When it first became clear that microwaveable food was not a viable long term solution to cooking, I decided to try making only healthy meals. So, when the recipe I found on Pinterest for dinner one evening suggested substituting ground turkey for ground beef , I jumped right on it. The recipe is called Healthy Taco Salad and I could make it even healthier just by switching the meat.
I kept congratulating myself for my plans to make healthy taco salad with ground turkey throughout the day. Yes sir. I felt others would want to congratulate my big health initiative too, but I spared my friends the
inconsequential big news.
Unable to keep it completely inside, I did “casually” mention my substitution during a pre-cooking conversation with my mom. I expected some approval, and maybe a compliment, when I brought it up. Naturally, the foreboding mom-tone of caution accompanying her warning to MAKE SURE I absolutely had the meat cooked all the way through before consumption set off my paranoia. She didn’t get into any specifics, but my brain didn’t need them. It filled in the blanks with quickly, interpreting her advice as a warning that some dastardly strain of bacteria or life-debilitating disease would be the consequence of less-than-perfectly cooked meat.
Feeling wary but knowing I had no other options for dinner, I looked to the instructions on the meat packaging for guidance. There it stated the ground turkey needed to reach a temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit before consumption. This was extremely unhelpful as I didn’t have a meat thermometer and certainly wouldn’t be going out to buy one (I’m trying to save money here).
Instead, as I punctured the plastic wrapping of the package and wiggled the ground turkey into my frying pan, I planned to “sense” when the meat was cooked thoroughly. Somehow, I got it in my head that meat gives off some sort of vibe at 165 degrees Fahrenheit that I would be able to pick up on. It remains unclear how I came to this conclusion.
As soon as cooking got underway, rational thought filtered back in to remind me I would not in fact be able to “sense” anything, but it was too late to turn back. Things were sizzling and browning and you don’t put half cooked meat on hold to go buy a meat thermometer.
Throughout the browning process, concern for my life kept me second-guessing whether the meat was finished. I’d firmly grasp the rubber pan handle in preparation to pull the pan off the burner, only to picture myself in the hospital, hooked up to breathing tubes with some irreversible turkey-related malady. That’s when I’d think to myself, “Better give it another minute or two.”
As I continued to keep giving the meat “another minute or two” the meat pushed around by my spatula started to sound a lot like pebbles scraping across cement. This seemed like a trustworthy enough indicator that the ground turkey no longer threatened my health.
The resulting meat was edible, but only for somebody who really doesn’t want to throw out a meal that took hours of shopping and cooking to make (that’s me). Half the turkey meat had the consistency of gravel. The other half had more of a chewy tough texture. We won’t get into the taste. Suffice to say, adding in the rest of the traditional taco ingredients was key in stomaching my meals that week.
But- I never went to the hospital, never got hooked up to any breathing tubes, and to my knowledge, never acquired any turkey-related parasites. In my kitchen, that’s a success.