News & Politics

Are Heritage Turkeys Worth the Money?

This article is from 2006's Thanksgiving Dining Guide. To see 2007's guide, click here.

At $3.50 to $4 a pound, heritage turkeys aren’t cheap. But Thanksgiving is a special time, and we’ve never tasted a better turkey than this American original.

Not familiar with the heritage term? There’s a reason. As corporations came to dominate the food supply after World War II, heritage turkeys were displaced by big, white turkeys bred solely for their meat—and with unnaturally large breasts. Many of the heritage turkeys—with roots in America dating way back—were on the verge of being forgotten. The last few years the heritage turkey, aided by organizations such as Slow Food, has made a comeback.

If you were raised on Butterballs, eating a heritage turkey—look for the names American Bronze, Bourbon Red, Jersey Buff, and Narragansett—takes some getting used to. They’re not fat and round; they’re long, like game birds, and they don’t squat in the roasting pan—they tend to flop over it. They taste like game, too. The meat is richer, more flavorful and more succulent than commercially bred turkeys. And the skin, properly roasted and basted, tastes as good as cracklins.

Ann Limpert
Executive Food Editor/Critic

Ann Limpert joined Washingtonian in late 2003. She was previously an editorial assistant at Entertainment Weekly and a cook in New York restaurant kitchens, and she is a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education. She lives in Petworth.