Making homemade turkey deli ham, lunch meat, cold cut or boloney as it's also known, is a very simple process that requires few ingredients and little skill.
Using this delicious homemade lunch meat to make beautiful sandwiches with sourdough bread or Borodinsky bread is a treat all on its own.
Once you've made your own turkey deli meat, you'll never go back to store-bought boloney again.
This recipe for turkey lunch meat is also easily modified to suit individual flavours and can be made using 100% natural ingredients without the addition of preservatives.
- Turkey - For my turkey deli meat recipe, I use deboned skinless turkey thighs. You can also use turkey breast or a mix of the two. The main reason I like the thigh is because of the richer flavour. It also has a little bit of fat, which I like in my deli meats.
- Egg - We only use egg white. To be honest, this is also an optional ingredient, but I like using it for that extra protein stability when slicing it.
- Garlic - I use dried garlic, but you can use fresh minced garlic too.
- Water - Plain drinkable water. If you have it, use turkey, chicken or vegetable stock instead. If not, the amount needed is very small, so won't make much of a difference in flavour.
- Salt - In my opinion a must, but you can use alternatives if your diet requires low sodium.
- MSG (optional) - Monosodium Glutamate as we know it nowadays, is not a harmful additive but rather the 5th flavour, umami. It's naturally found in foods like tomatoes, cheese, soy, meat, fish and fermented products. In my opinion a must in this recipe, but if you're categorically against it then just leave it out.
- Curing salt (optional) - I use curing salt number 1. Also sold as Prague powder #1, Insta Cure #1 and Pink curing salt #1. It's coloured pink to prevent confusing it with table salt. Made of 94% salt and 6% sodium nitrite. It serves two functions. Firstly to prevent botulism poisoning and secondly to give the ham that attractive pink colour. In tiny amounts, like used in this recipe, it's perfectly safe, desirable and preferred to not using it at all. Again, the choice is yours to use it or not.
- Smoked paprika (optional) - I use smoked paprika to that everyone can have access to making as close as possible turkey deli ham with a smokey flavour. It's of course optional, and you can simply omit it if you want.
- Trim the turkey, removing any tough tissue or bones. Cut it into 2.5 cm (1 inch) cubes.
- Divide the cubes into three parts for different textures. Each part gets seasoned and prepared differently to create a specific texture. The ratios are all in the recipe card.
- Mince part of the turkey through a meat grinder using the coarse grinding plate.
- Purée part of the turkey in a food processor until smooth.
If you don't have a meat grinder or blender, use pre-made turkey mince.
- Mix the three turkey preparations together into a homogeneous mixture.
- If you want a classic log of baloney, shape the mixture into a sausage using a sausage casing or plastic wrap sprinkled with smoked paprika. If you are not bothered about a log or sausage shape like classic Bologna, then you can simply place it into a vacuum bag or press it into a baking dish.
- Remove any trapped air by pricking holes in the wrap with a needle or toothpick.
- Wrap it tight and close the ends with a knot.
- The easiest way to cook your deli meat at home is in the oven. Preheat the oven to 100 °C (212 °F) and fill a tray with boiling water.
- Place a layer of parchment on the ham and close it tightly with foil.
- Place the ham in the oven and cook for about 60 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 68 °C (154 °F).
- Remove the ham from the oven and cool it down in a bowl of ice water or a cool place until the internal temperature reaches 8 °C (46 °F).
If you have a sous vide water bath, then set the temperature to 70° C (158 °F).
The reason you remove the oven version at a lower temperature is that it will keep cooking due to residual heat.
See below for storage and serving instructions. All amounts and ratios are in the recipe card.
Tips for success
- Meat quality - Use fresh, high-quality turkey from reputable sources. This way, you can have a high level of confidence that the turkey has been stored correctly and does not contain harmful elements.
- Use metric measurements for accuracy - It's the only accurate measuring system known to humans and is used by every single professional. It will save you many disappointments using cheap scales to weigh your ingredients.
- Temperature control - Keep the meat and equipment cold during the process to prevent spoilage or bacterial growth. If it heats up too much, simply place it in the fridge or freezer for a bit. Even though we will cook it, it's still best practice to keep the turkey chilled throughout the process.
- Air removal - Remove large air bubbles to ensure even cooking and prevent the ham from falling apart when slicing.
- Cooking method - In my kitchens we use different methods depending on the recourses available to us. The most precise method is of course using a sous vide water bath. But a great home alternative is simply in the oven, like I've explained and shown in the video.
- Internal meat temperature - The single best cheap investment you can make is to get a temperature probe. All my chefs use it to cook everything from bread, carrot cake, to perfect salmon and steak. The one I use in this recipe has a long, heat-safe cable that you can stick into the oven while monitoring the internal temperature of the ham while it cooks. You can even set an alarm to tell you when it reaches the correct internal temperature. For safety reasons, I recommend cooking it to 68 °C or 154 °F. Salmonella, the scary poultry bacteria, gets killed at 60 °C (140 °F).
- Cooling - Chill the turkey ham before slicing to ensure it holds together and retains moisture.
Deli hams or boloney are easily customizable foods. Here are a few simple ways you can modify this recipe to your liking.
- Protein - Replace the turkey with chicken, pork, beef, or shrimps.
- Spice - You can add spice like madras curry powder, Thai curry paste to the meat mix or add other aromatics like onion powder or dried herbs.
- Additions - Pistachios Italians like using in their mortadella. Sun-dried tomatoes, olives, capers and chopped fresh herbs are all great options.
- Smoking - Cold smoke it if you have the facilities for it. If you do, make sure to use the curing salt to avoid botulism bacteria from growing.
Homemade deli ham makes an amazing cold cut, great for simply having with scrambled eggs for breakfast or a few slices when you're feeling peckish. But it can be so much more.
- Sandwich - I love having it on toasted sourdough or borodinsky bread with Dijon mustard or making a simple tomato lettuce and ham sandwich with homemade Caesar dressing or lemon mayo.
- Salad - Sliced or cubed in Cobb salad or a simple tomato and mozzarella salad.
- Snacks - If you just want a few very simple party snacks. Dress some enoki mushrooms in soy sauce, then roll them up in a thin slice of ham.
- Store in the fridge for 4-5 days or vacuum-sealed for up to two weeks.
- Freeze for longer storage.
Do not leave it out of the fridge for extended periods of time as it will spoil or cause food poisoning.
Frequently asked questions
Homemade deli meat is less processed and healthier than commercially produced deli meats. All deli meats go through some sort of preparation or cooking process. Even a simple turkey breast cold cut needs to be brined and spiced before being cooked. By making your own homemade deli ham, you have full control of what goes into the mix and what texture it will be when cooked. Commercially produced deli meats contain many additives, unwanted ingredients and preservatives.
It's healthier than commercial turkey Bologna/boloney or lunch meat, for a fact. It's also a great clean source of protein and eaten in normal quantities making it a nutritious food choice.
You can keep it in the fridge for 4 to 5 days, stored airtight. If fully vacuum sealed, up to two weeks. It also lasts longer if you use curing salt.
If you have a meat slicer, it's the best way to get those paper-thin slices you see on restaurant-style sandwiches. Otherwise, simply a sharp knife will do.
Yes, I make big batches and then freeze it until needed. Defrost the ham in the fridge overnight. Avoid using the microwave or running it under warm water.
I have a Frenchie and I don't give him any. Avoid feeding deli ham to dogs due to its salt content. If you make it without the added curing salt and use a salt alternative, I'm sure your pup will love it.
Electronic Kitchen Scales
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Homemade Turkey Deli Ham
For the turkey cubes
- 400 grams turkey meat - skinless and boneless thigh (note 1)
- 4 grams salt
- 1 gram curing salt #1 - optional (note 2)
- 6 grams msg - optional (note 3)
For the turkey mince
- 350 grams turkey meat
- 4 grams salt
- 1 gram curing salt #1 - optional (note 2)
- 40 grams water
- 2 msg msg - optional (note 3)
For the turkey puree
- 250 grams turkey meat
- 20 grams water
- 2 grams garlic powder - note 4
- 4 grams salt
- 2 gram curing salt #1 - optional (note 2)
- 6 grams msg - optional (note 3)
- 30 grams egg white - from one large egg
- 2 grams smoked paprika
Preparing the meat
- Trim the turkey if not trimmed already. Remove any tough tissue or bones. Cut it into roughly 2.5 centimetre or 1 inch cubes.
- Split the cubes into three separate parts. 400 grams, 350 grams and 250 grams. Each part is seasoned differently and creates a different texture in the ham. We keep 400 grams whole, 350 grams get minced and 250 grams gets puréed.
- Season each mix as listed in the ingredients.
- Process the purée through a food processor and the mince through a mincer or buy ready made mince. Keep the 400 gram part whole.
- Mix it all together in a bowl until well combined.
Shaping (See notes for alternative shaping methods)
- Lay down a double layer of plastic wrap and sprinkle it with paprika in the centre.
- Place the turkey mix onto the paprika and wet your hands with a bit of water to prevent sticking. Shape it into a log or sausage shape, removing any trapped air pockets as well as you can.
- Fold the wrap over, so the meat is encased inside. Make sure to overlap the plastic wrap, but don't get it caught up in the meat. Push the meat from side to side through the wrap to remove more trapped air.
- Next, grab the sides and while keeping contact with the surface you roll the log tight, so it firms up. The roll will get a bit thicker and shorter.
- Use a tooth pick or needle to prick holes where you see air bubbles. Repeat the rolling and tightening process once more before wrapping in another double layer of plastic.
- Roll the ham log tight and close off the ends by tying a knot each side.
Cooking (See notes for alternative cooking method)
- Turn your oven to 100 °C or 212 °F.
- Fill up a casserole dish or deep dish with boiling water.
- Place the turkey boloney log into it. Cover with a small piece of parchment and then with foil or a tight-fitting lid.
- Cook for about an hour, or until a thermometer placed in the thickest part (centre) reaches 68 °C or 154 °F.
- Once cooked, you remove it and cool it down in a bowl of ice water or any place cool until the internal temperature reaches 8 °C or 46 °F before either storing or slicing.
- Make sure the turkey is trimmed of any tough tendons or bones. You can also use turkey breast or any other protein like chicken, pork, beef or shrimp.
- I use curing salt number 1. Also sold as Prague powder #1, Insta Cure #1 and Pink curing salt #1. It's coloured pink to prevent confusing it with table salt. Made of 94% salt and 6% sodium nitrite. It serves two functions. Firstly to prevent botulism poisoning and secondly to give the ham that attractive pink colour. In tiny amounts, like used in this recipe, it's perfectly safe, desirable and preferred to not using it at all. Again, the choice is yours to use it or not.
- Monosodium Glutamate as we know today is not a harmful additive, but rather the 5th flavour, umami. It's naturally found in foods like tomatoes, cheese, soy, meat, fish and fermented products. In my opinion a must in this recipe, but if you're categorically against it then just leave it out.
- I use dried garlic, but you can use fresh minced garlic too. Onion powder also works, and you can use these in tandem if you like, or omit both.
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