HOW TO BUY AND COOK A HERITAGE TURKEY
Make this the year you try a heritage bird by following the tips for buying and cooking below.
If you want to serve heritage turkey for Thanksgiving (or for any special dinner this holiday season), plan for it. Many farms rely on pre-orders to be able to afford the care and feeding of these birds, so if you wait until the last minute, you may be out of luck. To avoid pricey shipping costs, do an online search for farms or markets carrying the birds in your area.
BUY MORE THAN YOU THINK YOU NEED
Heritage turkeys range from 12 to 25 lb., and because their bones are heavier, count on 1-1/2 lb. per person compared to about 1 lb. for a conventional bird. In other words, expect a 12-lb. heritage turkey to feed about eight people. Keep in mind that you’ll have as much dark meat as light meat, too.
COOK IT GENTLY
Because of its more elongated shape, a heritage turkey cooks a little more quickly than a broad-breasted bird, so the biggest danger is overcooking. The simplest approach is roasting it unstuffed at moderate heat (350°F) until the internal temperature of the thigh meat reaches 155°F. This is lower than regular turkey temps, but it’s safe and helps guarantee that the meat will be moist and juicy. If you’re a briner (I am), then by all means go ahead and brine. My absolutely favorite way to cook a heritage turkey (or any turkey, for that matter) is to separate the breast from the legs, then roast the breast at a moderate temperature, and either braise or slow-roast the legs and thighs until they are succulent and falling-off-the-bone tender.