We Tried 13 Types of Sliced Turkey and These Are the Best

turkey-taste-test

Deli meat is not a glamorous food, but it is certainly a reliable favorite that gets us through long work and schooldays, filling sandwiches and topping crackers and, let’s just admit it, sometimes being eaten all on its own when desperate times call for desperate measures. Many of us reach for sliced turkey every time we go to the grocery store … but how are we actually choosing it? I had never really thought much about the difference in various types of turkey, so I decided to stage a little taste test. I brought in a couple members of my household to weigh in, and the results surprised me.

Best Overall: Sprouts Homestyle Turkey Breast ($5.99 for 0.6 lb.)

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We like this version for its large slice (great for well-stacked sandwiches) and genuine turkey flavor. While a lot of the deli meats we tried had weird chemical smells that were very off-putting, this one smelled like rotisserie chicken in the best possible way. It was well-seasoned enough to bring some salt to a simple turkey, lettuce and tomato sandwich, and had a good texture that walked the line between moist and meaty.

Best For Kids: Applegate Organics Oven Roasted Turkey Breast ($5.99 for 6 oz.)

applegate-turkey

We found this to be a true-to-flavor option, good for kids who might not want something overwhelmingly salty or with too much texture. Where some sliced turkey skews toward very spongy, with no real trace of actual protein, this one had the texture of real meat without going too dry, like some of the other options we tasted.

Best Flavor-Added: 365 Organic Cracked Black Pepper Turkey Breast ($5.49 for 6 oz.)

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The most common flavor additions for sliced turkey are black pepper and smoked, both of which we discovered can be very off-putting or just totally bland when done poorly. But the black pepper on this version was super flavorful without overwhelming the meat itself or becoming spicy. This was good enough that I went back for more at the end of the test.

We also loved: Hormel Natural Choice Oven Roasted Deli Turkey ($4.99 for 14 oz.)

hormel-turkey

This option caught us a little by surprise. The slices were smaller and round, which sometimes indicates that it's so over-processed that there’s no real turkey flavor left. But this version had great turkey flavor and a better texture than many of the meats we tasted. Just two or three slices would be plenty to give a sandwich a nice heft and stand up to any other ingredients.

The takeaways

My best guess was that sliced-to-order meats would be more flavorful and taste fresher than those that were prepackaged, but that turned out not to be true at all. I will feel no regret saving myself some time at the deli counter next time I shop. I’ll keep an eye out for 365 Organic Black Pepper turkey when I’m shopping at Whole Foods, and will definitely stay away from any lemon-flavored or smoked versions, which seemed to basically always taste like chemicals. There’s also clearly no reason to pay extra for recognizable brands like Oscar Mayer and Boar’s Head, when those meats definitely didn’t make our winner’s circle.

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