How to Cook a Heritage Turkey

The process of quickly frying, baking or barbecuing a turkey doesn’t exist in the heritage turkey world. More time is required to cook the bird to tenderness (as it should be). Here, you’ll find techniques and recipes that work well.

Aging the Bird

Whether marinated or brined, thawed birds ought to sit for 3-7 days in a cold environment (such as your fridge or cold room if temps are appropriate). If familiar with butchering your own beef or venison, this is nothing new. You already know that aging meat in a cold environment breaks down the toughness of muscle tissue. However, if stewing a bird, this process isn’t necessary.

Use Acidic Products

Acid also helps break down and soften meat. Wine, vinegar, citrus juice and even strongly brewed kombucha are all viable options. Meats ought to be marinated in large amounts of the above in order to achieve the desired tenderness.

Long Cooking Hours

Whether through baking or the crock pot, longer hours make for a more tender bird! Still want the crusty skin for thanksgiving dinner? No worries! We’ve got that covered.

Flipping the Bird

When oven baking or crock potting the bird, flip it breast-side down so meat is in the juices and tenderizes as it cooks.

Stewing the Bird

Stewing exists of covering the bird in liquid (water or broth), adding herbs, salt and spice, then simmering for at least 8 hrs. This makes for meat that falls off the bones and is a great method if looking to use the turkey in soups or stews.

Wanna have a few recipes to help you along the way? Prepare yourself and let’s go!

Coffee & Lemon Marinade

Ingredients for a 7-12 lb turkey

  • the juice of 5-6 large lemons (approx 1 ½ C)

  • 1/2-3/4 C ground coffee


  1. Juice lemons and pour liquid into a 2 gal ziploc bag (note: 1 gallon may do if the birds is around 5-7 lbs).

  2. Stir in coffee grounds, then add the bird.

  3. Sealing bag, rotate the bird around and around until coated.

  4. If needed, remove and pat coffee all over the skin.

  5. Set in a pan and refrigerate, rotating every day for the next 3 days (or so).

  6. When ready to cook, remove bird from bag.

  7. Rinse inside and out with cold water, removing all coffee grounds.

  8. Place in roasting pan or crock pot with at least 2 inches of water, covering with desired herbs, salts and spices.

  9. Cook for 4-6 hrs. Serve whole.

While I was concerned that a coffee flavor would transfer to the meat, it didn’t! Make certain to rinse off all the coffee grounds and you’ll have a nicely tenderized bird, ready for baking! Note: I’ve never tried this with freshly-ground beans. Use cautiously as they are stronger in flavor.

Stewed Turkey


  • a 10-15 lb turkey

  • 3 tsp salt

  • 1 bay leaf

  • 2 tsp thyme

  • 2 Tbs parsley

  • 1 onion, diced

  • 6 garlic cloves

  • water or broth to cover

Directions: place onions, garlic and bay leaf in bottom of pot or crockpot. Add bird, herbs and salt. Pour water over until covered as possible. Simmer for 8 hrs. Pull meat off bones and freeze, can or use in soups or gravies.