How to Prepare a Pasture Raised Turkey

Joe and I LOVE Thanksgiving!

We thoroughly enjoy spending the morning cooking alongside family (well, I love this, Joe is mostly the taste tester, HA!) and sharing a delicious meal with people we love.

Probably something you didn’t know about Joe and I - we are terrible gift givers. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE giving gifts, BUT sometimes it’s so much pressure, especially at Christmas time.

So, we love this “no pressure” holiday.

I think it’s also wonderful to have a day dedicated to giving thanks. It’s so easy to get bogged down by the daily grind and constantly focus on the bad or what you don’t have.

I love reflecting on all that we’ve been given and all the blessings in our lives!

Tell us in the comments below why you love Thanksgiving!

Okay, let’s talk about TURKEY!

When we first raised turkeys on pasture last year, we had no idea how different they would be from other turkeys we’ve had before.

Here’s some of the unique benefits of pasture raised turkeys:

  • They live outside, eat bugs, forage in various grasses, and enjoy sunshine and lots of exercise

  • Because of that exercise, pasture raised turkeys are a little leaner (don’t worry though, you can ensure juiciness with a brine, recipe to follow!…oh and butter helps too, yum!)

  • The flavor of their meat has more depth due to the variation of their diet, it actually tastes like turkey should!

  • They aren’t injected with any additives such as oils, water, salt, emulsifiers, sodium phosphate, or artificial flavors

  • They are most often raised by small family farms, which means you get to have a connection with your farmer and know exactly what you’re feeding your family

Because they are leaner and aren’t injected with a bunch of stuff, you get the opportunity to add your own flavors without all the unknown additives!

BUT you can also add basically nothing and still have an amazing dinner. The flavor of the turkey is amazing on it’s own. We sometimes just do salt, pepper, and butter!

I think there’s 3 key parts if you wanna go all out for a scrumptious roast turkey:

  1. Brine - ensures that the turkey remains juicy

  2. Compound butter - adds flavorful extra fat to the meat

  3. Broth - to use for basting to add flavor and nutrients

I used to be super precise with cooking, following each recipe to the T. But I’ve learned to be flexible depending on what’s in season and what I’ve got on hand.

So for the following recipes, keep in mind that you can keep it as simple as possible OR add your own flair according to your preferences!

Preparing a Pasture Raised Turkey

Ingredients:

  • whole pasture raised turkey, thawed

  • 1 gallon brine (recipe below)

  • for stuffing: chopped onion, celery, carrot, apple or your favorite stuffing recipe!

  • compound butter, softened (recipe below)

  • salt and pepper

  • 2 cups broth (bone broth is the best if you have it on hand! recipe below)

Steps:

Day 1

  1. Rinse turkey and place in 5 gallon food grade bucket or large stock pot.

  2. Pour brine over top. You can place a plate on top of the turkey to keep it submerged if needed.

  3. If not able to be fully submerged, make sure to turn the turkey in the brine periodically so all parts of the bird are at some point submerged.

  4. Place in fridge for 12-24 hours.

Day 2

  1. Prepare your stuffing & compound butter.

  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

  3. Remove turkey from brine, rinse turkey and pat dry.

  4. Place the turkey in a shallow roasting pan, breast side up.

  5. Stuff the turkey.

  6. Use a spatula to separate the skin from the meat where you can, mostly on the breasts and thighs. Spread half of compound butter between skin and meat.

  7. Spread the other half of the butter on top of the skin and sprinkle with salt and pepper all over.

  8. Tie legs together with baking twine. Tuck wings as close as possible.

  9. Pour broth in the bottom of the roasting pan and cover turkey loosely with foil.

  10. Place the roasting pan in the oven and baste every 45-60 minutes.

  11. Remove foil during last 30-45 minutes so skin can get crispy, yum!

  12. Roast the turkey until the thickest part of the thigh is 165 degrees, roasting time estimates below.

  13. Remove turkey from oven and let rest 15-30 minutes before carving.

  14. ENJOY!

Roasting time estimates:

*should take approximately 15 minutes per pound

  • 8-12 lbs: 2-3 hours

  • 12-16 lbs: 3-4 hours

  • 16-20 lbs: 4-5 hours

Brine

You can simply make this with salt and water, but feel free to spice it up as you like!

Ingredients:

  • 1 gallon water

  • 1 cup sea salt

  • optional: 1/2 cup honey or brown sugar, bay leaves, sage, thyme, peppercorns, or citrus slices

Steps:

  1. In a large stock pot, combine 4 cups of water, salt and any other ingredients.

  2. Simmer until salt is dissolved. Remove from heat and mix in remaining water.

  3. Let cool to at least room temperature before use or set in fridge for later use.

Compound Butter

Butter sometimes gets a bad rap, BUT it’s actually a really healthy and natural fat, so NO GUILT for me this Thanksgiving :)

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup butter (1 stick), softened

  • 1/4 cup olive oil

  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped

  • 1 teaspoon chopped sage

  • optional: thyme, rosemary, sage, parsley, lemon juice, chopped shallots or chopped chives

Steps:

  1. Combine all ingredients except butter in food processor or simply mix well with a fork.

  2. Once mixed, combine with softened butter.

  3. Either use immediately or store in fridge. Make sure to set on counter to soften before use.

Bone Broth

You can also use store bought broth for your basting liquid, BUT this is so much better and nutritious since you’re harnessing all the amazing nutrients from the bones!

Ingredients:

  • bones from whole chicken

  • 2 T apple cider vinegar

  • optional: chicken feet, onion, carrots, celery, or peppercorns

Steps:

  1. Add all ingredients to a crock pot. Fill with water and turn on low.

  2. Cook for 18-24 hours

  3. If you want it concentrated, remove lid for a couple hours so some water evaporates and it cooks down

  4. Turn off crock pot and let cool for up to 1 hour

  5. Strain out all the solids and pour broth into jars or other air tight containers

  6. Once cool, store in the fridge for up to a week or freeze.

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Joe and I sincerely hope you enjoy this amazing holiday with those you love….and you get to feast on some epic food together!

If you’re interested in reading more about reserving a FRESH pasture raised turkey for your Thanksgiving dinner, CLICK HERE.

We’d LOVE to hear from you! What are some of your favorite Thanksgiving traditions? Did you learn something new from this post either about the benefits of pasture raised turkey or the ways you can prepare them?