So you’ve decided to shoot your own turkey for TG. Here’s how to make sure it doesn’t taste like shoe leather on your plate.

IGobble gobble! Tell me how to cook this winged creature!

There is a small but strong tradition in America of shooting your own turkey for Thanksgiving. We do not do this, but I know that people somewhere out there do because I see it on TV so it must be true, right? We don’t do it because it’s also deer season, and El Gallo is just not gonna shoot a turkey when he can shoot a deer, but I digress. I know that somewhere someone out there had the great grand idea of shooting their own turkey, and I’m here to make sure said turkey is edible come TG dinner. Because here’s the thing: cooking wild turkey is kind of like opposite day. It’s really really lean, especially the dark meat. The breasts are smaller than the leg/thigh, and the skin is kind of not that good even when seared in butter, but you should keep the skin on while cooking to help keep it moist.

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So, the first lesson in cooking wild turkey: BRINE, BRINE, BRINE! If you do not brine your turkey, it will dry out. Period. You can use whatever brine you want. I used my favorite brine recipe for smoked salmon, minus the habaneros. You could probably wing it if you wanted to – a little wine, a cup or so of sugar, a heavy handful of salt with whatever spices/seasonings you like, and enough water to cover. Some people cook their brine then cool it then brine the bird. That’s too many steps. I just threw everything in a big ziplock, and turned the ziplock over in the fridge in the morning in case there was a part of it sticking out of the water.

Rule #2 in cooking wild turkey: The breasts are more like A cups, in comparison to the FFs you get with a regular store bought turkey. This means you need to put your thermometer in the thigh, otherwise you risk cutting into raw leg meat. What I did was put the thermometer into the breast, then took the breasts out of the oven and kept them warm, moved the thermometer into the legs, and finished cooking the bird’s bottom half. Either way, your breasts shouldn’t dry out if you leave it all in there, but they will be extra juicy when you do it this way.

Now, you can really make any flavor of glaze you like. I personally love the combination of cumin and orange, and the zest and honey all together makes it holiday-ish. But you could do lemon-sugar-tarragon or lime-cayenne-whathaveyou for something spicy.

Cumin and Orange Braised Wild Turkey

Ingredients

  • 1 wild turkey (feathered, field dressed and cut into thighs and breasts, brined overnight)
  • 6 tablespoons butter (separated into 2 and 4)
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1/4 bourbon
  • juice and zest of one orange
  • 2 tablespoons cumin
  • salt and pepper to taste

Optional

  • pinch of cayenne

Directions

Step 1
Preheat the oven to 325. Pull your turkey out of the brine, pat it with a paper towel and leave it uncovered to dry out a little while you prep everything. Season the outside of the turkey with salt and pepper to taste. Heat 2 T of butter in an oven-safe pan over medium-high heat. Put in the turkey pieces, skin side down, and sear the skin for about 5 minutes. Turn the turkey over and deglaze the pan with broth, water, or more bourbon. Cover (with a lid or foil) and cook for about 10 minutes.
Step 2
Meanwhile, melt the rest of the butter in a sauce pan over medium heat with the rest of the ingredients and keep cooking until it forms a loose glaze. Pull the turkey out of the oven, baste it with the juices from the pan, then put about half of the glaze on it, reserving more to serve with. At this point you also want to put a thermometer in the thickest part of the meat (which for wild turkey is the thigh) if using a thermometer. Put back in the oven and cook about another 15 minutes, or until your thermometer hits about 140-50 degrees. Slice and serve with reserved glaze to drizzle over.

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