Your Turkey Questions Answered

Each fall, we look forward to receiving your questions about our pasture-raised, organic turkeys. These turkeys are soon to be the centerpieces of special meals across the country—and given the care and time it’s taken to raise them, you’re paying more for these than the loss-leader grocery store special—so we are answering some of the most common turkey questions we receive:

What is the difference between a broad breasted and a heritage turkey?

This is our favorite question, because it gives us a chance to talk about the most unique animal on the farm. We raise both broad breasted and heritage turkeys on pasture at Elmwood Stock Farm, and both are certified organic. 

The broad breasted turkey that you get from Elmwood Stock Farm looks similar to those you see in the grocery store: large frame, more white breast meat in relation to dark leg and thigh meat, and a round shape. These come to us from a hatchery just up the highway when they’re a day old.

We appreciate a broad breasted turkey meal, but a heritage turkey meal is the most special. Akin to their wild turkey cousins, heritage turkeys have a longer, leaner frame with a more equal ratio of white to dark meat. The flavor is rich, meaty and delicious—an experience you can’t have at the grocery store. We breed heritage turkeys here on the farm, hatch them and raise them. Mac wrote all about Elmwood Stock Farm’s Narragansett heritage turkeys in this article.

Watch this video to see the difference between the broad breasted and heritage turkeys.

I read there’s a turkey shortage this year! What does that mean? 

It seems supply-chain breakdowns are so common that they’re not even news anymore! We read about this turkey shortage, too, particularly as it relates to smaller-sized turkeys. To us, this means you should secure the type and size of turkey you want for your holiday gatherings sooner rather than later. 

Our organic, pasture-raised turkeys sell out in a “normal” year, so we expect the same to happen in a nationwide shortage. Turkeys hatch in the spring, and we care for them all year long on our pastures, until they make their way to your tables this time of year. Unlike radishes, we can’t plant more and have them ready in four weeks, unfortunately! 

I received my turkey, and it has dark spots on the skin. Is that OK?

Yes, feather freckles are an odd thing to see, but they’re normal! The skin of your turkey may have spots of pigmentation as a result of the multicolored, dark feathers found on the breeds of turkeys we produce at Elmwood Stock Farm. Supermarket turkeys have white feathers and clear feather follicles in the skin, which is why you may not have seen such coloration before. We prefer the taste of the darker-feathered birds, and we think you will, too.

How should I cook my turkey?

If you don’t cook turkey on a regular basis, this is a serious question. The answer is: It depends. Everyone has different cooking styles, ovens and tastes, so we put together a collection of recipes you might choose from.

One piece of advice: Start checking the doneness of your turkey ahead of when you think you should. It’s easy to overcook turkey, particularly a heritage turkey.

How long should I cook my turkey? And what about thawing?

Again, it’s easy to overcook turkey, particularly a heritage turkey, but in general, plan on 12 to 15 minutes of cooking time per pound at 325 degrees F. 

You want your turkey to be completely thawed before roasting. Plan ahead for refrigerator space, as it’ll take a few days.

This handy chart offers a guideline for thawing and cooking times. 

Do you recommend stuffing a turkey?

Please don’t stuff your turkey with dressing! Consider stuffing the cavity of your turkey with a quartered onion, apple or orange, along with fresh herbs, to add flavor instead. 

We do not recommend stuffing a turkey with dressing before cooking for the following reasons:

  • They take longer to cook if they are stuffed, and this will overcook the heritage turkey, in particular.
  • If your recipe calls for starting out with high heat to shrink the skin and brown it nicely, this will dry out stuffing near the opening of the bird.
  • The turkey cooks more evenly if you leave the body cavity more open to the hot air of the oven.

We purchased a large turkey and expect to have leftovers. How long does cooked turkey keep in the refrigerator?

The US Department of Agriculture says cooked turkey will keep in the refrigerator for three to four days. After that, freeze it for awesome turkey leftovers in the coming months. (It’ll remain a good quality for two to six months in the freezer.) 

We started a collection of favorite turkey leftover ideas on this webpage. Send us yours, and we’ll add them!

Thanksgiving is closer than you may realize! (Don’t let the current weather fool you.) Use the links below to learn how the organic turkeys are raised at Elmwood Stock Farm, preorder your turkey for the holidays and read about our turkeys in the news.

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