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Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources

Is it turkey or ham for the family holiday meal?

For lots of Oklahomans, the question of turkey, ham, both or neither for the holiday feast is settled by tradition and long before the oven is set to preheat. But, for those less bound by family customs, there are a number of considerations that can help guide meal planning.

Doing a little comparison shopping is a good place to start, said Barbara Brown, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension food specialist.

“Comparing prices will usually push shoppers toward turkey,” she said. “Fresh turkey generally is more expensive than frozen. However, there are deals to be had if you buy at the last minute, though bargains are more likely to be had on the Friday after Thanksgiving.”

Shoppers also can compare alternatives on the basis of price per serving once they know the number of servings per pound.

“After doing that for two or more cuts, shoppers can figure out the less expensive option,” Brown said. “For example, if turkey is $1 per pound and you need 1 pound per person, the price per serving is $1. By contrast, if ham is $2.50 per pound and 1 pound yields two servings, the cost per serving would be $1.25.”

Of course, it also is important to make sure there is enough food for everyone dining.

“The general recommendation is to plan on 1 pound of raw turkey per person,” Brown said. “This amount allows for extra helpings during the meal as well as accounts for some leftovers.”

For ham, hosts can figure on a generous half pound per person since there will limited bone and waste. That should still provide enough leftovers for a second meal.

Finally, if available cooking time is a concern, precooked turkeys may only require reheating, while roasting a turkey could take several hours, depending on the size and whether it is stuffed or unstuffed.

A chart with cooking times for various types of hams is available at www.foodsafety.gov. Select the “Keep Food Safe” tab, choose “Charts: Food Safety at a Glance” and click on “Ham Cooking Chart.”

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Email: leilana.mckindra@okstate.edu

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