Turkey Crown vs Whole Bird

There has been a large increase in the popularity of turkey crowns over the past few years.

Turkey crowns have appealed to many as there is a perception that they are easier to cook and carve.  They have also increased in popularity for those having a smaller gathering at Christmas.

We wanted to provide you with some information on turkey crowns and the whole bird so that you can make an informed decision before you make your Xmas dinner purchase.

What is a turkey crown?

A turkey crown has the legs and backbone of the turkey removed.  You are left with the breast meat on the bone and the wings.  The turkey crown only contains the white meat. 

Cost

On average, a turkey crown costs around 40% more per kg than the whole turkey.  The turkey producer must cover the costs of removing the legs and the backbone.  Therefore, those purchasing a turkey crown, are paying for the whole bird due to the increased time required for butchering.

Establish Preferences

Firstly, we would recommend establishing the preferences of your guests for Xmas dinner.  If there are guests who love the dark meat, then they will be disappointed with the turkey crown option.  However, if a whole bird is cooked, everybody at the table can feast on the cut of meat of their choice.

Which is easier to cook?

From our experience, people who have noted that they lack confidence in the kitchen have a perception that a turkey crown is more straightforward to cook and overall, generally more convenient. But is this the case?

Following the cooking instructions from a traditional artesian turkey producer to cook a whole turkey is arguably simpler than cooking the turkey crown.  The darker meat provides a richer flavour with more depth than the white meat.  Therefore, there is no requirement to add anything to your turkey.  However, we would always advise buying a high quality, traditionally reared turkey if you want to experience these flavours at Xmas.

The main advantage of opting for the whole bird from a traditional turkey producer is the beautiful rich gravy that the dark meat produces. Simply separate the fat from the stock and serve.  The gravy from the crown is blander and requires extra work in the kitchen to provide more flavour.  This may involve making gravy out of a stock from the giblets and the addition of gravy powder.  Therefore, there is more creative flair required by the chef to provide a tasty gravy with the crown. 

Crowns tend to dry out more than whole bird when cooked.  This is because the legs and back bone are removed from the carcass and the skin is no longer intact.  The skin is vital for holding in the juices of the bird when cooked.  This improves the texture of the meat and makes it more succulent. Therefore, you do not have to baste the whole bird or brine it to get top quality results. 

Also, the whole turkey balances better in the roasting tin than the crown, as the backbone stabilises the bird.  This allows for the bird to cook more evenly.

The Oven

A turkey crown will fit more easily in a smaller oven as the legs and backbone have been removed.  However, most large turkeys will fit in a standard oven with dimensions of 60cm x 90cm.   Our advice is to contact your local turkey producer and ask them the approximate dimensions of your turkey.

Carving

There is a common perception that a turkey crown is easier to carve.  However, the crown is less stable on the carving board than the whole bird as the backbone has been removed.  Therefore, carving the breast of the whole bird is much easier. 

Many people opt for a turkey crown as they are not confident at cutting the legs off the turkey.  However, cutting the legs off the turkey is extremely straightforward- simply hold the end knuckle of the leg, cut close to the body, and then twist off.  Then carve the dark meat off the leg.

Reducing Food Waste

Unfortunately, hundreds of thousands of turkey legs and backbones are wasted each Christmas due to the rise in popularity of turkey crowns.  There is a limited market for such a large supply of turkey legs in this short period of time.  We should be aware that all food production creates greenhouse gases and therefore it is essential that our generation limits food waste.

The legs and backbone can be used to make delicious stocks and soups which can be frozen and used throughout the year.

Final Thoughts

Overall, the whole turkey is the best option if you are looking to impress guests with the overall flavour and texture of the bird. The whole turkey is also better value and is a more sustainable option than the turkey crown. It is vital that we are making informed decisions in relation to the food we eat and the potential waste that arises through our choices.

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Craig Michie

Based at Lochend of Barra, Inverurie, Craig Michie left a job as a town planner in 2009 and travelled around South America where he met his Columbian wife Maria. The couple returned to Scotland and the century old family farm to create Barra Bronzes which was named winner in the ‘Judge’s Choice’ category, runner-up for ‘Best New Retail Product (businesses with up to 25 employees),’ and was named as highly commended in the ‘Best Young Business’ category at the Grampian Food Forum Innovation Awards 2016.

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