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by Carol Ness
August 29, 2007
Sliced turkey is a popular choice for school lunch sandwiches, judging from the number of brands available.
Our recent blind tasting of packaged “oven roasted” turkey numbered 22, and that didn’t include smoked turkey, or the many kinds flavored with pepper or herbs. Some brands have both super-thin and thicker-sliced versions.
A first round of tasting tossed out the brands deemed too salty, rubbery or slimy or lacking in turkey flavor.
That narrowed the field to nine finalists, none of which dazzled the tasting panel in a second round of tasting.
The best of the bunch, according to the panel’s ranking, was Organic Prairie ($6.99 for 6 ounces, Whole Foods). “Tastes and feels like real sliced turkey,” said one taster. “Whole muscle texture – almost! – and good turkey flavor,” said another. One found it “a little dry.” Three would buy this brand, one might and one wouldn’t.
Diestel ($5.99 for 8 ounces, Whole Foods), which came in first in a tasting four years ago, placed second this time around. The panel thought it “tastes like turkey breast” but was a bit “salty” with a “pressed appearance.” Three would buy it, one might and one wouldn’t.
Third-ranked Hillshire Farm Ultra Thin Deli Select ($4.99 for a tub, Safeway and Draeger’s) had a “clean turkey flavor” but was “too salty,” and not all the tasters loved its “micro-thin slicing.” One would buy this turkey, two might and two would not.
In fourth place, Foster Farms ($3.59 for 10 ounces, Cala), the thicker-sliced version, which the panel called “acceptable” with “decent turkey flavor” but a “rubbery texture.” One would buy it, one might and three wouldn’t.
Coming in fifth was Oscar Mayer ($3.99 for 8 ounces, Draeger’s), the thicker version, which the panel found to be “reasonably like turkey” but “overseasoned.” Three might buy it, and two would not.
Sliced turkey (packaged)
There were so many brands of sliced turkey that the tasting was held in two parts. First, 22 kinds of turkey were narrowed to nine finalists. Then the nine were tasted again and ranked. The nine are listed here; the rest of the field appears below. Smoked, honey, pepper and other flavored turkeys were excluded.
Organic Prairie 66
Hillshire Farm Ultra 54
Thin Deli Select (tub)
Foster Farms 49
Oscar Mayer 44
Hillshire Farm 40
Foster Farms (tub) 26
Also ran: Andronico’s, Applegate Farms, Butcher’s, Coleman, Columbus, Healthy Choice (tub and package), Heidi’s Hens, Kroger, Oscar Mayer Shaved, Primo Taglio, Russer, Trader Joe’s.
Panelists were Linda Anusasananan, food writer and consultant, San Mateo; John Carroll, cookbook author, San Francisco; Marc Halperin, director, Center for Culinary Development, San Francisco; Shelley Handler, consultant, San Francisco; and Karola Saekel, former Chronicle Food staffer. All products are tasted blind; a perfect score would be 100. Prices listed are the lowest found, but products may be available at other stores.
E-mail Carol Ness at [email protected] To look up past Taster’s Choice columns, search online at sfgate.com/food/tasters/archive.
this article appeared on page F-2, San Francisco Chronicle August, 29, 2007 >>