The Great Turkey Debate

Bake, brine, smoke, roast, or deep fry? What’s your method? We all have one” traditional” family method, equipped with a familial “turkey connoisseur”. They all have a “top secret” way on how they cook the turkey to perfection. The bird tends to be the center of attention at the Thanksgiving dinner table, but how can we make it delicious while also keeping it nutritious? I’m going to go over a few options when deciding how to prepare your turkey to give it a savory flavor and high nutritional yield.


First of all, there is no certain “perfect” way to cook a turkey. Some ways definitely are healthier than others, but every method potentially has some negative aspects depending on how you choose to utilize it. Roasting and grilling, for example, are excellent ways to keep the meat lean while preserving flavor. However, if large amounts of high fat oils, butter, or seasoning mixes are used, this could cancel out the fat and calories you’d save by roasting or grilling it in the first place.  However, you have to be careful, because turkey is a relatively lean meat, it can dry out and become tough if not cooked properly. If you do use added oils or butter to keep the meat tender and moist, try taking off the skin before you eat it. The majority of the fat within a turkey is located in the skin.


Many people choose to brine a turkey before cooking in order to help the meat retain its moisture. Based on the concoction used, this may add only minimal calories, but it will drastically increase the sodium content. Proceed with caution, especially if you have personal limitations on sodium intake, such as with kidney disease or high blood pressure.


Smoking a turkey has become increasingly popular, especially in the south. I don’t know about everyone else, but being able to properly smoke meat has become a right of passage in my family. Although this tasty way to prepare a turkey does preserve the nutritional value, keep the meat lean, and add a distinguished delicious flavor, the American Cancer Society has determined that there is a direct link between increased consumption of smoked foods and an increased risk for developing gastric cancer.


It should be well known that deep frying a turkey would be the least health-beneficial way of preparing a turkey. However, if you choose to do so, peanut oil provides more nutritional value and flavor than regular vegetable oils. Although, soy, corn, vegetable, and canola oils have unsaturated fats, they are deemed less healthy due to their content of Omega 6 fatty acids. These acids, when over-consumed, can cause or worsen inflammation in the body.


Apart from reducing the oil and/or butter that is used, try to use reduced or no-sodium seasonings, such as Mrs. Dash® or dry rubs to add flavor. Fresh herbs and spices are always a plus!


When all the food is prepared and served, how do you know what to choose? At this point, try to save some calories and fat where you can, so opt for white meat over dark. Every 3-ounce portion of white meat will save you approximately 50 calories and 4 grams of fat versus the dark meat. Additionally, pull off the skin to decrease the fat and calories consumed.


The sky is the limit when it comes to preparing a delicious Thanksgiving turkey. So, grab your dad, uncles, and grandfather and have a turkey cook-off like my family does…it’s an absolute blast and someone can walk away with bragging right.