How to Cook a Heritage Turkey Hen


Turkey has a tendency to cook unevenly – the breast being so high in the air becomes dry and the legs are usually over cooked and soggy because they sit in the bottom. The easy way to correct these conditions is to lay the bird flat so everything cooks evenly and moist.

Step 1.
I start by cutting out the back bone using kitchen shears and boiled the backbone as part of the stock needed for the dressing. Then I snapped the breast bone with a knife so my bird would lay flat  Place the bird skin side up on a clean cutting board with the butt of the bird closest to you. Insert clean fingers gently under the skin working up the breast to loosen the skin. Your whole hand will be under the skin as you work your way down the thighs and legs.  Be careful not to tear the skin.

Step 2.

Wash your hands twice here…

Proceed with the compound butter!

1 stick salted butter softened at room temperature
2 tablespoons ground sage (dried from my garden and ground in a coffee grinder),
1 teaspoon powdered garlic
1/2 teaspoon dried parsley flakes
(you can add any additional spices you like here..aprox 1/2 teaspoon dried of each would be best)

In a small bowl, mix these ingredients together with a fork until well blended.

Step 3.

Working fairly quickly (so the butter doesn’t melt, place a small spoonful of the butter on your finger tips, lift the skin of the turkey as far up in the legs as you can and place a ball of butter under the skin. Flatten the butter under the skin, pushing it into the  meat along the top side (remember as it melts, it will self baste the bird down the sides). Repeat this process working toward the opening of the bird until all the butter has been distributed under the skin. Tuck the end of the skin under the bird to seal it.

Step 4

Preheat oven to 400 degrees don’t touch those dials until you …guess? Wash those hands! Yeah..the food nanny IS watching…

*most important** lower the rack in the oven to the next to the lowest setting! Reason?  As the legs cook, they lift and you could hit your heating elements if you have an electric oven!

Cut a piece of parchment paper slightly larger than the pan you are going to bake in.
With room temperature butter, coat one side of the parchment (I used my clean hand to spread the butter on the parchment until thoroughly coated or you could use a brush)

I placed the bird on the dressing, inserted a digital read thermometer set to 155 degrees through the breast, and covered it with buttered parchment. Had to wash my hands again!

My heritage Turkey was 8 pounds and took 1 hour 50 minutes to come to correct internal temperature. I let it rest out of the oven for 10 minutes, still covered with the parchment paper to finish the cooking process.

My dressing was crispy on top and surprising good this way. I did put extra moisture in the dressing because my bird wasn’t injected with solution from the market and wouldn’t be releasing all that sodium into my dressing!  Yeah Denita!

Next year, the only difference I will make is I will be baking at 300 degrees for several hours and, when cooked to an internal temperature of 145(lower), I will turn my oven up to 350 briefly to get a golden crust.

Bon Apetite!

Chef June


About denwallyfarm

Raising pastured poultry, cattle and goats in the Willamette valley, Oregon.
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