When it comes to turkey, the parts may actually be greater than the whole -- at least for quick summer grilling. And since this is the year for the gutsy griller, turkey breasts smoking on your back yard barbecue will no doubt have more cachet than the tired chicken legs smoldering next door.
In fact, according to Annette Arbel, director of consumer affairs at the National Turkey Federation, sales of fresh turkey breast increase in the summer for that very reason -- the barbecue. Consumption of all turkey parts is steadily increasing, says Arbel, as shoppers are learning that turkey needn't be relegated solely to the Thanksgiving dinner table. More than 60 percent of turkey consumption is now attributed to parts, under 40 percent goes to the whole bird, according to Arbel.
Changing life styles are responsible for the turkey-part phenomenon, according to David Goldenberg, director of industry relations at the federation. Smaller families and smaller ovens are two reasons for the popularity of the parts over the whole bird.
And interest in health and nutrition makes turkey a particularly attractive product. A 3 1/2-ounce serving of roasted turkey breast without skin has 157 calories and contains 3.2 grams of fat (with the skin, the breast has 189 calories and contains 7.4 grams of fat), according to the USDA. Roasted, skinless chicken breast is 165 calories per 3 1/2 ounces, 3.6 grams fat; pork loin (lean meat only) is 252 calories per 3 1/2 ounces and the same amount of lean ground beef is 273 calories.
When it comes to cooking the turkey out on the grill, times will vary greatly depending on the method used, the thickness and type of turkey parts and the temperature of the coals, says the Turkey Federation. The following boneless turkey breast recipe, for instance, uses the direct heat method, used for turkey products that take less than 25 minutes. The breasts should only need about 12 minutes per side. They are first seared over medium to high heat and then covered for the remaining half of the cooking.
For everything you ever wanted to know about grilling turkey, the federation has published a brochure, aptly entitled "Turkey on the Grill," which lists cooking times and barbecuing methods for all kinds of turkey parts, marinade recipes, plus instructions on how to grill a whole turkey.
For a copy, send a self-addressed stamped envelope to: National Turkey Federation, 11319 Sunset Hills Road, Reston, Va. 22090.
In the meantime, you only need sugar, salt and pepper on your shelves, a grill in your backyard or patio and some mesquite chips (if you have them, for added flavor) before heading for the supermarket.
EXPRESS LANE LIST: lemons, soy sauce, honey, garlic, turkey breast, cucumbers, sour cream or yogurt. SWEET AND SOUR SMOKED TURKEY (4 servings)
1/3 cup honey
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, crushed to a paste
1 1/2 pounds fresh turkey breast, with or without skin
1 lemon, quartered, for garnish
Combine honey, soy sauce, lemon juice and garlic and mix well. Pour over turkey and marinate 30 minutes in the refrigerator. While turkey is marinating, soak mesquite chips (optional) in a bowl of water for 30 minutes and start fire.
Drain water in bowl and put mesquite chips over hot coals, allowing to smoke for 5 minutes. Place turkey on grill rack over burning coals and sear until crusty, about 6 minutes. Turn and sear on the other side, about 6 minutes.
Cover grill and continue to cook until done, 10 to 12 minutes, or until meat feels firm and thickest part of breast turns from pink to white. Turn breasts once during this last 10 minutes and baste frequently with remaining marinade.
Slice turkey thinly, as you would a flank steak. Garnish with lemon quarters and serve with cucumber salad. CUCUMBER SALAD (4 to 6 servings)
3 medium-to-large cucumbers
4 to 5 tablespoons sour cream or yogurt
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/3 teaspoon sugar, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Peel the cucumbers, preferably with a vegetable peeler. With a sharp knife, cut cucumbers into paper-thin slices.
Beat together sour cream or yogurt, lemon juice, sugar and pepper. Add the cucumbers and toss. Check the seasoning. Cover and chill before serving.