Any way you slice it, it comes down to flavor, color, and texture
Most turkey breast, both from the deli case and in packages, is made from chopped turkey breast muscle that has been pressed together, shaped into a round or oval, then steamed or roasted. When you buy turkey in sealed packages, it stays fairly moist and has a shelf life of 2 weeks or more.
Sliced turkey breast is one of the most popular deli meats for sandwiches. There has been an explosion in the number of packaged brands in the refrigerator cases, so we decided to taste them. Seven people tasted seven brands. Most thought they would be eating the long pieces that come from slicing a cooked breast in your own kitchen. Alas, these slices were all even; many felt the round shape made it “bologna-like” and some thought the meat was slimy inside the sealed packages.
Colors ranged from pale white to rosy. Oscar Mayer uses caramel color for browning. A few dark spots on the Healthy Choice brand prompted one taster to comment: “Dark (blood?) spots.” Butterball brand has such thin slices that it was hard to tell what we were eating. “I will need 10 of these to fill up,” someone said.
All in all, the lack of taste and good smells was disappointing. “I was excited by the looks and then it was nothing,” said one. “The smell is the most delicious aspect of turkey breast,” said another, and that was missing from these brands. Applegate Farms did pass the sniff test. Oscar Mayer has an easy-to-peel package, but once open, it gave off a strong Spam-like smell. It was also the thickest and greasiest.
There is plenty of sodium in these products. Serving sizes vary, so the sodium content can seem low in some and high in others.
As with many products, tasters now want nothing to do with packaged variety for a while. Said one: “I’m going home to roast my own turkey breast.”
Applegate Farms Roasted Turkey Breast Winner
$3.69 for 7 ounces
Chosen top by 3 of the 7 participants (second best by another), this wasn’t an overwhelming favorite, but did well. It looked the most like the deli counter variety, in that it wasn’t pressed into a round. “Smells like turkey (good sign!), but looks like processed meat, tastes somewhat salty.” “Light color looks pretty fresh, not pre-cut shape. Tastes good – like meat.” However, “it has some visible fat that makes me think twice about eating it.” And another: “It has a porky smell; did the turkey get some to eat? Slices could be a bit thicker, otherwise they break apart.” One said, “salty, greasy, and pale.”
Butterball Turkey Breast Oven Roasted
$2 for 6 ounces
We expected better from the famous turkey company. “Looks small. Tastes a little like tuna.” Another: “Teeny tiny cutesy rounds. Odorless, extra chewy texture. Eh, leaves something to be desired.” “Smells fresh, doesn’t taste like turkey.” “Salty, somewhat gamey flavor.” “Did not taste like turkey – color unappealing.” One person who chose it as a favorite said, “Less aroma, initially less chemical taste, slight aftertaste but altogether mild.”
Healthy Choice Oven Roasted Turkey Breast & White Turkey
$2.49 for 6 ounces
This brand had slices that are so thin, they’re almost transparent. Four slices equals one serving. “More of the itty bitty slices, good for easy sandwich making but looks super processed. Taste is yucky; it sure is gooey in my mouth.” This comment was echoed by many: “Low to nonexistent aroma, unremarkable taste, blah.” “No turkey taste and not much smell either.” “Looks small and ugly” – referring to the brown spots.
Hormel Natural Choice Oven Roasted Deli Turkey
$3.29 for 9 ounces
This brand was chosen least favorite by 3 and got more comments on its looks and texture than any others: “Peach in color – it looks horrible! Slimy, like a child’s play food. Tastes over-processed.” “The consistency is a little like gum and I don’t much like the flavor.” Another: “I detect a touch of rosey-ness. This one is too sweet, as if honey was substituted for salt.” Others used words like “plastic” and “artificial” to describe the taste.
Oscar Mayer Turkey Breast Oven Roasted
$2.49 for 6 ounces
Ah, the brand with the jingle of our childhood memories. Many found the looks promising and the taste lacking. “I like the thickness of the slices. Looks like it is delicious but kind of tasteless.” Another, “I love the rosy looks (although it has a round pre-package look). Taste is disappointingly non-distinctive. It does have the right moisture, color – just not taste. Good-sized portion of slices!” “Ooh, it is so pink, smells tempting, but flavorless.” “Very pink, smells like ham, tastes more like ham.” “Thicker pinker slices than the others. The roundness of the slice is a bit scary.” “Tastes better than it looks.”
Trader Joe’s Oven Roasted Turkey Breast
$3.29 for 7 ounces
Boasts no nitrates, nitrites, or MSG, but there is 26percent sodium per serving. Many thought the aroma was a plus. “Smells like turkey, but it has that round artificial shape and a very processed look. Tastes too salty.” One person marked this her second best: “Cute rounds, nice and thick, color is white and pink, smells good, and wow it tastes good too.” But another said, “Though it doesn’t look delicious, it tastes good and normal. But it smells like chicken.”
Trader Joe’s no brand (distributed by Kayem)
$3.80 for about 8 ounces
This brand got lots of comments for its texture and in-the-mouth feel: “It smells good but I can’t really focus on flavor because it is so slimy and gooey. What’s with the chewy texture?” Another: “Too white, too thick, and too salty.” “Looks were not appealing and I wasn’t crazy about the taste. It looks glazed and slippery.” The word salty appeared on most of the comments, and one asked, “Did they use any spices other than salt?”