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Cooking a free range bird

post #1 of 23
Thread Starter 
Doing a free range gobbler this year for the first time. Any tips/suggestions, other than brining? (Pop-in-law can't have salt; I know he wouldn't even eat it if I told him I brined it).

Same cooking times and temps as grocery store brands?

I was thinking of doing an injection of some broth and herbs for moisture. Is drying out a bigger problem with free range?
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post #2 of 23
If you're ****-bent on roasting in your home oven, you seem to be on the right track. Otherwise, you might consider smoking your turkey; or if you have very good insurance, deep frying it.

Pretty much. There are a lot of different ways to cook turkey, high-heat all the way; low heat all the way, high heat first/then low heat; low heat first/then high heat -- they all work equally well (or poorly) with a free range bird.

You have a little more leeway in terms of "done" than grocery store and national bird packers suggest. I believe the FDA recommends 175F at the breast -- you can go significantly lower than that, all the way down to 160F, if you allow an adequate, well covered, resting period. Not overcooking is your first and best defense against dryness.

Free range birds don't come with built in pop-up thermometers. I suggest buying a digital, probe-on-a-lead type meat thermometer which may be left in the breast for the entire cooking process. You probably won't use it many times in the course of a year, but when you need it... Gold.

Another dryness avoidance technique is trussing. Don't just tie the legs together at the foot, but pass another string around the bird so the thighs stay close to the breast in order to protect the breast's lower part.

Injecting is a good idea indeed. You may want to mix the "broth" with flavorful things, like wine, spirits, and/or juices -- or even eliminate the stock entirely. Whatever you do choose to inject, make sure to strain it well before injecting so it doesn't clog the needle or form pockets in the bird. And remember, lots of little injections are better than a few big ones.

Also, think about making a compound butter and forcing as much as possible under the skin at the breast and thighs. That works a fair treat. Looks pretty, too.

Between injecting, not overcooking, and butter under the skin, you should be more than fine.

Finally (forgive me for being a broken record on the subject) don't carve at the table. Rather, carve in the kitchen, using a very sharp (or electric) knife, by (1) Removing the legs and thighs; (2) Separate them; (3) Bone and carve the thigh; (4) Removing the wings; (5) Take the breasts as two whole pieces and lay them flat on the board; (6) Carve the breasts; and, (Lucky 7) put everything on a platter, garnish the heck out or it, and bring to the board amidst great applause.

Be merry,
BDL
post #3 of 23
Instead of a salty brine, maybe a "brine" of orange juice, crushed garlic and perhaps a jalapeno or two mixed with enough water to cover. Poultry and citrus play so well together.


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post #4 of 23
Thread Starter 
BDL, thanks for the tips, especially on injecting. I had thought about going w/a compound butter, too; I'll have to rethink that! Re the heat, I usually do the high heat at the beginning, and then lower for the rest of the cooking time. Re carving, we always carve in the kitchen! Everyone's usually in the kitchen anyway, so they get to see the bird in all its glory before the carving begins. :)

Teamfat, I may be wrong, but I thought salt was the whole idea of brining; what you're suggesting seems like just a marinade to me, and also the citrus would 'cook' the meat if it was left in there any significant amount of time.
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post #5 of 23
BDL more or less says it all. Only thing I will add is buy a thermometer as you can use it in anything all year round. Shoot for 165 f.. Keeping in mind when you take from oven bird will still cook for a while. (don't stuff if possible) . Another way to test for doneness is insert skewer or icepick into thigh section under leg and count to 10, if juices run out clear, 99% of time bird is done, if the juice runs out pink or red or cloudy it is not done. For a beginner I do suggest a thermometer though.:look:
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post #6 of 23
You are correct he is marinating , you by using salt are brining, Using salt will also clean the birs as well as slightly tenderizing and flavouring.:roll:
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post #7 of 23
Thread Starter 
I've got the basic cooking times/temps, etc, mainly wondered if there was a difference between the free range and 'supermarket variety' birds. I know with the heirloom birds, you really have to be careful with not letting them dry out. Just wondered if the free range were the same or not.

I use an instant read digital,have for years, which I really like. No, it's not 'leave in the bird', but get good results with it.

And I never stuff the bird - we have a vegetarian in the house who loves stuffing,so it's always made a la casserole style. :)
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post #8 of 23
Clarify the butter first. That brings the smoke point up significantly. Then just stir it into your herbs for the compound, That should make it easier to inject also.

You say he can't have salt, which has to be horrible for him. Does he have a sodium problem? If so, try brining in Potassium Chloride. The effects of osmosis on the meat will still be had without upsetting any medical condition that may be a problem with standard table/kosher/sea salt.
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post #9 of 23
Marmalady,

Basically, no. The qualification is there because sometimes "free range" can be "heirloom" as well. Also, just as an FYI, there are all sorts of degrees of "free range," some far freer than others.

If that's what you like, it's fine. I use my instants for nearly everything -- but prefer to use something that can be left in, with an alarm, for long cooking because it prevents overruns. The one I use has a wireless readout which allows keeping track from a different room.

We do ours the same way, mostly because we smoke our birds.

Some other thoughts:

With all respect to Chef Ray, IMO there's no need or benefit to clarifying the butter for either (a) rubbing compound butter under the skin; or (b) incorporating melted butter in the injection. The turkey will never get near butter's smoke point -- either under the skin or in the muscle -- so I just don't understand where he's coming from. I've never heard of clarifying butter for either purpose. Of course neither my limited awareness, nor lack of understanding make him wrong.

Speaking of butter in the injection, it's not at all a bad idea. So props to Chef Ray for bringing it up. Also, instead of butter you might want to try a flavored oil -- ideally truffle. If you do use truffle oil, remember that a little goes a very long way.

About the brine/marinade issue. There aren't laws about language use, so no criticism intended... Properly speaking, all brines include a fair amount of salt; all marinades have an acid component. Brines usually have some acid, too. Marinades usually, but not necessarily, also include fat; while brines never, or almost never, do. [I can't think of any which do, offhand. But, "One never know, do one?"] In fact, besides salt content, fat is the thing we first look at before we say "marinade" or "brine." Either may include a sugar component, but that's more common with brines.

In any case, it's a chemical differential between the marinade/brine and the food to be marinated brine that powers the "diffusion" processes (which may or may not include osmosis), which allows the brining/marinating to do their work. From a culinary standpoint -- if you're looking at the amount of time it takes to get flavors into the meat, saline differential is the most powerful, then acid, then sugar.

Another difference between marinades and brines is that while both can bring all sorts of flavors, brines are more intended to moisturize, while marinades are meant more to tenderize. It's the acid which does the tendering. In turn, this goes to your comment about a citrus marinade "cooking" the turkey. With the marinade set to any reasonable amount of acid, it's not something you really have to worry about.

One of the nice things about making marinades is you can usually rely on the general rule that a good marinade tastes good. So, dip a finger in before you marinate and you won't go too far wrong.

Feeling holiday information overload yet?
BDL
post #10 of 23
Thread Starter 
Feeling holiday information overload yet?
BDL

Lol, no, not at all - I love discussions like this where there can be back and forth w/out anyone getting - well, you know. :)

Pop-in-law has major hypertension problems along with other heart issues, hence the low or no sodium. I know he'd 'cheat' if he was by himself, but his daughter, my sis-in-law, will be there too and she watches him like a hawk.
So we'll put the salt shaker on the table for everyone else.

I'm really all about the keep it simple, stupid for this year. I want to give them all wonderful food, but there's too much going on in my life right now to make my usual up-town :) turkey day goodies!
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post #11 of 23
"Christmas means Carnage", quote from the movie Babe.

Poor Turkeys :)

That's some great info on marinades/brining etc. Too hot here at Christmas for turkey, but there's usually a roast of some kind involved. Gotta say I'd like to do a seafood and salad/bbq style this year, everyone is a bit tired of the pork routine. But I know there'll be a trifle involved - hubby's favourite. I'd be divorced if I didn't make one :lol:

Best way I've done a free range turkey (which I dispatched myself) was in an oven bag, tossed some flour and spices in there and lemon,garlic and onon in the cavity. Call it a cheat, but it was juicy and made lots of lovely stock for the gravy. Took it out of the bag and back into a really hot oven for 10 mins to crisp, then out under a tent of foil to rest, while I made the gravy. Worked a treat.

It was a truly free range bird from friend's farm, they ranged for miles in the scrub but would come in to be fed. Silly birds, but amusing. And tasty.
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post #12 of 23
You would have to use a lot of citrus to cook or cure the meat on a whole bird. There's nothing wrong with combining a brine and a marinade. I typically use salt, sugar, juniper berries, a chunked apple, fresh sage, thyme and mulling spice. If you can't store your bird in the cooler keep plenty of ice on it, rinse it well when done and factor at least four hours for the bird to air dry in the fridge even after you have patted it down well with paper towels.
The advice about pulling your bird at 160 and letting it rest was spot on.
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post #13 of 23
It was always my understanding that the sodium extracts moisture from the meat when submerged in a flavored brining liquid. This causes the cells to swell with the flavored brine. Osmosis, I guess.

If brining is out of the question then something else that I don't think has been mentioned yet is Barding. Obviously salty bacon can't be used in this case but pork fat back would work nice or some nice fatty duck skin would be extremely tasty, though probably more unhealthy than salt, and it might be hard to come up with enough to cover a turkey. Ask your butcher what they have available. Slow cook the bird to start then remove the barding to crisp the skin.

Filling the cavity with lots of sweet vegetables and fruit for flavor and moisture is essential. If the stuffing/dressing is being made seperately for safety or vegetarian reasons then the filling doesn't have to be eaten after the bird is cooked so you can use the vegetable trimmings or other scraps that might be left over.

Cook the bird on top of some flavor and moisture. An organic roasting rack. Vegetables, fruits, garlic, herbs. This bottom layer adds a lot of flavor to the sauce.

Hope these ideas spark some more ideas.
-soup-
post #14 of 23
Barding is not to commonly done here in the States although years ago it was. In fact most people have not even heard of the term. Bardering was done internally with the use of a barding needle which is an antique by todays standards.:chef:Salt also draws all the blood from birds and is why it is used to kosher them. It also as you say expands the cell walls therefore tenderizing the product.
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post #15 of 23
Thread Starter 
I actually have an old barding needle given to me by a chef I worked for. He brought it from France with him. You're right, you hardly ever see it done any more.
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post #16 of 23
Why don't you try some turkey marinades for your bird. This can add your turkey more delicious an d yummy or any bird will apply on these marinades.

Turkey Deep Fryer - Turkey Marinades
post #17 of 23
Thread Starter 
I'm happy to report that the free range turkey was da bomb! Did the compound butter under the skin, roasted at 425 for a half hour, then down to 350 for another 3 hours. The meat was juicy,tender,and about fell off the bone. A huge hit! The flavor was amazing - like what turkey 'used to' taste like, before all the additives!
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post #18 of 23
Marmalady,

Great to hear! Glad if my suggestions helped at all.

Our turkeys were "organic, free-range and kosher." Instead of the more complex preparations I usually go for, I stuffed ours with cut limes, seasoned with salt and pepper only, and smoked over pecan wood only. They came out well -- with one caveat.

This was our fourth year buying from the same source; and I'm sorry to say the quality of the butchering and plucking wasn't the best. Next year, I'll either give them one more chance or resort to the inconvenience and expense of a "live" supplier.

BDL
post #19 of 23
Thread Starter 
Yep, BDL, it was your suggestion about using the compound butter under the skin that I went with! I was even able to get under the skin all the way down to the drumstick, and put some of the butter under the skin there. I used fresh thyme, sage, parsley and tarragon in the compound butter; really looked pretty once the turkey was done!

Sorry about the half-cleaned state of your bird. I've gotten Empire kosher birds in the past, and have noticed that they don't do a great job on the feathers, either. :9
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post #20 of 23
Empire is frozen. In the real kashruth ritual after 12 hours the bird must be re koshered. how long is frozen bird held.? You will always find some feathers on kosher chix.
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post #21 of 23
I was sent a great turkey recipe and I thought I would share it with everyone. You will love this one. Click on the photo link below to see this turkey in all it's splendor

Christmas is coming and I thought you might like to try this recipe.

Ingredients:
1 whole turkey
1 large lemon, cut into halves
salt and pepper to taste
butter or olive oil, whichever you prefer

Heat oven to 350 degrees

Rub butter or oil over the skin of the turkey until it is completely coated.


Sprinkle with salt and pepper and any other seasonings you prefer.

Take a knife and gently separate the skin from the breast meat; slide lemon halves under the skin with the peel side up, one on each side. This way the juice from the lemon will release into the breasts.



Cover and bake for 30-45 minutes. Remove cover and continue to roast until juices run clear, basting every 15-20 minutes.



If you've followed these steps correctly, your turkey should look like the one in the picture below.

Bon Appetit!

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v508/rustyother/bestturkeyrecipe.jpg




.
post #22 of 23

I would have scoffed at the turkey in a bag technique until yesterday when i did one on a gas grill rotisserie (11 lb, 2 hr).  It was done (>175 degrees) but seemed tougher than expected.  The breast was juicy and delicious, but tougher than I expected, and the legs/thighs tasty but also the joints were not mobile as expected.  I'm guessing that slower braising conditions would have resulted in more tenderness.  I didn't brine because the times I have it's tasted too salty.  

post #23 of 23

I can't imagine why you would need a marinade if ur cooking a free range turkey.

 

I simply cover it in bacon at a high heat for 30mins  then medium.

For the last 1/2 hour of cooking I turn the bird upside down.

When it's done, I wrap it tightly in foil, (Still upside down) and it'll stay hot for an hour n be juicy and full of flavour

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