Alton Brown Has an Important Reminder When It Comes to Cooking a Kosher Turkey for Thanksgiving

It’s the season of big dinner spreads and bigger appetites. If you’re looking to step up your game this Thanksgiving, celebrity chefs offer tips for a delicious meal. ina garten Has shared her wisdom for a picture-perfect holiday, and Trisha Yearwood and Bobby Flay put fresh spins on classic recipes. Chef and Food Network character Alton Brown also has tips, specifically around cooking a kosher turkey.

Before grabbing the first Butterball you see in the supermarket, don’t overlook specialty options. Some birds start with all-natural raising practices, while others get unique treatment during butchering. Kosher turkeys are another specialty version — and if you remember a few crucial things about preparing them, they can be immensely flavorful.

Alton Brown explains the 2 key features of a kosher turkey

Alton Brown prepares a Thanksgiving turkey on ‘Good Morning America’ in 2014 | Lou Rocco/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images via Getty Images

The first important feature of a kosher turkey is that it’s processed under rabbinical supervision to maintain proper killing practices under Jewish customs. “They are grain-fed, have access to the outdoors, are given no antibiotics, and are soaked in salt brine,” Alton Brown adds on his website.

The salt brine is the second key feature, which can affect the flavor. “Salting seasons the meat, improves texture, and retains moisture,” the Good Eats host explains.

The turkeys are heavily salted after being slaughtered to draw out any excess blood because observant Jewish people do not consume animal blood. This brining process works as if you had brined the turkey yourself. “Kosher turkeys often win in blind taste tests, but this is not necessarily because they are better-tasting but simply because they are saltier than a standard bird,” Serious Eats explains.

Alton Brown warns against making a kosher turkey too salty

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Because kosher turkeys come salted, Brown says skipping an at-home brine is likely best. Otherwise, the bird could take on too much salinity and become overseasoned by the time you eat it. If you dislike brining your turkey before roasting it but still want moist, flavorful meat, using a kosher turkey might be to your advantage because that step has already been completed.

That said, there are a few potential drawbacks to go this route. One, because kosher turkeys are processed according to strict religious standards, they tend to be more expensive than typical birds in the grocery store. BBQ Host reports that kosher turkeys can cost $8 to $9 per pound and sometimes must be purchased from specialty retailers online unless you have a kosher store near you. (That’s compared to $1.50 to $2 per pound for standard options this year.)

If you’re watching your salt intake, it might be best to avoid kosher turkeys as well — unless you keep kosher. Brown notes that because you can’t control the salt content in kosher birds, they could be too salty for your preferences or dietary needs. Serious Eats also says some people report a “toasty” flavor resulting from the pre-salted process. Though many people wouldn’t notice it, others might find it off-putting.

Complete your kosher Thanksgiving meal with various sides

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If you’re looking for a full kosher meal for Thanksgiving, starting with the turkey and filling the table with other kosher sides can be a delicious undertaking. The Kosher Channel provides a simple but herb-filled turkey recipe that will be a stunning star of the show. The site also includes recipes for full Thanksgiving spreads that add a Southern flair or go a more traditional route.

You might need a few side dishes to round out your meal, in which case provides a plethora of options for bread, green beans, salads, and pies to satisfy you and your guests. Whether or not everyone at the table keeps kosher, they’re sure to enjoy the meal.

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