The thigh is the upper part of the leg above the knee joint. Thighs are marketed as bone-in, with or without skin, or boneless, with or without skin. Bone-in thighs with skin are usually available in weights ranging from half a pound to 1½ pounds and contain all dark meat.


The drumstick is the lower part of the leg below the knee joint. Bone-in drumsticks are usually available in weights ranging from half a pound to 1½ pounds.


Neck and Giblets

Giblets consist of the liver, heart, and gizzard. When purchasing a whole turkey that has been commercially processed, the giblets (which are usually placed in a bag) and the neck are inserted inside the body cavity.


Ground, Cut, and Chopped Turkey

Ground Turkey

Just like beef cuts that are ground into hamburger, turkey can be ground and used in the same way. Ground turkey consists of white or dark turkey meat, or a combination of both. It contains approximately 65 to 75 percent less fat than ground beef. It can be used to make sausages, patties, or in any recipe containing ground beef. Ground turkey is available fresh or frozen, in patties, 1 pound packages, and in bulk.

Turkey Burger

A turkey burger is a meat product made from ground turkey, which is flavored with various seasonings, formed into a burger shape, cooked, and most often served on a bun in the same manner as a hamburger. It is prepared the same as other ground meat burgers using cooking methods such as grilling, frying, or broiling. Ground turkey is often substituted as a low fat alternative to ground pork or beef.

Julienne Turkey

Julienne turkey is turkey meat that has been chopped into thin strips that are usually not less than ½ inch long and not longer than 1½ inches. Julienne turkey is sold frozen in 5 or 10 pound plastic bags and can be used for a variety of turkey dishes including salads, casseroles, and stir-fry recipes.

Diced or Cubed Turkey

Diced turkey is turkey meat that has been cut into small cubes that are usually ¼ to ½ inch. It is sold frozen in 5 or 10 pound plastic bags and can be used for a variety of turkey dishes including salads, casseroles, and stir-fry recipes.

Turkey Strips

Turkey meat is cut into strips so that it can be used for deep-frying or stir-frying. The strips are available uncooked or fully cooked, unbreaded or breaded, and unflavored or seasoned with various herbs and spices. Turkey strips are usually sold frozen in various quantities.


Turkey Sausages

Sausage made of turkey meat is much lower in fat than sausages made from other types of meat. Turkey sausages are flavored with numerous herbs and spices. Some varieties are smoked and others are not. The varieties of turkey sausage include Bratwurst, salami, and bologna.

Turkey Bratwurst

A German sausage traditionally made of pork and veal and seasoned with several spices including caraway, nutmeg, and ginger. Bratwurst made of turkey meat is now a popular alternative to pork and veal Bratwurst because of its low fat content. Turkey Bratwurst is usually found fresh so it must be well cooked before it is served. It is often grilled, fried, or broiled.

Turkey Salami

A sausage made from ground dark turkey meat, flavored with garlic and other seasonings, and cured to make it safe for eating. The meat is processed, cured, air-dried, and wrapped in a casing. It is course and dry in texture and varies in size and shape. It is generally sliced and eaten as is or served with crackers or bread. Turkey salami contains approximately 50 percent less fat than regular salami.

Turkey Bologna

Bologna is a type of mildly flavored sausage that originated in Bologna, Italy. It is traditionally made from beef and pork, but finely ground light and dark turkey meat, also referred to as MDM or mechanically deboned turkey, is now used as a popular low-fat alternative to beef and pork bologna. Turkey bologna is seasoned, processed, and cured in the same manner as other types of bologna. It is generally sliced and eaten as a snack or with crackers or bread.

Smoked Turkey Sausage

Smoked turkey sausage is a type of lean sausage produced from ground turkey and is seasoned, smoked, and sold in a variety of sizes ranging from small link size portions to rings of sausage measuring approximately 12 inches in length.

Turkey Hot Dog

A turkey product made from finely ground light and dark turkey meat that is mechanically deboned from the turkey. Turkey hot dogs are seasoned, cured, and smoked in the same manner as pork and beef hot dogs. They are also referred to as "turkey frankfurters."


Miscellaneous Turkey Products

Boneless Turkey Roast, Whole


Whole turkeys are available that have been deboned and packaged. A netting is usually placed around the turkey before it is packaged to help hold the shape. The preparation, cooking, and carving are much more convenient. Boneless turkeys are also much easier to handle and there is no waste.

Boneless Turkey Roast, Pieces

Another type of turkey roast consists of pieces of white or dark meat or both, that are removed from the bones, placed in a foil pan, and frozen to be cooked when needed. The roasts are available in various weights.

Both types of boneless turkey roasts are a good alternative for cooks who may be intimidated by roasting the entire bird or for anyone requiring a more convenient method of cooking and serving.

Boneless Roasted Turkey Breast

Boneless turkey breasts are available that are fully cooked and packaged and ready to heat and eat. Full breasts and half breasts can be purchased, depending on the number of servings required. Some of the varieties that are available are oven roasted, glazed, stuffed, barbecued, honey cured, and hickory smoked.

Turkey Cutlet


Turkey cutlets are small, thin steaks that are removed from the breast meat and are pounded to flatten and tenderize them. They can be used as a substitute in recipes calling for beef, veal, or pork cutlets. Turkey cutlets are available uncooked or fully cooked, unbreaded or breaded, and unflavored or seasoned with various herbs and spices.

Turkey Roll


Turkey rolls are fully cooked and consist of all white meat or a combination of white and dark meat formed into a log shape. The roll can be sliced and served as a cold cut or sautéed and served as a main course.

Smoked Turkey Meat

Smoked whole turkeys or turkey parts are ready to eat because the smoking process cures and cooks the meat with indirect heat. They are available in a wide range of flavors depending on the type of fuel used for the smoking process.

Turkey Ham

A meat product made from the thigh meat of a turkey, that is cured and smoked, so it can be ready to serve from the package. The size and shape depends on how the meat is processed and it is generally available in whole or half portions. Turkey ham is approximately 95 percent fat-free and is a low-fat alternative to pork ham. It can be served hot or cold and sliced thick or thin.

Turkey Bacon

A meat product produced from smoked turkey, which has a similar appearance and flavor to pork bacon. Because it contains less fat than bacon made from pork, turkey bacon shrinks less when cooked.

Breaded Turkey Products

Turkey meat is used for a number of commercially prepared breaded products such as corn dogs, patties, strips, cutlets, and nuggets. The breading cannot exceed 30% by weight and the products are usually sold frozen. Most breaded turkey products can be prepared by baking, broiling, deep-frying, pan-frying, and microwaving.


Turkey meat can be purchased canned and is available as all white meat or all dark meat. The canned turkey is convenient for use in salads, sandwiches, and casseroles.

Turkey Breast Deli Meat

Turkey breast deli or luncheon meat is fully cooked, sliced, and ready to eat.

Turkey Pastrami

This product is produced from skinless thigh and drumstick meat which is ground and seasoned. Like other types of pastrami, turkey pastrami is flavored with peppercorns and other seasonings and then cured and smoked. Turkey pastrami is approximately 95 percent fat-free and can be sliced and eaten hot or cold.


Like beef jerky, turkey jerky is made of long strips of meat that are preserved through drying so that they can be eaten when needed. It is often marinated in various seasoned liquids before it is dried. Jerky is very tough to bite and chew after the drying process is complete, but because it keeps for long periods, it is a convenient food to use for camping and hiking trips.