Agrarian group

Our Favorite Turkey Recipes

Heritage turkey must be cooked differently than commercial turkey. It is more of a gamebird like pheasant. It cooks well with high heat in the oven, steamed, or deep fryed. If it is your first time cooking Heritage turkey PLEASE follow our Steam Roasting recipe.

Here is our recommended Steam Roasting recipe with explanation of the differences that you can download and print:
Heritage Turkey Cooking Suggestions

Turkey Recipes

Very important things to remember when cooking a Heritage bird.
  • Always fully cook the stuffing BEFORE putting it in a Heritage bird.
  • Use a good quality meat thermometer placed in the thickest part of the thigh to determine when the bird is done. Do not depend solely on cooking time!
  • Start closely monitoring the temperature at least 1.5 hours (1.0 hours for smaller bird) before the cooking time estimates it will be done.
  • Once the temperature reaches 145 degrees watch it very closely as it can rise quickly.
  • Plan on 1 hour of cooking time for every 7 lbs of bird - but use this just as a guideline. Cook by temperature!

What is the Difference?

Heritage breed turkeys are completely different birds than the commercial turkey. They are different because of their breed, what they eat, and the humane, natural life they live. Their bodies are built for function rather than the optimized production of white meat. As free-ranging omnivores their diet includes grass, bugs, seeds, nuts, and grains. They live a natural turkey life being able to run, forage, fly, bathe, and mate. They are active and range all over the farm visiting the almond orchard, walnut orchard, front porch, and garden several times a day.

Heritage Turkey Body Shape

The first thing you will notice if you have a Heritage turkey tom is the dramatically different body shape than you are probably used to with commercial birds. The breast bone will be very pronounced. There will not be quite as distinct of a difference if you got a Heritage hen.
While there definitely is less white meat on a Heritage bird than a commercial bird, it is not as much less as you might think from looking at that pronounced breast bone. They are simply shaped differently – their rib cage is more “vertical” while the commercial bird’s is more “horizontal”.

Heritage Turkey Meat Texture

Our birds take full advantage of their free range lifestyle and as a result their muscles are very toned. The breast meat will have a texture more like a pheasant or wild bird. The legs have done a lot of walking and could be tough if overcooked. We recommend a recipe like the steam roasted one on this site to keep them tender. Keep them moist, cook quickly, and cook to a safe but not overheated cooking temperature.

Heritage Turkey Skin Texture

A Heritage turkey’s skin is thicker than a store bought bird and has a good layer of fat in and beneath it. Don’t be afraid of the fat – it’s a good thing and naturally bastes the meat. The skin burns more easily so you need to watch how it is browning and cover with foil when it just starts to brown (you can uncover later if it’s not brown enough). Evenly browned skin will be very tasty and much thicker than you are used to with store birds.

Cooking STyles

Here are some tips on cooking a Heritage breed turkey.
Brining

Brining is not necessary to experience the flavors of these birds. It won't hurt anything but we highly recommend skipping the brine and just let the natural flavors come through.

Cooking Style

Oven roasting, rotisserie, and hot oil frying all work well. Just keep in mind that you want to cook at a hot temperature in a short amount of time. "Hot and fast" is the mantra. If you are frying in hot oil please make sure your kettle is large enough for your bird. A hen or tom under 14 lbs should be okay. But once you get above 14 lbs the pronounced breast bone might be too large for most kettles.

Giblets

The giblets will be in a plastic bag in the body cavity. If your bird was a particularly good eater there might be some of the body cavity fat saved in your giblet bag. The fat is excellent for adding even more flavor to your stuffing when cooked with the giblets. Or you can add it to your basting liquid.