Slow-roasted turkey is marvelously tender, with meat that falls off the bone and golden, rich brown skin. It’s an easy, hands-off way to prepare turkey, and yields consistently excellent results.
Why We Slow-Roast Our Turkeys
Pasture-raised birds tend toward toughness, both because they have the freedom to exercise their muscles more and because they’re culled at an older age than birds that are raised conventionally. There’s really only one reliable way to produce particularly tender results when it comes to cooking pastured poultry, and that’s with long cooking times and low temperatures. That might mean that you simmer birds in water, for bone broth and soups, or that you braise it, or that you slow roast it.
Those long cooking times and low temperatures give the proteins in the bird’s meat an opportunity to break down, and for the fat to melt into meat which also helps it to become tender; moreover, pasture-raised birds tend to have high amounts of collagen within their skin, joints and bones, and slow-roasting facilitates the breakdown of that collagen which then melts into the meat and leaves it impossibly tender.
Slow-roasting is a Pretty Easy, Hands-Off Approach
I like to begin by preparing and herb butter, and then slipping that softened, flavored butter between the skin and flesh of the breast. As it roasts, the butter melts into the bird’s meat, and not only helps to make it tender, but also infuses it with the vibrant flavor of fresh herbs. Stuffing the bird’s cavity with lemon, onions and herbs also helps to keep it moist while it roasts.
Beyond that, you just need to pop it in the oven, baste it occasionally with pan juices when you check on it. It’s a fabulous way to cook a turkey overnight, in a low and slow oven, while you sleep. We usually serve Thanksgiving dinner around 1 or 2 in the afternoon, which means that we stay up late the night before drinking mulled wine and hot spiced cider, place the bird in the oven to bake, and then baste it when we wake up. When the bird is done, we pull it from the oven and allow it to rest, then carve it where it falls apart into utterly tender pieces.
Slow-roasted Turkey Stuffed with Onions and Herbs
- 1/2 cup butter softened
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh thyme
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh sage
- 2 teaspoons finely ground sea salt
- 1 whole turkey about 16 to 18 lbs, giblets removed and reserved for another purpose
- 2 large yellow onions quartered
- 2 large lemons quartered
- 1 1/2 cups dry white wine
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Beat the butter together with thyme, sage and sea salt until well-combined.
- Rinse the turkey and pat it dry. With a butter knife, loosen the skin of the turkey from the flesh of the breast. Spread the herb butter between the skin and the meat of the turkey breast, and place the seasoned turkey on a rack in your roasting pan.
- Stuff the turkey’s cavity with onions and lemons. Pour wine into the pan.
- Roast the turkey for 45 minutes. Remove the turkey from oven, tent it with foil, and then return it to the oven.
- Turn down the heat to 225 F, and slow roast it approximately twelve hours. Baste with pan juices every 2 to 3 hours.
- Increase the heat to 375 degrees and continue roasting for twenty minutes or until the skin is a rich brown and the meat has reached an internal temperature of at least 185 F.
- Allow the turkey to rest for 30 minutes prior to carving.
Real Food Thanksgiving Favorites
It’s a pleasure to cook for Thanksgiving, and everyone has their favorite dishes. Here are some of Nourished Kitchen reader favorites.
Pumpkin Custard is a wonderfully simple, relatively easy to make dessert for Thanksgiving. It’s like pumpkin pie, but without all the fuss of the crust.
Maple Pecan Pie offers a twist on the classic. Instead of corn syrup, maple syrup offers an incredible flavor and just the right sweetness.
Cranberry Mandarin Relish is another favorite for its light, vibrant and refreshing flavor.