Cosmo Goss of Publican Meats
Home cooks might be worried that a heritage turkey needs more kitchen skill to prepare. Any cook can roast one without problems, but we asked our turkey experts for their suggestions on how to make the birds taste great.
Use a thermometer. “I recommend, no matter what, that you use a thermometer,” said Bill Niman. Any free-range or heritage turkey won’t have a built-in thermometer, and sizes may vary — heritage birds are often a bit smaller. “Cook them in the same manner you would cook a white bird, but use a thermometer, because they do tend to cook a little faster.”
Consider brining. Cosmo Goss cooks his turkey after a dip in brine. But not a complicated brine bought from a gourmet shop packed with spices; you want to taste the turkey. Just brine it for one day with salt, sugar and water to make sure it’s got plenty of moisture; remember, these turkeys aren’t injected with extra water.
Split the turkey up. Niman advocates what may sound like turkey heresy: Don’t roast the bird whole. “It’s impossible to properly cook the white meat or the dark meat if you cook the bird whole,” Niman insists. “On a 15-16 pound turkey, the leg needs another 30 minutes after the breast is done to cook to perfection and you’ll dry out the breast.”
Don’t worry about it. Rob Levitt doesn’t do anything special to his turkey at all. “I’m super traditional at my thanksgiving dinner. I put some butter under the skin of the breast, and I roast it simply. I start with a nice hot oven then turn it down, put a probe thermometer in and then go take a nap.”