How to Select and Cook the Perfect Turkey

  • Servings: 8-10
  • Prep time: ~ 1 hour
  • Cook time: ~ 3- 4 hours


  • 20-22 pound free range turkey
  • 1 bottle of dry white wine
  • 3 sticks (1 1/2 cups) unsalted butter
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 large onion
  • 2 celery stalks
  • 3 tablespoons Tuscan Himalayan Salt
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • Stuffing
  • Fresh Sage and Rosemary
  • Cheese Cloth
  • String

I am a huge fan of brining the turkey to achieve a more tender and moist bird. America’s Test Kitchen actually tested the meat from a brined and unbrined turkey using a pressure test and found the brined turkey is much easier to chew. I can certainly tell a difference in the texture and flavor.

I roasted a Whole Foods brined bird yesterday to post how to cook the Perfect Turkey and it was a little too salty for my taste. I usually brine my own and recommend doing it if you have the time and room in your refrigerator. The Fire and Flavor Brining mix is very good. I know I should have my own brining mix with all my salts but I just did not have time this year with all the orders coming in. I promise to have one next year.

To select the turkey, pay attention to if the turkey is given a healthy, natural diet,  little or no antibiotics, and if they are allowed to roam the fields to build strong muscle. I believe these turkeys have better meat.

Here are the options at Whole Foods. A 5 on the animal welfare rating is the best.

Whole Foods Turkey Pricing- November 2012

  • Organic (all organic feed and organic land, global animal partnership rating 2, free access to outside not all pasture raised)-3.99 a pound
  • Pasture Range (pasture raised to full life, global animal partnership rating 5)- $4.99 a pound
  • Heritage ( 7 to 9 years of age, stronger poultry taste, more dark meat)- $3.99 a pound
  • All natural (no antibiotics, global animal partnership rating 2)- $2.49 a pound

Star Provisions also has Heritage and Organic Turkeys. They will brine them for $1 a pound and roast them for another $1 a pound.

Did you know that Butterball turkeys are breed to grow large every quickly and have a much shorter life span than most of the turkeys mentioned above? I have read they have issues with their bones since they grow so quickly and how they are treated. I will not buy one after reading of the animal cruelty at the company and condition of the turkeys.


1) Brine the turkey using the brine package instructions. Usually you heat about 1.5 cups of kosher or mediterranean salt, 1 cup of herbs and 2 cups of cane sugar in 3 quarts of water to dissolve the sugar and salt. Then add 1/2 cup of apple cider and let cool. Then add 5 quarts of ice water and submerge the turkey in the brine solution. It takes about 1 hour for each pound. I usually brine mine overnight in a large stockpot in our second refrigerator. You can use an ice chest with lots to ice. I recommend a oven roasting bag to hold the turkey and brine solution for the ice chest. Make sure it stays around 32 degrees.

2) Remove the turkey from the brine and pat dry. Let come to room temperature for about 45 minutes to 2 hours.

3) Chop the aromatics. Place them on the bottom of the roasting pan. I put parchment on the pan first to ease the cleanup. Then add 1/2 container of chicken stock. Now place the roasting rack on top of the vegetables.

4) Make a herb butter with about 5 tablespoons of room temperature butter and 2 teaspoons of fresh herbs ( Rosemary, Sage, or Thyme) or use my Tuscan or Rosemary herb salts. Add 2 teaspoons of the fresh herb salt to the unsalted butter.

5) Now remove your rings if you have not already. Loosen the skin on the breast with your fingers. Rub the herb butter on the meat under the skin.

6) Stuff the bird and truss it. Directions to truss here.

6) Melt 3 sticks of butter and add 1 bottle of white wine. Drip the cheesecloth into the butter and wine. Cover the turkey with the cheesecloth.

7) Place in a preheated oven of 450 degrees and roast for 30 minutes. Then turn down the temperature to 350 degrees and roast for about 2  1/2 hours. Remove the cheesecloth slowly. It may stick to the skin. Cook for another hour and baste every 30 minutes. Check to see if the turkey is the right temperature and cook longer if needed. Note: Convection cooks the turkey a lot faster. The turkey is done when the thigh reaches 180 and the breast is 160 to 165 degrees. The juices in the leg will be clear.

8) Let the bird rest for 30 minutes and then carve. Enjoy!

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Recipe by Back To Organic at