Heritage Turkey Basics

Besides the fact that most old-fashioned heritage turkeys are also raised the old-fashioned way — with plenty of grass and sunshine — they need to be cooked quite differently than their modern, factory-farmed counterparts. This tried-and-true recipe will make the best of your heritage bird this year.

Recipe courtesy of Local Harvest


  • 15-pound fresh heritage turkey at room temperature
  • Kosher or sea salt
  • Fresh ground pepper
  • 4 cups giblet broth (see recipe below)
  • Rosemary maple butter (see recipe below)
  • Oiled parchment paper

    How to make it 

  • 1

    Rub turkey inside and out with salt and pepper.

  • 2

    Loosen the skin around the breast with your fingers and insert rosemary maple butter between the meat and the skin as well as on the inside of the bird’s cavity.

  • 3

    Set bird in deep roasting pan. Use a wire rack to lift the bird off the bottom of the pan.

  • 4

    Add the giblet broth to the bottom of the pan. Tent the roasting pan with a sheet of oiled parchment paper. Any type of cooking oil can be used. Brush it on both sides with a pastry brush. The parchment paper is easily affixed to the roasting pan with a strip of foil on each end or you can use clean, oiled wooden clothespins. Remove parchment paper during the last 30 minutes of cooking to develop a crispy, golden skin.

  • 5

    Preheat oven to 425 to 450°F. Roast the bird until the thigh temperature reaches 140°F to 150°F. Let the bird rest 10-15 minutes before carving to let the juices settle. Serves 10-12.


Quick roasting at high temperatures means the oven temperature needs to be maintained and frequent basting defeats that purpose. By adding butter under the skin, the bird is self-basted. Baste the bird when you remove the parchment tent. If there is not enough liquid for basting, add either more water or wine.

Giblet Broth

  • 2 cups white wine (such as a deep, oaky Chardonnay)
  • 2 cups water
  • Giblets and neck
  • Bay leaf

    How to make it 

  • 1

    Simmer everything in a small saucepan for 15 minutes.

  • 2

    Discard bay leaf and neck. Giblets can be discarded if they aren’t your type of thing or they can be finely chopped and added to the broth.

Rosemary Maple Butter

  • 1/2 pound butter
  • 1/2 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon fresh minced rosemary

    How to make it 

  • 1

    Bring butter to room temperature and whip all ingredients together.

Where to Buy Heritage Turkeys
Slow Food USA
A state-by-state guide to farmers who raise free-range heritage turkeys.

Eat Well Guide
An online directory of stores and organizations that sell sustainably raised meat, dairy and eggs.

Local Harvest
A search engine that lists small-scale family farms that grow organic produce and raise free-range animals.

Find out more about heritage turkeys.

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