Friday, November 28, 2014

Roasting a Pasture Raised Turkey

The best turkeys are pasture raised, from a local farm. If you are lucky enough to have a local farmer who raises turkeys the old fashioned way, do yourself a favor and buy a pasture raised turkey.

The first thing you'll notice is the legs are much larger and the breasts smaller because these birds run around on pasture. This is how turkey is supposed to be! Pastured turkeys “showcase real flavor,” says Hank Will, American Livestock Breed Conservancy (ALBC) board member and Editor-in-Chief of Grit magazine. “There’s nothing like fresh air, exercise, grasshoppers, ticks, flies and other insects, wild seeds, clovers and the like to develop awesome flavor in the turkey’s flesh.”

Properly prepared, pastured turkey is lean and juicy, firm yet tender. The turkey just tastes more like turkey, with naturally larger thighs and smaller breasts, writes Deborah Krasner in Good Meat, a cookbook dedicated to pastured meats.

So, finally, here it is! It's Thanksgiving Day, and I was ready to roast the BEST turkey we've ever eaten. Although pasture raised turkeys cook a bit differently, and faster than conventional turkeys, the true test was going to come as this turkey was roasted, carved and eaten ... it didn't disappoint, and in fact, exceeded my expectations.


1 Pasture Raised Turkey
1 Herbed Butter Rub for Poultry
2 stalks of celery, chopped
4 carrots, chopped
2 large onions, peeled and chopped
1 quart turkey or chicken stock
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

One day prior to roasting, rinse turkey well, removing any giblets. Loosen skin on breast being careful not to tear it, and rub Herbed Butter Rub for Poultry under the skin, covering as much of the breast as you can.  Wrap turkey with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

On the day of roasting, Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Remove turkey from the refrigerator and let come to room temperature 30 minutes.

Using your hands, rub the entire outside of the turkey with olive oil and dust skin with salt and pepper. Place chopped celery, carrots and onions on the bottom of a large roasting pan.  Place a v-rack inside the roasting pan and place turkey on top of the rack.

Pour 4 cups of turkey or chicken stock into the pan and roast turkey for 30 minutes at 425.

Reduce heat to 325 and continue roasting for approx. 10-12 minutes per pound (less time than a conventional turkey), or until turkey has an internal temperature of 160-165 in the thigh and around 160 in the breast. Juices should run clear. Let rest 20-30 minutes, tented with aluminum foil, before carving.

Note - a 15.83 lb pasture raised turkey took just over 2.5 hours using this method. This cooking method allowed to skin to brown and crisp nicely, while keeping the breast meat juicy and moist. Strain any remaining turkey stock from the pan, discarding the vegetables. Use the stock for gravy if desired, or save it to add to the carcass when making Turkey Bone Broth.



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