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~ Know the Pros & 'Cons' of Ground Turkey vs Beef ~

IMG_8160Between you and I, Joe and I are not lovers of ground turkey, turkey franks, turkey kielbasa, turkey sausage, turkey bacon, etc.  We do, however, love real-deal roast turkey with all the trimmings, and, adore turkey sandwiches.  I in particular get really annoyed by television chefs and advertisements that peddle these products as "just as good as" ground beef or pork, sausages and cured bacon products.  In my opinion, they are a disparagingly dry, bland, boring "look alike" alternative for folks who can't or won't eat beef or pork.  They're usually marketed as being "healthier" or "lighter" -- which, in the case of these two proteins, is just not the case.

IMG_8144If you're switching from ground beef to ground turkey for nutritional reasons, here's a few things you need to know:

When it comes to turkey, white meat (the breast and wing) has less calories than dark meat (the legs and thighs).  When purchasing "ground turkey", unless you are specifically buying it labeled "all white " or "all dark", you are getting IMG_8145a mixture of both, with a percentage of fat mixed in.  Reading and understanding how it is labeled is very important, and, both ground turkey and ground beef are labeled identically, clearly stating the lean/fat ratio:  95/5, 90/10, 85/15, 80/20, etc.  The higher the second number, the more calories and fat.  

What this means is:  when comparing ground turkey to ground beef, you must compare two identically marked labels.  The moment you do that, the obvious will be revealed:  from a nutritional perspective, there is very little difference between ground beef and ground turkey. Turkey will save you a few calories per serving, and cut down on a small percentage of fat, but, it typically contains a bit more cholesterol and sodium. Neither contains carbohydrates, and, from a protein standpoint they are about equal too.  Well then:  

In my house, we only eat ground beef or ground turkey a handful of times a year, so, for me I do not care about that extra 22 calories in my bowl of red beef chili.  I make my choice based on which IMG_8148protein suits the flavor profile of the recipe better.

When choosing between ground beef and ground turkey here's a few things you need to know about flavor and texture:

Turkey has a bolder flavor than chicken, but a much milder flavor than beef.  In ground form, it resembles beef, but, from a flavor and texture comparison they are two different animals.  Turkey is bland and dry.   Meals that rely on IMG_8155the robust flavor and juicy texture of beef are quite disappointing if turkey is substituted without making adjustments to the recipe.  It's less evident in "wet" dishes like chili or sloppy Joe's or meat sauce, but in mixtures for burgers, meatloaf and meatballs, if you insist on turkey:  

To add just flavor:  boost the herbs and spices.  If normally adding 1 teaspoon of a dried herb to a beef recipe, add 1 1/2 teaspoons to a turkey recipe.  If normally adding 1 teaspoon of a spice, add 1 1/4-1 1/2 teaspoons -- except for pepper and salt (which includes salty items like soy and Worcestershire sauce).

To add moisture and flavor:  add an extra 1/2-1 cup of diced fresh ingredients that exude moisture as they cook.  Mild-flavored leafy herbs (like dill, cilantro and parsley) and watery vegetables (like celery, bell peppers and onions) work best.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2015) 


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