There’s nothing better than being able to enjoy the fruits of your labor when you’re raising poultry – and for some farmers, knowing how to cook a farm-fresh turkey is the most complicated step in the entire process! Fortunately, these tips will walk you through every step for a truly delicious meal.
What You'll Learn Today
Can You Cook Fresh Turkey?
Absolutely! There’s no difference in cooking a fresh turkey versus a frozen one that you bought at the store – except, of course, that you can skip the thawing process.
That said, there are a few things to keep in mind.
For one, the size of a farm-fresh or pasture-raised turkey can be highly variable. These are not factory-farmed birds so they might be larger or smaller than what you’re used to.
If the bird is too large to fit in your roasting pan, just remove the legs first. If it’s on the smaller side, you may want to whip up a larger batch of stuffing.
When you get your turkey (or process it yourself), plan to cook it within two to three days of doing so. Otherwise, it needs to be frozen.
Store the turkey in the coldest part of your fridge (generally the back lower corner) and double-bag it to ensure that it doesn’t leak.
How Do You Cook a Freshly Killed Turkey?
Cooking a freshly killed turkey is just about identical to preparing a frozen turkey. You can often shave off some of the cooking time but otherwise, you’ll cook your fresh turkey almost exactly as you have cooked any other turkey in the past.
How Long Does it Take to Cook a Farm Fresh Turkey?
Pasture-raised turkeys cook faster than factory-farmed birds.
At 325 degrees, you should plan on eight to ten minutes per pound for an unstuffed bird (or 12 to 15 minutes if it is stuffed). It will brown up, so don’t worry. Don’t cover the bird, as it will make the skin soggy and rubbery.
Oven temperatures and individual birds do vary, so use a meat thermometer to make sure your bird is fully cooked. The bread t should be 165 degrees.
Pasture-raised turkeys are also known for being a bit juicier. You don’t need to flip the bird during cooking and if there are still juices coming out when you temp-check it, don’t panic. As long as it reaches the minimum internal temperature listed above, it’s safe to eat.
You may also want to cook the stuffing separately. It can add more time to the cooking time and will require you to monitor the temperature of both the turkey and the stuffing.
Should You Brine a Farm Fresh Turkey?
Both brining and basting are optional when it comes to cooking a farm-fresh turkey.
These steps are usually taken to help ensure that the bird does not dry out. Since pastured birds are far less likely to dry out, these steps aren’t necessary. Plus, every time you open the oven door to baste a turkey, you will be wasting energy.
Remember, pastured birds are juicier and more flavorful than factory-farmed turkeys, so you can skip this step and cook your turkey faster by doing so.
The Classic Recipe: Roasted Farm Fresh Turkey
Create a dry seasoning with herbs of our own choosing. We recommend the following:
Simply chop the herbs (if fresh) or sprinkle them into a bowl. Add butter or oil to create a rub. Loosen the turkey’s skin with your hands, then rub the herb mixture all over the turkey, both over and under the skin. If you have trouble getting under the skin, you can use a piping bag.
Sprinkle this mixture inside the cavity of the bird with the seasoning, too. You may want to also add aromatics like onions, carrots, or peppers (or additional fresh herbs) to the interior cavity.
If you plan on stuffing your bird while it’s cooking, you can do so now – otherwise, preheat the oven to 325 degrees. You can also rub your turkey down with the spice mixture ahead of time to give it more time to set in. If you do this, you should cover and refrigerate the bird overnight.
Otherwise, get that oven preheated and start cooking your bird!
When about half of the estimated cooking time has elapsed (based on the size of your bird, as mentioned above), you can check the temperature between the breast and thigh. Make sure you don’t hit the bone, as this won’t give you a reliable reading.
If the thighs are done before the breast, you can always remove the legs and continue to cook the rest of the turkey without them.
Once the bird reaches 165 degrees, you can remove it from the oven. Let it rest, covered loosely in aluminum foil, for 15 minutes. Carve and enjoy!
Unconventional Farm Fresh Turkey Recipes to Try
Want to think outside the box when you’re cooking your farm fresh turkey? When you’re coming up with potential recipes, you don’t have to limit yourself just to the traditional Thanksgiving roaster with the stuffing, potatoes, and green bean casserole.
Here are some other fun recipes to try.
- Shepherd’s turkey pie – this recipe is a layered casserole that can incorporate any of your favorite leftovers, including mashed potatoes!
- Turkey tostadas
- Turkey potato salad
- Turkey tetrazzini
- Buffalo oven-roasted turkey
And last but not least, turkey kabobs with vegetables. This is a fun recipe that will help you use up all those Thanksgiving leftovers – in a healthy way!
Check out the video tutorial here:
Is Cooking a Fresh Turkey Different?
As you can see, there are a few steps in the turkey preparation process that are a bit different than what you might be used to from the past.
The most notable, of course, are that you do not need to brine or baste your bird. Farm fresh turkeys are significantly juicier and less likely to dry out than their store-bought counterparts!
Otherwise, you shouldn’t have to go to too much trouble to cook your farm-fresh turkey. Enjoy – and enjoy the tasty leftovers, too! If you’re still hungry, have a look at more of the farmhouse recipes – here is one for farm raised rabbit.