Turkey burgers with chanterelles and Gruyére from The Currabinny Cookbook.

Turkey burgers with chanterelles and Gruyére from The Currabinny Cookbook.Image by James Kavanagh and William Murray

Turkey mince is extremely lean and has become very popular over recent years as the population moves towards a healthier, cleaner lifestyle.

As part of our Back to Basics series, we’re looking at some common ingredients to help make sure our readers are making the most of the great produce that we have access to here in Ireland. Previously we looked at scallops, housekeeper’s cut of beef and chicken thighs; today we're looking at turkey mince.

Known as ground turkey in the States, turkey mince has become hugely popular in Ireland. Much cheaper than minced beef and far leaner, it seems that the popularity of turkey mince has increased in conjunction with the nation's new obsession with working out and eating clean. Nutritionally speaking, turkey mince is a great addition to any diet; per 100g, the meat contains around 100 calories and a whopping 25g of protein. 

Usually made with the meat from excess thighs and drumsticks, turkey mince is packed with flavour but can dry out quite quickly. To alleviate this, it's important to cook the meat carefully and ensure you don't overcook it. It can be helpful to add another element to turkey mince to make sure it stays moist, such as cooking the mince in a sauce or using half turkey mince and half pork mince in mixes for burgers or meatballs.

Turkeys are native to the Americas, particularly in areas east of the Rockies including Mexico and California. The bird was first domesticated by the Mayans in Guatemala over 2,000 years ago before it was brought to our shores by European colonisers. Originally, the bird failed to thrive in Europe, but turkeys have since established their presence in both Europe and North America, although they nearly went extinct there 100 years ago due to over-hunting.

Massively associated with celebratory meals, turkey actually replaced swan as the centrepiece at festive meals, as it was easier to keep and prepare. By the late 16th century, turkey was quite commonly eaten in England, but not for Christmas dinner until the reign of King James I. It is said that he opted to forgo the traditional swan in favour of turkey for Christmas dinner one year, which started the tradition that lives on to this day. 

Turkey mince lettuce wraps. Image from @_justwingituk_ on Instagram.

Turkey mince lettuce wraps. Image from @_justwingituk_ on Instagram.

When preparing turkey mince, it's important to ensure that it is fully cooked through before eating as, similarly to chicken, it can contain dangerous bacteria. When the mince is cooked, it will no longer be pink or translucent in colour. You can also use a thermometer to check that the mince has been fully cooked. 

Looking for some recipe inspiration? Read on for some of our favourite recipes:

  • This recipe for turkey burgers with chanterelles and Gruyére cheese comes from the Currabinny cookbook by James Kavanagh and William Murray. We love the idea of combining mince with bacon, Worcestershire sauce and other ingredients to pack the dish full of flavour, as well as helping to make sure the burger doesn't dry out when cooked.
  • Claire Hanley's stuffed turkey meatballs have a distinctly Christmassy feel to them, but we think they're delicious at any time of the year. Try them out for your next dinner party – they make great canapés.
  • Turkey and courgette koftas from eathos make a great lunch option as they're super healthy but full of flavour and very filling. Whip up a batch of these to have for your lunch throughout the week and you'll feel very smug about how virtuous, yet tasty they are. 

Turkey and courgette koftas from eathos.

Turkey and courgette koftas from eathos.

What do you like to make with turkey mince? Let us know in the comments below.