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  • Victoria Yachkouri and Oliver Kuczynski

Turkey vs. Ham: The Great Thanksgiving Meat Debate

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! If your family is lame and forces everyone at the dinner table to share something for which they are thankful, feel free to say “I’m thankful that I am not Conor, who edited this debate between classes on Thanksgiving because he is an idiot who decided to leave America during football season.” Anyway, since today is a holiday, we have a special debate: Ham vs. Turkey. Which meat should your family eat on the fourth Thursday of November?

Turkey certainly has tradition on its side. After all, the Pilgrims invented it at Plymouth Rock during the first Thanksgiving on July 4, 1492. However, whereas your mom’s turkey will most likely come out dry and prompt a snide comment from a relative who has somehow not died yet, ham is glazed. From a flavor perspective, it’s a safe bet. Is gravy enough to make up for the bird’s lack of moisture? Or should you cut out the middleman altogether and roast up a pig?

Victoria Yachkouri debates Oliver Kuczynski.


It’s Thanksgiving, and my family dining room table is dressed to the nines in the china that has been reserved in my family’s hutch since last Christmas dinner. I take my seat and look at the glory that’s ahead of me—the mashed potatoes, the stuffing, the mac and cheese. My eyes dart away from the cranberry sauce because that’s the spawn of Satan and an absolute abomination. Do not @ me. I then see the golden turkey in the middle of the table—cool, I guess; I mean it’s Thanksgiving, so whatever. And finally, my eyes meet the meat I desire. My mouth waters and I twiddle my fingers in my lap, waiting for my Dad to come with the knives.

He begins with the turkey, because it’s Thanksgiving, so whatever. I get impatient as my eyes wander over to my protein of choice, the smoky smell of which tingles the back of my neck, making me excited about when it’s time for it to be sliced. The turkey is in pieces, finally—who cares anyways—and then comes my Dad’s yearly complaint, directed towards my mom, for making a dish that he, a man who was raised Muslim, cannot eat.

“Don’t listen to him, baby, he’s just jealous,” I whisper to my Thanksgiving dinner protein of choice. My crispy, red, ham, dripping its sweet juices, is waiting to be sliced, and to reveal its pink, sweet interior. My father groans and I smile as the knives are placed on the skin of my ham.

“Heck yes!” I exclaim as my father betrays his religion. But, he’ll have to put the teachings of Islam aside for tonight, because it’s Thanksgiving, and turkey isn’t as good as ham.

Once my plate is full, with each thanksgiving specialty in their own section, I begin with my Romeo—my ham. I lift a piece towards my mouth as the heat radiates and the smoky, smooth smell fills my nostrils, causing my mouth to water and to despise the distance between them. My desires are satiated as the warm, sweet meat is finally introduced to my eager taste buds. And already I am enjoying my Thanksgiving meal.

I know what you guys are thinking; this girl’s sexually attracted to ham. But no, that’s not it at all. What I’m saying is that ham is better than turkey. It just is. Turkey needs other things in order for it to be good. When was the last time, at your Thanksgiving dinner, that you saw someone eating straight turkey with a smile on their face? Never, right? Well, if you have, that person is sketch and you should rethink your relationship, because turkey simply needs other things to be good. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for a nice forkful of stuffing, with turkey layered on it and some gravy draped over top, but turkey simply is not good on its own. Ham is the better meat of choice. Ham needs nothing to be good, and turkey needs additives.

I don’t want any confusion for our descendants of the Plymouth colony. My argument isn’t for a pig to become the emblem of Thanksgiving; the turkey can keep its pointless face on the holiday’s products. But turkey meat is bland and base, while ham is sweet, tangy, smoky, succulent. When’s dinner?


Meleagris gallopavo, commonly known as the turkey, has been the nationwide centerpiece of Thanksgiving since around the 19th century when the holiday became popular. Contrary to what your 1st grade teacher said, the Plymouth colonists didn’t actually start the trend, even though turkeys are fairly abundant in New England. Regardless, the inclusion of turkey as a Thanksgiving staple is a huge American culinary victory, due to its value as a main dish due to its health benefits and taste.

Before I begin, I need to make my palatal background fairly clear. I am a Polish-American from New York City, I work out, and I cook for myself. Considering my carnivorous heritage, I have no aversion to pork in any shape or form, especially glazed ham. Of course, this easily conflicts with my normal eating habits, watching macros and whatnot. Under that sort of judgment, turkey passes with flying colors. Talking “big-body” portions, 15 ounces of oven roasted turkey breast (skinless) is around 570 calories with 2 grams of saturated fats (out of 3 total), 360 milligrams of cholesterol, 225 milligrams of sodium, and 128 grams of protein. Glazed ham on the other hand rolls in at around 806 calories, 8 grams of saturated fat (out of 24 total), 180 milligrams of cholesterol, 3,000 milligrams of sodium, 75 grams of sugar, and a meager 70 grams of protein.

Nutritionally, I see no real debate outside the realm of cholesterol. If you’re honestly worried about your cardiovascular health, anyone would advise against eating 15 ounces of meat in a single sitting, or more than the USDA daily recommended 6 ounces of protein. “But Oliver, it’s a holiday…Who cares?” Listen, some people do and some people don’t. If you don’t care, here’s why turkey is the superior Thanksgiving choice.

Leading up to this debate, I’ve heard numerous sentiments about turkey’s dependence on various side dishes and gravy to actually make it good: “Turkey is hella dry,” etc., etc. First of all, does anyone realize that the glaze on a ham acts just like gravy—as a supplementary component to turkey? The only difference is that gravy is added to one’s taste while a ham’s glaze is unconditional. Additionally, the texture and light flavor of turkey meat is undeniably its culinary strength.

The unity of every ingredient in a dish is dependent on the balance of every particular flavor, complimenting each other to perfection. If we can consider cranberry sauce, stuffing, yams, and some sautéed vegetables to be Thanksgiving essentials, then turkey meat is unchallengeable by ham. “But ham is much more juicy…” Yeah, that’s the problem, guy. There’s no way to perfectly incorporate the dankness of cranberry sauce into a slippery slice of ham. The fat content simply does not mix the water base of a cranberry sauce (look up what “hydrophobic” means). As for ham’s more pronounced taste, it overpowers the subtle flavors of stuffing and yams, leaving you with a singular side of brussel sprouts. Enjoy your ham and sprouts, my friend.

Please, if you’re eating dry turkey on Thanksgiving, have your family call my mom so she can spit some Slavic kitchen wisdom. I’ve never experienced that in my life and sure hope I won’t ever need to. If you’re in the predicament of having to inundate your turkey with gravy, I’m profoundly sorry. Look up how to brine and baste a turkey for your own and your guests’ sake, then let me know how you REALLY feel. Until then, keep in mind why turkey is the more conducive Thanksgiving protein.

Which do you prefer? Ham or Turkey?

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