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How To Cook A Pasture-Raised Turkey No-Fuss Easy Method

The best Thanksgiving turkey recipe for your pasture-raised turkey. This no-frills roasted turkey recipe makes for a juicy, crispy, and delicious centerpiece for your Thanksgiving feast. Here’s how to cook a pasture raised turkey without all the fuss.

This recipe is simple and easy to make, without sacrificing the tender, juicy flavor everyone expects to enjoy when diving into their favorite Thanksgiving dish.

roasted pasture raised turkey on a plate with a gravy dish

Let’s just admit it, cooking a whole turkey can be kind of intimidating. Especially when you are trying to figure out how to cook a pasture raised turkey! A lot of work went into raising that voluptuous bird, and you want to make sure it’s cooked to perfection. I’ll walk you through step-by-step, and show you how to cook a pasture raised turkey with this fool-proof method.

Some friends of ours pasture raised a dozen or so turkeys and were generous enough to give us one for our Thanksgiving celebration. I have roasted countless chickens in my kitchen, but turkey doesn’t grace the table nearly as often, so I was very excited to try my same tried and true methods for roasting chicken on Mr. Tasty Tom (did you know turkeys are called Toms?).

The process of cooking a turkey is actually very similar to cooking a chicken. After all, a turkey is just a larger kind of pasture-raised bird. It simply takes longer to cook because it is a bigger bird. I followed the same process as my roasted chicken, except I cooked the turkey much longer.

Sure enough, you can roast a deliciously moist and tender turkey without any complicated steps or fancy ingredients. This recipe yields a crowd-pleasing result and amazing flavor without any of the stress of basting or brining. Just grab a slab of butter and you’ll be on your way to a turkey-tasting tradition in no time. The rich buttery flavor and crispy skin will make this holiday bird everyone’s favorite dish on Thanksgiving day.

roasted pasture raised turkey on a plate with a gravy boat dish

Ingredients you’ll need for Roasted Pasture Raised Turkey:

The turkey really is the star of the show here. You’ll bring out that mouth-watering flavor of the meat with simple ingredients like butter, aromatic herbs, and salt.

  • Whole pasture raised turkey – This recipe will of course work for any kind of turkey you can get your hands on, but pasture-raised turkeys, heritage turkeys, and free range turkeys really have a wonderful flavor. We will always try to buy pasture-raised turkeys over conventional turkeys. (see notes below on thawing instructions if your turkey is frozen)
  • Butter – A generous slather of softened butter over the turkey gives it a burst of flavor and will render the skin a nice golden crispy brown.
  • Herbs – Fresh or dried rosemary and thyme are classic aromatics used for poultry and pair beautifully with this meat.
  • Seasonings – I like to sprinkle garlic powder, salt, and black pepper over the skin and inside of the cavity.

An optional step is to put peeled garlic and sliced onions into the cavity of the turkey. This gives an extra boost of flavor to the turkey, as well as the drippings which you’ll definitely want to use to make gravy later.

raw whole pasture raised turkey on rack

How to cook a pasture raised turkey

  • Thaw turkey. – This first step is important because you’ll want the turkey completely thawed before you pop it into the oven, otherwise, you may end up with an undercooked turkey, and nobody wants that. This step can take several days, so don’t wait until the day before Thanksgiving to get your turkey! A good rule of thumb is to give the turkey 24 hours in the refrigerator for every 5 pounds of meat. It can take a good 3-4 days to thaw a turkey all the way through in the fridge so give yourself some wiggle room and buy it a week in advance.
  • Skip the Stuffing. – Be generous to your stuffing and give it a casserole dish of its own. If you fill the cavity of the turkey too full it can add to the cooking time and you may end up with dry, overcooked meat.
  • Rest the turkey at room temp. – Take the turkey out of the refrigerator and place it on the counter at room temperature for 1 hour.
  • Remove the neck and giblets. – This step is optional as some people like to roast the neck and giblets for later use in gravy or stock. Just make sure to remove any paper the giblets may be wrapped in.
  • Pat the skin dry. – Use paper towels to dab the turkey skin dry. Getting rid of any extra moisture will help the skin to crisp up nice and brown.
  • Season the cavity of the turkey. – Generously salt and pepper the cavity. You can also add the garlic cloves and onion into the body cavity at this time.
  • Mix butter and herbs. – Whip up a herbed butter by mixing the softened butter, rosemary, and thyme together. Slather the butter mixture all over the outside of the turkey. If you can slide your hands under the skin it’s best to tuck some in there too.
  • Place the turkey in a large roasting pan. – It’s best to place the turkey in a pan on top of a roasting rack with breast side up in order to get the skin crisp all over the bird, however, if you do not have a rack you can simply place the bird in a dish deep enough to collect all of the juices and fat that will run out as it bakes.
  • Bake the turkey. – Bake the turkey for about 15 minutes per pound. Cooking time can vary between ovens so I recommend having a meat thermometer on hand to make sure your turkey is perfectly roasted. Cook until the thickest center part of the thigh reaches 160-165 degrees Fahrenheit. This will usually take around 2 ½ to 3 ½ hours depending upon the weight of your turkey. Tent the turkey loosely with aluminum foil if the skin is getting too brown.
  • Rest the turkey. – At this point, your house will smell incredible and you’ll want to start carving into that juicy meat, but make sure you wait and let the turkey rest for at least 30 minutes before you cut into the meat. This will ensure the juices stay inside of the turkey instead of draining out onto the cutting board. You don’t want to lose any moisture out of that mouth-watering dark meat.
  • Carve the turkey. – Carve up that turkey and place those tender slices of meat on a platter for your guests to enjoy!
  • Turn those precious pan drippings into turkey gravy. – There’s only one thing that can top the flavor of this roasted turkey, and that is roasted turkey dipped in turkey gravy made from your pan drippings. This may seem like extra work but trust me it’s worth it!
  1. Melt some butter in a saucepan
  2. Add flour to make a roux.
  3. Pour in the drippings with some broth, water, or milk.
  4. Add salt and pepper.
  5. Whisk until the gravy reaches your desired thickness.

Common Questions

What size pastured turkey should I buy?

The general rule of thumb on figuring out what size turkey to get is to plan on 1 pound of turkey per person you are serving. Some of the weight of the bird is bones, so it’s best to err on the side of leftovers than to get a turkey that’s too small to feed your crowd. You can always freeze the leftover turkey meat in your freezer!

What if my turkey reaches 165 degrees faster than the cooking time called for?

Once your turkey reaches 165 degrees it is done. You don’t want to cook it any longer or you’ll run the risk of dry turkey meat. If the skin needs a little more browning you can turn on your broiler and broil it for a few more minutes until the skin reaches your desired crispiness.

What to do if the turkey skin is getting too brown before it is finished cooking?

If the skin is getting too crispy and starting to burn, but the internal temperature has still not reached 165 degrees, loosely tent aluminum foil over the turkey and continue to cook until the desired temp is reached.

Should I truss the turkey?

Trussing the turkey is simply tying the legs together with twine. This step is not necessary unless you would like to do it to achieve a nicer-looking presentation.

What if there is some pink color inside of the turkey?

Some pink, especially around the joints is okay as long as the internal temperature has reached 165F.

Can I do all the prep ahead of time?

If you are looking to cut back on some prep time in the kitchen you can absolutely do all the prep work the day before and then keep the prepared turkey in the refrigerator up until an hour before cook time. Get the turkey out of the refrigerator and let sit at room temp for at least an hour before baking.

Can I use fresh herbs?

You can use fresh herbs instead of dried, simply increase the amount of herbs by ⅓ . Fresh herbs will impart a nicer flavor, but dried work perfectly fine as well.

Should I stuff the turkey with stuffing?

The best way to roast a turkey is without stuffing, however, if you are a fan of stuffing the turkey you can. It may just take longer to cook, and you’ll need to be careful not to dry out the meat with overcooking.

What can I make with leftover turkey?

Turkey pot pie, turkey noodle soup, and turkey sandwiches are my favorite ways to use up leftover turkey meat. You can also simply freeze your leftover turkey meat if you won’t be ready to use it for a while.

What if I don’t have a meat thermometer?

A meat thermometer is the best tool to use, but you can also check doneness by inserting a knife into the turkey breast. You are looking for the juices that drip out to be clear, rather than pink.

How do I carve a whole turkey?

Carving a turkey is not as intimidating as it sounds. This short and simple video tutorial will have you looking like a turkey carving expert in minutes.

Yield: 16

Easy Roasted Pasture Raised Turkey

whole roasted pasture raised turkey in a roasting pan

This no-frills roasted Turkey recipe packs all the buttery moist flavor of a perfectly roasted Thanksgiving Turkey with none of the stress! Crispy, brown skin and aromatic herbs will delight your taste buds this holiday season.
Step by step for how to cook pasture raised Turkey.

Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 3 hours
Additional Time 30 minutes
Total Time 3 hours 50 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 12-20 pound pasture raised whole turkey
  • 1/2 cup unsalted softened butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Instructions

  1. If turkey is frozen, thaw it in the refrigerator for 24 hours per 5 pounds of turkey. 3 - 4 days is a good rule of thumb.
  2. Allow turkey to rest on counter at room temperature for 1 hour prior to baking.
  3. Get the oven preheating to 350 degrees F.
  4. Adjust oven rack so the turkey will be in the center of the oven.
  5. Remove the neck and giblets.
  6. Thoroughly pat the skin of the turkey dry with a paper towel.
  7. In a small bowl mix together softened butter, rosemary, thyme, garlic powder, salt and black pepper.
  8. Tuck the wings under the turkey and place the bird on a rack inside of a large roasting pan.
  9. Rub the soft herbed butter all over the outside of the turkey. Season well inside and out with salt and pepper.
  10. Bake in 350 degree F oven until thickest part of thigh reaches 160F (without touching bone). Plan to bake around 15 minutes per pound of turkey.
  11. If skin is browning too fast, loosely tent bird with aluminum foil.
  12. Once internal temp reaches desired range, remove the turkey from the oven and allow it to rest at room temperature for at least 30 minutes.

Notes

*Save the drippings and juice after roasting and use to make turkey gravy.

*You can use fresh herbs in place of dried, simply increase the amount of fresh herbs by 1/3.

*Convection ovens will work the same just check the temperature sooner.

*No roasting rack? Just use chopped veggies, or several heads of garlic cut in half. Place the turkey on top of veggies and garlic and they will act as a rack while imparting a delicious flavor into your turkey and drippings.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

16

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 576Total Fat: 30gSaturated Fat: 12gCholesterol: 264mgSodium: 518mgCarbohydrates: 3gSugar: 1gProtein: 70g

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