How to Cook a Pasture-Raised Turkey
Turkey is the true superstar of the day, and you want to make sure it really shines. While we love our mashed potatoes and stuffing, a juicy, flavorful turkey with beautifully browned skin and tender meat is really what makes Thanksgiving the most delicious day of the year.
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- Large pan/tray
- Brine (optional)
- Roasting pan
- Meat thermometer
STEP 1: THAW. Thaw your turkey properly. Make sure you give yourself 3 to 6 days (depending on the size) to fully thaw your turkey in the fridge. Allow around 6 hours per pound for thawing.
- Medium (12-15 pounds): 3-4 days
- Large (15-16 pounds): 4-5 days
- X-Large (18+ pounds) : 5-6 days
Leave the turkey in its original, unopened plastic, placed breast side up on a pan or in a bowl to contain any extra liquid that may come out while it defrosts. Once thawed, your turkey can stay in the fridge for another 1 to 2 days before cooking. Be sure to remove the neck and giblets.
STEP 2: BRINE. You can brine your turkey for extra flavor, but it’s not totally necessary. Pasture-raised turkey has a great flavor and tons of moisture without it, but a brine can bring in additional flavors that complement the meat well. You can brine your turkey up to 24 hours. After brining, rinse your turkey in water to remove excess salt from the outside. Try this recipe featuring a delicious pear-brine, or this recipe that’s the perfect combination of sweet, spicy, and savory.
STEP 3: PREP. To ensure you have beautiful, crispy outside, use a butter or oil rub on the outside and underneath the skin. Pasture-raised turkeys are slightly leaner than conventional turkeys, so don’t be afraid to add a little extra fat! Additionally, make sure you season the inside and outside of the turkey. Just remember that if you stuff the inside of the turkey with onions, carrots, or other aromatics, it might take longer to cook - so remember to account for a bit of extra time.
STEP 4: COOK. Pastured-raised turkeys cook faster than your grocery store turkey and require about 8 to 10 minutes per pound (as opposed to 12 to 15). A low cooking temperature at 325°F will do the trick. Use a cooking thermometer to make sure your turkey is at 165°F. That said, the bird does continue to cook outside the oven, so take it out when it reaches 160°F and let it rest for 15 minutes. After it’s rested, test it again to make sure it’s up to 165. If not, pop it back in the oven for an additional 10-20 minutes.
STEP 5: REST. While it may be very tempting to get that beautiful bird on the table and carved, make sure you let the meat rest 30 to 40 minutes. This helps redistribute the juices and keeps the meat exceptionally moist.