Smoked Turkey

Ask Our Dietician

I’ve heard that smoked turkey contains a lot of sodium. I am supposed to be watching my sodium intake. I smoke several turkeys every year, using mesquite chips. If I don’t add any additional salt, how much sodium will the meat and broth I make from the carcass have? —L.S., Flora Vista, New MexicoIt is true that purchased smoked turkey, such as deli lunch meat, is high in sodium…as are the smoked turkeys found in the fresh meat case at grocery stores, which contain 600-1,200 mg sodium per 4-ounce serving. The sodium comes from salt and other high-sodium ingredients that are used to flavor and preserve the bird.
Home-smoked turkey, however, is a different story. The home-smoking process does not add any sodium. When you smoke a turkey at home, if you begin by buying a turkey that has not been prebasted and if you don’t add a marinade, a 4-ounce portion will contain less than 100 mg of sodium. If you use a prebasted turkey, the same 4-ounce portion will contain about 450 mg sodium.
Some backyard cooks soak their turkeys in salt brine prior to grilling or smoking. Not only does this add terrific flavor but it helps to tenderize the meat.
To calculate the nutritional information for that recipe, we measured how much brine solution the turkey had absorbed…and concluded that the sodium content was 247 mg per 4-ounce portion. Obviously, if that amount is too high for you, you would want to skip brining the bird.
The nutritional content of the broth that you prepare from your smoked turkey carcass depends on the type of turkey used and the volume of broth.
If you were using the carcass of a turkey that was not prebasted, for example, the sodium content would be negligible—probably less than 50 mg per cup. With a prebasted bird, the sodium level would be higher.

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