Fried turkey not necessarily unhealthful
BATON ROUGE — Fried turkey is not as unhealthful as it sounds — if you don’t eat the skin of the bird, according to LSU AgCenter nutritionist Beth Reames. In fact, experts recommend not eating the skin no matter how a turkey is prepared.
“Frying a turkey in oil does not necessarily increase the amount of fat in the turkey,” Reames says. “Frying correctly helps to prevent a greasy turkey. The high heat of the oil sears the skin quickly, preventing the oil from being absorbed and keeping the juices inside.”
According to the National Turkey Federation, the oil temperature should be maintained at 345 to 350 degrees. Because oil will seep into the turkey meat and add fat if the oil temperature falls to 340 degrees or less, the oil should be preheated to 375 degrees. After the turkey has been lowered into the cooking oil, immediately check the temperature and increase the flame so the oil temperature is maintained at 350 degrees.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s nutrient database doesn’t include per-serving calorie and fat nutrition information on deep-fat-fried whole turkey. However, a 3½-ounce portion of fried turkey from a recipe posted on the National Turkey Federation’s website has 230 calories, 12.6 grams of fat and 3.6 grams of saturated fat for a whole turkey, including the skin.
For comparison, Reames cites USDA nutrition information for a 3½-ounce portion of roasted, young hen turkey:
—Light meat with skin: 207 calories, 9.4 grams of fat, 2.6 grams of saturated fat.
—Light meat without skin: 161 calories, 3.76 grams of fat, 1.69 grams of saturated fat.
—Turkey breast with skin; 194 calories, 8 grams of fat, 2.2 grams of saturated fat.
—Dark meat with skin: 216 calories, 11 grams of fat, 3.3 grams of saturated fat
—Dark meat without skin: 185 calories, 6.98 grams of fat, 2.34 grams of saturated fat.
Calorie and fat content differ in turkeys depending on the type of bird and meat, she says. Light meat has less fat and fewer calories than dark meat and skin.
Because skin is a major source of fat in the turkey, nutrition and health experts recommend removing poultry skin before eating. The nutritional information for 3½ ounces of roasted turkey skin is 482 calories, 44 grams of fat and 10.34 grams of saturated fat.
“Even cooking your turkey in a turkey fryer or roaster that doesn’t use oil won’t conserve calories and fat if you eat the skin,” Reames says.
Turkey is low in fat and high in protein. It is an inexpensive source of iron, zinc, phosphorus, potassium and B vitamins, Reames says. The recommended intake of the protein food group from USDA’s MyPlate is 5½ ounces daily based on 2,000 calories.
Most Americans eat enough food from this group, but they need to make leaner and more varied selections of these foods, Reames says. A 3-ounce portion of meat and poultry is often compared to the size of a deck of cards.