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How to Cook a Pastured Turkey like a Pro

November 3, 2022

A farm friend recently wrote to us:

"I've been told that pastured turkeys need different cooking than the usual kind I’ve always purchased at grocery stores. Is this true? Any tips? Thanks!"

It's a great question.

The answers are: yes, pastured turkeys benefit from a few simple cooking adjustments, and yes, we have easy tips & tricks!

TIP #1: NATURE'S MAGIC — BRINE!!

Poultry is a lean meat that naturally releases moisture (and with it, some of its flavor) as it cooks.

Factory farms usually account for this by injecting turkeys with water, vegetable oil, sodium phosphate, emulsifiers, and flavor enhancers.

As you might expect, we do things a little differently around here. 😉

Instead, we give you pure, flavorful, pasture-raised birds and encourage you to brine your J&L pastured turkey with a homemade salt & seasoning mixture before cooking.

Note: You can absolutely just salt/pepper and cook - simple & easy and it still comes out tasting great. However, using the brine knocks it out of the park and brings on the "Whoa, this is AMAZING...what did you do?!!" - which is fun. 🥰

Why does it work? Soaking your turkey overnight infuses it with even more abundant juicy moisture, and enhances its already incredible flavor.

The brine we recommend (and use ourselves!) combines water, salt, lemon juice, dried oregano and tarragon, granulated garlic, ground black pepper, and a couple bags of ice.

View the full recipe and easy step-by-step instructions here.

TIP #2: PULL IT AT 165° — REALLY!

Since pastured turkeys are leaner than factory-farmed turkeys, they cook faster and more evenly.

Cover and bake breast down, which preserves the white meat's moisture and browns the dark meat to perfection.

(Yes, yes—you can also bake breast-up if you crave that Norman Rockwell photo finish. We're all about ultimate taste around here, so we cook breast-down and serve it sliced and loaded generously on a platter instead of presenting it whole. It still looks gorgeous. And really: the people just want to dig in.😋

Cook at 300-325°F until turkey is 165°F.

Or, take out at 160, cover with foil, and let sit until temperature hits 165. 

Cooking time is usually 4-5 hours, or cook at a higher temp and reduce your cook time.

If you hear only one thing, hear this: Resist your conventional-turkey cooking instincts, and don't overcook your turkey! Watch the temp, not the time. When cooked just to 165°F at the thickest part of the thigh it will be perfectly cooked and bursting with flavor and juices. 

Defrosting guide & rotisserie cooking options here.

What other questions do you have? Comment below and let us know!

Meg Peery

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