The highlight of most Thanksgiving meals is the turkey, a special treat that many families prepare in honor of this holiday. However, there is a lot about the turkey that many people do not know. Whether it’s how long you need to cook your bird for the best results or how the turkey tradition began, here are some interesting facts and tips about this beloved bird.
Health and Nutrition Facts
Turkey is actually a very nutritional meat. Here are some facts about the nutritional content of turkeys to keep in mind this Thanksgiving:
- If you’re looking to cut back on calories this Thanksgiving, go for the white meat of the turkey, which has fewer calories than the dark meat. Also, choose meat that does not have the skin on it, which adds extra fat and calories.
- Turkey is low in fat and high in protein, which makes it a healthy meat choice for the holidays.
- Turkey is a great source of several key nutrients, including potassium, iron, zinc, phosphorus and B vitamins.
- A single serving size of turkey is about the size and thickness of a deck of cards, which is just slightly over 3 ounces. If the serving is breast meat without skin, it contains about 4 grams of fat and 30 grams of protein. If it is dark meat without skin, it contains about 8 grams of fat and 28 grams of protein.
- While it's a common myth that has been passed from dinner table to dinner table, turkey is not really responsible for that Thanksgiving Day food coma. The real culprit is the amount of food that people eat during this yearly feast. The processing and digestion of all that food takes away blood from other parts of your body, including the brain, causing people to feel tired and drowsy.
When you cook your Thanksgiving turkey this year, make sure you use the following cooking tips to make sure that your turkey is thoroughly cooked and tasty:
- Selection: When buying a turkey, it’s best to choose one that has about one pound for each person you plan to feed at your holiday event. If you want extra leftovers, buy more, and if you are serving more than one type of meat, buy less.
- Quality: The best turkeys will be marked with the USDA Grade A symbol. These turkeys are of the highest quality when it comes to development and condition.
- Thawing: Just because you’re thawing your frozen turkey doesn’t mean you should completely ignore it. It’s important to make sure that a turkey stays below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, which is the temperature at which foodborne bacteria start to multiply rapidly. To be safe, thaw your turkey in cold water, a microwave oven or the refrigerator following these USDA guidelines.
- Cross-Contamination: When you handle a raw turkey, you expose your hands and any utensils or dishware that touches the turkey to bacteria. It’s important to always wash your hands directly after handling any raw meats to prevent bacteria from spreading to other foods. You should also limit the use of certain utensils and dishware to the turkey only, and wash these thoroughly after using them.
- Cooking: Before cooking, make sure your turkey is completely thawed. Then, set the oven to at least 325 degrees Fahrenheit and place the turkey in a shallow roasting pan. As the cooking process nears its end, check the turkey at several points to ensure that the internal temperature has reached at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit. The best points to check are the center of the breast, the center of the stuffing area and the wing joint.
The following are some fun facts that you may not have known about Thanksgiving turkeys before:
- Turkey was eaten by the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag Native Americans in what is traditionally called “The First Thanksgiving,” which took place in 1621.
- It is estimated that about one-third of the annual consumption of turkey in the U.S. takes place in the Thanksgiving and Christmas season.
- About 675 million pounds of turkey are eaten at Thanksgiving each year.
- According to the National Turkey Federation, about 88% of Americans eat turkey at Thanksgiving.
- A 15-pound turkey is generally comprised of about 70 percent white meat and 30 percent dark meat.
- The average weight of a Thanksgiving turkey is 15 pounds.
- Turkeys have been bred to have white feathers so that the skin underneath the feathers will not have spots.
- Turkeys have also been bred to have such large breasts that they sometimes fall over. Additionally, commercially raised turkeys cannot fly.
- A male turkey is called a tom, and a female turkey is called a hen.