Holiday Meat:
Which Turkey or Ham To Choose?

Written by
Published in December 2008

holiday meat turkey ham( Chances are, you're already planning your holiday dinner. A trip to the local grocery store, though, may leave you confused than well-prepared. Have you noticed the many varieties of turkey and ham now available? Here, Diane Morgan, author of The Christmas Table, gives us a lowdown on the different kinds of holiday meat you'll find at your local store.

Turkey 101

Standard Turkey: These birds are mass-produced and conventionally raised. They are reasonably-priced and are available in any chain grocery stores.

Self-Basting Turkey: These birds have been enhanced with some fat, as well as some natural and artificial flavorings. Morgan recommends against brining a self-basting turkey, as it has already been injected with a salt solution.

Free-Range Turkey: These birds are raised in spacious, open environments. They are sometimes organic too. These birds are usually more flavorful and moist than conventionally-raised turkeys.

Kosher Turkey: If observant Jewish guests are on your list, this is the bird to go for. These turkeys have been slaughtered and cleaned under strict rabbinical supervision. Similar to the self-basting turkeys, Morgan recommends you don't brine kosher turkeys, as they have been salted in the koshering process.

Ham 101

Fresh Ham: These hams are unprocessed and uncured. They need to be cooked.

Country Ham: These hams are salted and dry-cured (sometimes smoked too). They must be soaked and simmered extensively before baking.

City Ham: These hams are fully cooked and have been wet-cured (immersing the ham in a wet brine), or injected-cured (injecting the meat with a brine solution). These hams are ready to eat and only need to be heated through.

Extra Notes: Some hams are labeled "ham and water products," "ham with natural juices," or "ham - water added." Try to choose hams that are labeled just "ham" and contain no added water.

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