Pastured Turkey Cooking Tips
Whether this is your first time cooking a Thanksgiving turkey, or you've been roasting your family's bird for years, here are some quick tips to ensure you are able to produce the perfect pastured turkey this year.
More time on pasture means less time in the oven.
Unlike your average factory farmed butterball, pasture raised turkeys need 4-5 minutes less per pound to cook. Figure 8 to10 minutes per pound for your bird (as opposed to 12-15 for a conventional turkey). Roast your pastured turkey at a lower temperature, 325 degrees is perfect. Keeping temperatures at that level will ensure a flavorful, even cook, without drying out the breasts or burning the skin.
To brine or not to brine?
This is, without a doubt, the biggest question of turkey prep. Great news! Pasture raised heritage breed birds are by nature more flavorful than your normal supermarket fare, so don't feel obligated to brine them if it seems like too much work. If you are interested in brining, skip the water and go for a "dry" brine. We like this one from Kenji Lopez Alt of Serious Eats:
Combine half a cup of Diamond Crystal kosher salt (or six tablespoons Morton's kosher salt) with two tablespoons of baking powder in a bowl. Carefully pat your turkey dry with paper towels. Generously sprinkle the salt mixture on all surfaces by picking up the mixture between your thumb and fingers, holding it 6 to 10 inches above the bird, and letting the mixture shower down over the surface of the turkey for even coverage. The turkey should be well coated with salt, though not completely encrusted.
Warning: You will most likely not need all of the salt. In some cases, less than half will be okay; it depends on the size of your bird and your salt preferences.
Transfer the turkey to a rack set in a rimmed baking sheet, and refrigerate, uncovered, for 12 to 24 hours. Without rinsing, roast as you will, omitting any additional salting steps called for in those recipes.
Healthy turkeys are leaner by nature.
Since our turkeys spend their time outside wandering the pasture grazing, and enjoy a protein rich diet they tend to be a bit leaner than conventional birds. While not strictly necessary (the turkey will be tender, juicy, and flavorful all on its own), it never hurts to add in a little butter! Try tucking an herb compound butter underneath the skin of the bird or even just a drizzle of olive oil over the skin right before it goes in the oven.
Is it ready yet?
Knowing when to pull the turkey from the oven has traditionally been the true test of a master Thanksgiving Chef. After all, it is the difference between a juicy and succulent turkey and a dried out, over cooked bird. Luckily with a little "technology" its easier than ever to ensure your turkey has been cooked to perfection. Use a digital instant read thermometer or a standard cooking thermometer to check the temperature in the thickest parts of your bird as you approach the end of your cook time. When the thickest parts register 160 degrees Fahrenheit, pull the bird out of the oven and let it rest for 15-20 minutes. The turkey will continue to cook while resting which should bring you up to the FDA recommended 165 degrees, and even if it doesn't just pop the bird back in the oven for 10-20 minutes and finish it off!
Put away those knives! Give your bird some space to breathe!
Not so fast! Once the turkey has reached the correct internal temperature and has left the oven it still needs about 20-40 minutes to rest before carving. Cut in too soon after coming out of the oven and all those juices that you worked so hard to keep in will run out onto your platter or cutting board. The rest time will allow the hot juices to redistribute and re absorb themselves into the meat, making it moister and more delicious! Due to the size of the turkey, it will stil be piping hot after the rest period, so no need to reheat!
A word about gravy!
Making your own gravy from scratch is the only way to go if you want truly knock out flavors.
For a simple recipe you can make while the bird rests:
Pour the turkey or chicken pan drippings into a 2-cup measuring cup or gravy separator and skim the fat off. Put about 1/4 cup of the fat into a saucepan. Stir in 1/4 cup of all-purpose flour. Cook, stirring for 2 minutes. Discard any remaining skimmed fat. Add enough water to the liquids left in the measuring cup to make 2 cups of liquid. Pour the 2 cups of liquid into the flour and fat mixture. Cook, stirring, until thickened and bubbling. Continue cooking for about 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.
Up for a challenge that will result in the best gravy you've ever had?
Start with a good turkey stock that has been made with plenty of aromatics and veggies (carrots, onions, celery, garlic, etc). If your turkey came with giblets and a neck you give them a hard sear before simmering them in the stock for an hour or so until tender. Remove giblets and pick the meat off the neck bone and mince all together before adding back to your stock. You can use red wine for that fortified flavor, just make sure you burn off all the alcohol to avoid it tasting boozy. 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 stock mixture and whisk until smooth. This extra step ensures your gravy will not be lumpy. Reduce until gravy coats the back of a spoon. Serve next to the best tasting pastured turkey you've ever tasted for a Thanksgiving meal you will never forget!
Any other questions or comments? Call us at 847-410-0595 or drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. We will do our best to answer and questions you may have!