How to: Cook a Pastured Turkey

Whether you’re using a recipe that has been passed down for generations, or cooking a turkey for the first time this Thanksgiving, here are some tips to make sure your Pastured Turkey is nothing short of amazing.

Tips for cooking a Pasture Raised Turkey:

  • Shorter cooking time. Pastured turkeys cook at a rate of  8-10 minutes per pound (as opposed to 12-15 minutes for non-pastured,) so make sure you also adjust your cooking time so as not to overcook the bird. Slow and low is always the way to go when it comes to turkeys, so cook your pastured turkey at a lower roasting temperature like 325 degrees. Once you’re ready to get it into the oven, it doesn’t matter if you have the breast up or down, or if you prefer to flip it halfway through. As long as your bird isn’t swimming in all its yummy drippings, you will achieve an even and moist cooking.
  • Lean meat, add some fat. Pasture-raised turkeys are leaner than conventional turkeys because they are grazing around, eating a protein rich diet all day out in the fresh air. Don’t be afraid of using butter when cooking your pastured turkey! Tuck an herby compound butter beneath the skin of the defrosted bird and then use more butter or olive oil on the outside of the skin for a crispy roasted skin.
  • No brine, no problem. These heritage breed birds are really flavorful, so don’t feel obligated to brine them if that’s not your tradition.  Just make sure you have some aromatic herbs and mirepoix veggies somewhere in the mix.
  • Smells good, looks good, but is it done? Use an instant read digital or standard cooking thermometer to check the temperature of the turkey in a thick part, like the thigh. Once the turkey has reached 160 degrees, you can pull it from the oven and let it rest for 15 minutes. The bird will keep cooking as it rests and the carry over the temperature should reach 165 degrees. Check the temperature again after it has rested for 15 minutes to see if it has raised to 165 degrees. In the event that the temperature has not reached 165 after the resting period, just pop it back in the oven for 10-20 more minutes and you should be good to go! 
  • It’s done, can I carve right away? Hold up! When your turkey comes out of the oven, it needs 30 to 40 minutes just to rest. This helps to redistribute the juices and thoroughly moistens the meat! After a half hour has passed, you can carve. And hey! This gives you enough time to make gravy 🙂
  • What’s the secret to great gravy? Simply put, make your own. It starts with good stock using plenty of aromatics like herbs and veggies (carrots, onions, celery, garlic, etc). You can get fancy by giving your giblets a hard sear before simmering in the homemade stock for an hour or so until tender. Remove giblets and pick the meat off the bone and mince all together before adding back to your stock, which is now turning into gravy. You can use red wine for that fortified flavor just make sure you burn off all the alcohol. Finally, make a roux or cornstarch slurry in a separate pan / bowl and slowly whisk in simmering stock liquid until smooth. Then add that mixture back into the rest of the gravy and whisk until smooth. This extra step ensures your gravy will not be lumpy. Reduce until gravy coats the back of a spoon.