Turkey Time

By Lia Huber and Jacqueline Church

Remember the time when “turkey” meant a big ball of a bird frozen solid at the supermarket and “apple” meant Red Delicious? Those days are long gone. Now, just as we have Gala, Macoun, Winesap and Granny Smith, so too do we have choices when it comes to turkey.

You’ve read the story about heritage turkey breeds, but what does all the rest mean? Here’s a closer look at what picks are out there to help you choose the bird that’s right for you.

turkey time[ photo from www.porterturkeys.com ]


Frozen turkeys are flash-frozen immediately after processing and stored frozen until thawed at home, which, it’s estimated, over two-thirds of Americans do for their Thanksgiving meal. If a turkey is frozen quickly at its prime, it can be kept frozen for up to a year without too much decline in flavor or texture. The quality will depend more on the bird itself than on the fact that it’s frozen. That said, the great majority of frozen whole turkeys on the market are the Broad Breasted White breed, which was bred for efficiency, not for flavor. Because frozen birds have a longer shelf life, they tend to be cheaper than fresh birds—something to keep in mind if you’re looking to break into the heirloom realm but are afraid it’ll break the bank.

Price and size: $1.40/lb.   |   10 to 24 lbs.

Taste and texture: There’s no denying that freezing does damage the cells of meat. When ice crystals form between the muscles they can puncture cells and release their fluids, which is why there’s often a gelatinous pool of juices below a bird after you’ve defrosted it, and the meat will be drier as a result. To offset the loss of moisture that occurs from freezing and thawing, frozen turkeys are often injected with a “plumping” solution of chemical preservatives, including  sodium phosphate and modified food starch. So check the label if you want a preservative-free turkey.

Things to consider when buying: With fridge space at a premium during Thanksgiving, it’s essential to plan ahead with a frozen turkey. Be sure to allow enough time to thaw your turkey in the fridge (by far the safest way); a good guide is to allow one day thawing in the refrigerator for every five pounds of weight. And don’t forget to factor in an extra day if you’re brining (a good idea for adding moisture to a frozen and thawed bird . . . don’t be tempted to brine the bird when frozen).


Since 1997, when the USDA tightened its definition of fresh poultry, a turkey labeled fresh must never have reached a temperature below 26 degrees Fahrenheit. Besides the obvious benefit of freed-up fridge space (no four day thaw needed), fresh birds may also come from more local sources due to their perishable nature.

Price and size: $1.25 – $1.60/lb.  |  16 -24 lbs.

Taste and texture: A bird that has not been frozen will have meat that is more tender and moist, and may not require the extra step of brining.

Things to consider when buying: You may pay a premium for a fresh bird, but what you get (besides moister meat) is less hassle. No need to take up the fridge for the better part of a week with defrosting and brining. Though, depending where you live, you may need to pre-order a fresh bird from your butcher.


For food to be labeled “natural” it cannot contain artificial ingredients or color and is, theoretically anyway, minimally processed. Know, though, that the term has nothing to do with what the animal was fed or whether antibiotics or growth hormones were used. And don’t assume “natural,” nonartificial ingredients are ones you’d recognize; ingredients legally termed natural by the USDA include all sorts of modified derivatives of things like corn and soy.

Price and size: $1.79 – $4.00/lb.  |  12-22 lbs.

Taste and texture: Because the term can mean so many things, generalizing a flavor profile for a “natural” bird is nearly impossible.

Things to consider when buying: It’s up to the producer to specify what they’re defining as “natural.” There are no legal definitions other than the exclusions above. That said, those pasture-raising their turkeys or raising heritage breeds will likely state so on the label along with the “natural” tag. So read carefully before you buy.

Free-Range / Pasture-Raised

While most people think free-range and pasture-raised to be synonymous, that isn’t technically the case. Free-range only means that the producer can prove to the USDA inspectors that its turkeys have had access to the outdoors. Under the legal term, it’s feasible that free-range turkeys may never have seen the light of day. Pasture-raised means that the turkey was raised outside on, primarily, a natural diet (according to what Mother Nature deems natural, not the USDA), but the term itself is not regulated.

Price and size: Free Range $2.70 – $3.50/lb.  /   Pasture-Raised $5.30 – $6.50/lb.  |   9 – 13 lb.

Taste and texture: Because the birds have been raised outside on a more varied diet, they will be leaner and richer in flavor.

Things to consider when buying: If you’re concerned about the turkey being too lean, you may want to brine it for extra moistness.


Kosher turkeys have been processed under rabbinical supervision. They may be free-range, organic, all natural or none of the above.

Price and size: $3.10 – 3.56/lb.  |   12-18 lbs

Taste and texture: The meat on a Kosher turkey is slightly plumper due to the salting process, with a slightly briny flavor.

Things to consider when buying: Because these birds are salted during the koshering process, they should not be brined.


By definition, USDA-certified organic turkeys must have been raised on organic feed without antibiotic intervention or growth hormones.

Price and size:

$6.50/$7.00 lb. and up  |  10-20 lbs

Taste and texture: Firm, with a clean flavor


Heirloom is a term that is generally synonymous with heritage when it comes to turkeys. But it is not strictly defined, and can encompass blends of heritage breeds crossed with more modern ones.

Price and size: $3.50/lb. and up  |  10-24 lbs

Taste and texture: Heirloom birds—whether pure heritage breeds or a blend—have leaner, richer-flavored dark meat.

Things to consider when buying: Heirloom crosses tend to be less expensive than heritage breeds and have more white meat, making them a good choice if you’re curious about heritage but skittish about pleasing palates used to Butterballs.


A heritage turkey is one of roughly a dozen breeds popular in earlier eras, many of which now are close to extinction. For specific characteristics of heritage birds, and more history, see A Story of Heritage Turkey.

Price and size: $10.00 – $20/lb.  |  12-20 lbs

Taste and texture: These birds have a wilder, richer flavor and leaner meat than other turkeys. The dark meat, especially, is more reminiscent of duck than chicken.

Things to consider when buying: Know that your heirloom bird won’t look like a Butterball. It will have a pup-tent breast, longer, leaner legs, and will likely have dark dots and spots along the skin from pin-feathers. Know, also, that most farmers who raise heirloom breeds are in it for the passion; that the bird was originally bred (at least partially) for taste; and that along with the high price tag comes the knowledge that you’re preserving a part of our country’s past.

“Sans Pan” Cider Gravy

This is a great gravy recipe to use when you’re grilling a Thanksgiving turkey and don’t have a pan to collect the juices. A quick turkey stock made from the neck and giblets (removed before the turkey roasts) is enhanced by a nutty roux and brightened by a splash of apple cider. As Nicki says, “it’s the perfect autumnal gravy.”

cider-gravy-recipeQuick Turkey Stock

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Neck and gizzards (minus liver) from 1 turkey
1 large onion, halved with skin on
2 cloves garlic, skin on
1 large carrot, roughly chopped
2 celery ribs, roughly chopped
8 white peppercorns
5 allspice berries
2 bay leaves
3 thyme sprigs
4 cups water
1 cup low-sodium chicken stock

Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Sear turkey neck and gizzards, onion, garlic, carrot and celery for 5 minutes, until browned.

Add spices and pour in water and chicken stock. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 1 hour. Strain.

Makes 3 cups

“Sans Pan” Cider Gravy

4 tablespoons butter, cut into 1 tablespoon chunks
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 cups hot Quick Turkey Stock
1 cup apple cider
2 thyme sprigs
1 tablespoon minced sage
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Melt butter in a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in flour and continue to whisk frequently for 3-5 minutes, until mixture turns deep golden and begins to smell toasted and nutty. Slowly pour in hot turkey stock, whisking constantly (it will hiss and may spatter a bit). Then whisk in cider.

Add thyme and sage, and bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 5-7 minutes, until mixture mixture has thickened. Stir in apple cider vinegar and season with salt and pepper.

Makes 3 cups

Wherever You Are, There’s the Feast

by Cheryl Sternman Rule

Each November, everywhere you look, glossy magazines focus on Thanksgiving food: the turkey, the sides, the desserts. And that’s all wonderful, and important, but let me tell you something: the people who sit around the table, wherever that table may be, are the ones who make Thanksgiving memorable.

Fourteen years ago, my husband Colin and I served as Peace Corps volunteers in the East African nation of Eritrea. That November, come Thanksgiving, we hopped a bus and traveled from our little house in Decamhare to the town of Keren to gather at the home of two friends.  All around the country, our fellow volunteers did the same–some rode rickety busses for three hours, some for eight, some for even longer. Although we were stationed far apart, we made the effort to celebrate the holiday together.

I recently emailed these old Peace Corps friends to ask them what they recall about our Thanksgivings in Africa and was struck by how wildly their memories varied. It was fun to piece together their reminiscences, and to spur a collective sense of nostalgia for such a unique time in all of our lives.

Here’s what they shared: Sarah says she thought our country director imported a turkey from Germany, although Devra claims it was from South Africa. Jannett isn’t convinced there was a turkey at all. “Did we actually have meat?” she asked.  Kristen remembers her feelings about the spread without recalling specific foods. “I was beside myself at the variety and selection of food.  Never has a Thanksgiving feast been so incredibly appreciated.”

Julie’s memories go to the following Thanksgiving, when we gathered at Adam’s house in Nefasit. She remembers that one group headed up the mountain to Debre Bizen, an ancient monastery, while others hung back to prepare the meal. She recalls dancing outside “in front of the fire, which meant we had music–Adam was good for always having music.” For his part, Adam remembers “going around Nefasit trying to get as much charcoal as I could find, which ended up being quite a lot. I remember there was lots of cooking going on during the day, but I can’t remember what we were cooking.”

And therein lies the most important nugget, the gem, really, of Thanksgiving. For all our focus on the food, on making it perfect, or beautiful, or right, the food is not what people remember. People remember the feelings of fellowship, and if my friends are any indication, they remember those feelings with tremendous joy. This is true no matter where you were, and what you may, or may not, have eaten.

So this year, reach out to friends and family from Thanksgivings past. Reconnect, reminisce, and be grateful for their presence in your life.


Cheryl Sternman Rule is a food and nutrition writer whose work has appeared in numerous national magazines, including EatingWell and Body+Soul. She is the voice behind the food blog 5 Second Rule.

Lentil Soup with Roasted Pumpkin

By Cheryl Sternman Rule

Lentils are a staple food in Eritrea, and every time I prepare them I recall my years there.  Adding cubed roasted pumpkin lends this soup vibrant color and transforms it into an ideal Thanksgiving starter.


One 2-pound “pie” pumpkin (also called sugar pumpkins or sugar pie pumpkins)
2 cups brown lentils, sorted and rinsed
Two 14-ounce cans low sodium chicken broth (you may substitute chicken stock or vegetable stock)
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 large carrots, diced
1 medium onion, diced
1 teaspoon sea salt, divided
Freshly ground black pepper
4 garlic cloves, minced
1-1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, or to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Using a heavy knife, cut the pumpkin in half.  Use a serrated grapefruit spoon (or a regular spoon) to scrape out the seeds and all the strings.  Discard.

Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and coat it with nonstick spray. Lay the pumpkin halves cut side down and roast for 25 to 30 minutes, or until fork tender but not mushy.  Remove from oven and remove the peel in large swaths using tongs. Season both sides with sea salt (1/4 teaspoon total) and a grinding of black pepper. Turn pumpkin halves cut side up and let cool completely. Dice.

While the pumpkin roasts, start the soup. Combine the lentils, broth, and 4 cups of cold water in a soup pot.  Bring to a boil over high heat.  Reduce heat, cover, and simmer gently until lentils are tender but not mushy, about 25 minutes.

While the lentils summer, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the carrots, onions and a pinch more slat and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables begin to brown, about 15 minutes.  Add garlic and cumin and cook, stirring constantly, for 30 seconds longer.

When lentils are ready, stir the carrot mixture and diced pumpkin into the soup pot.  Season with the lemon juice, and adjust salt and pepper to taste.

Serves 8

Grandma Friese’s Whole Cranberries

By Kurt Friese

Grandma was famous in our family for writing out recipes that began with things like “Take a bottle of cream…” without any indication, for those of us who grew up in the post-milkman era, what the size of a “bottle” might be. And that’s the way this recipe was originally handed down to me. She used to make these cranberries way ahead of time and let them ferment; they have quite a kick.

1 cup water
2 cups port wine, divided
1 cup raw sugar
2 cinnamon sticks
1 tablespoon lemon zest (cut into long strips)
1 pound whole cranberries

Mix together water, 1 cup wine, sugar, cinnamon sticks and lemon zest in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil for 10 minutes. Add the cranberries, reduce heat to medium-low and cook for 8-10 minutes, just until cranberries are bursting. Add remaining cup of wine, let cool and store in a sealed container for at least a day before serving.

Makes 2-1/2 cups

Le Beaujolais Nouveau Est Arrive

This time of year, it’s tough to miss the signs . . . Le Beaujolais Nouveau Est Arrive! Is it just hype or should we hail the call? Kurt Michael Friese sheds some light on the matter.

Beaujolais is a region nestled between Burgundy and the Rhone just north of Lyon that’s known for their wines of the same name. Made exclusively from the Gamay grape, Beaujolais is a simple, fruit-forward wine (for France anyway) with high acidity and is broken down into three designations. Roughly half the production goes by the basic appellation of Beaujolais. A step up are the wines known as Beaujolais-Villages, which are grown in the hillier northern region. At the top, also coming from those Northern hills but named after ten villages which have earned their own appellations, are the Cru Beaujolais.

But hands-down the Beaujolais Americans know best is le Beaujolais Nouveau–a name coined by negociant George Duboeuf for youthful wine from any appellation in the region.

bn-postDespite its high profile, the history of Beaujolais Nouveau is not entirely novel; winemakers in the area have always produced a “vin de l’anee” (this year’s wine) shortly after harvest as a way to evaluate the quality of the vintage. In the 19th century, in fact, the harvest and the wines were often heralded by the bistros in Lyon with signs proclaiming “Le Beaujolais Est Arrive.” But it all got taken up a notch in 1985 when the Institute National des Appellations d’Origine, lobbied by Duboeuf and other wine purveyors as a way to capitalize on weekend sales, set the third Thursday of November as the official release date for Beaujolais Nouveau.

Throughout the late 1980s and 90s, the date was highly hyped, with cases being shipped around the world and held in special bonded warehouses until one minute after midnight when they could be released. And there were stunts too: wine being delivered by helicopter, balloon, even by elephant. In the United States, Beaujolais Nouveau has been tied by Madison Avenue to the Thanksgiving meal and is said to be the perfect wine to go with roast turkey, stuffing, and grandma’s green bean casserole. Pessimists counter that it’s the perfect wine for the winemakers’ cash flow, and there’s a nugget of truth to both.

Beaujolais Nouveau can be a perfectly delightful wine. Fresh and fruity, light and “easy to drink,” it is a fun and frolicking dash through the park on a sunny autumn day. There are many producers, some even in the US now, but I prefer the Beaujolais Nouveau provided by French négociant Mommesin. A typical description might read something like “very aromatic, offering raspberry with notes of ripe banana and Juicy-Fruit gum. The flavor is tart raspberry with moderate acidity and a hint of tannin.”

So by all means get in on the fun and enjoy a glass with your friends. Just remember that on your holiday table, the best wine is the wine you like best when surrounded by family, friends, and wonderful food.

Kurt Michael Friese is the founding leader of Slow Food Iowa, serves on the Slow Food USA National Board of Directors, and is editor and publisher of the local food magazine Edible Iowa River Valley. He’s also Chef and co-owner of the Iowa City restaurant Devotay, a freelance food writer and photographer, and author of A Cook’s Journey: Slow Food in the Heartland.

Carving New Traditions

This summer when we took Noemi for a visit with family in Connecticut, I wrote a nibble about pondering the traditions you want to pass on. Now, as I sit down to write my take on Thanksgiving tradition, I’m taking that nibble for a little spin.

I’ll be honest; I never liked Thanksgiving all that much. The traditional dishes just aren’t up my alley and it always seemed like a whole lot of fuss for a meal that was over in thirty minutes. I played along, but it always felt like something I was supposed to love but never really, in my heart of hearts, did.

But everything changed between Thanksgiving and me three years ago with one little word: Noemi.

My husband Christopher and I had spent the bulk of September and October working through endless papers and forms and notarizations and fingerprints and exams to be put on the waitlist to adopt a Guatemalan baby, and on November 13th we’d finally turned in the last bit and were settling in for what we’d been told would be a long wait.

I doodled our daughter’s name—I’d picked out Saramaya in part because Sarah is one of my favorite names, in part to pay homage to her homeland—in my organizer. We wondered aloud whether she’d be born before the New Year. But never, ever did we think we’d get official clearance for a referral before January, let alone an actual match.

And then just four days later on November 17th, the week before Thanksgiving, the phone rang and Kelly Jo from Heartsent was on the other line. “I have something to tell you,” she said and I knew immediately from her voice—which I had gotten to know very, very well over the preceding months—that she had news. Big, big news. I told Kelly Jo to hang on as I raced to my husband’s office with my heart thumping out of my chest. “Oh my God,” he said when he saw my face and ran over to clutch my hand.

“I have a referral for you!” Kelly Jo unleashed the news. “We have your daughter. Her name is Noemi de Leon.” And, of course, all our predictions and plans and even the name we’d picked went right out the door. Noemi was Noemi from the moment she was born; and she was our daughter too.

The following Thursday, with our heads still spinning and our hearts gushing with joy, we propped up our very first pictures of our daughter on the table and made Pollo en Jocon—a simple Guatemalan stew. It was the best Thanksgiving we’d ever had.

In the years since we’ve pondered what, exactly, we wanted Thanksgiving to look like for our Huber clan of three and we’ve decided on a few things that are about as traditional as the way we became a family. We’ve agreed to indulge our thirst for exploring unknown places and people—a passion that was the seed to our adopting Noemi to begin with and one we’re eager to share with her. We’ve decided to keep it small so we can focus on deepening our ties as a family. And we’ve adopted Pollo en Jocon as our family’s “traditional” Thanksgiving dish so that, every year, we’ll be able to let our daughter know just how thankful we are for her while honoring her roots . . . no matter where the three of us may be.

This Thanksgiving, think not just about the traditions you want to pass on, but what new ones you’d like to begin too.

Guatemalan Avocado Salad with Arugula and Chile-Lime Dressing

This is the salad I’ve settled on serving with the Pollo en Jocon we’ll be having for Thanksgiving—a mixture of creamy and rich and light and crisp (it’s a variation on a traditional Guatemalan recipe from the excellent book, False Tongues and Sunday Bread). I could tell you about how healthy the monounsaturated fats from the avocados are, but you already know that. Instead, just enjoy the dish.


2 large, ripe avocados
1 hard-boiled egg, peeled and coarsely mashed
2 tablespoons finely diced red onion
1/4 cup jicama, peeled and cut into a 1/4-inch dice
1/4 cup lime juice, divided
1/2 teaspoon oregano
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon minced fresh hot chiles
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
2 tablespoons Canola oil
6 cups arugula, cleaned and dried

Scrape the flesh from the avocados into a bowl and roughly mash it with the egg. Mix in the onion, jicama, 2 tablespoons lime juice, oregano and salt and pepper to taste, but take care to only mix enough to blend, not so much so that it becomes smooth.

In a tight sealing jar, shake together remaining lime juice, chiles, vinegar, oil and salt and pepper to taste. Let sit for at least 20 minutes.

To serve, toss arugula with dressing and arrange on a platter. Mound avocado salad on top and serve with hot tortillas.

Note: This also makes a great variation of guacamole — just omit the arugula and serve with chips.

Serves 4 as a main course, 8 as a side

Miso- and Herb-Rubbed Applewood Smoked Heritage Turkey

Cooking a heritage turkey for Thanksgiving connects you to our country’s history and the farmers dedicated to preserving heritage breeds . . . and to some tasty meat. The miso in this rub acts almost like a light brine, only without any of the mess.

2 cloves garlic, smashed
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup white miso
4 tablespoons butter, softened
1/4 cup mixed, minced herbs
1 (12-pound) heritage turkey

Mash the garlic to a paste with a pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper (don’t use too much salt or the bird will be too salty). In a small bowl, mix together garlic, miso, butter and herbs.

Very carefully work your fingers under the skin and rub the mixture all over the breast and legs. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, soak 2 cups applewood chips in cold water for 30 minutes.

Preheat the grill.

Drain and transfer chips to a smoke box (or create a tray from heavy-duty foil). Lift up cooking grates on the grill and place the chip tray directly on the burner (when grilling the bird, you’ll be using direct heat, which means only one burner will be on . . . place the chip tray on that burner). Replace the cooking grates and turn all burners to high.

When grill is hot, turn off all burners but the one the wood chips are resting on (leave that one on high) and adjust the heat so the temperature stays around 325F. Spray a “V” roasting rack with cooking spray, place the turkey breast-side down, and position in the middle of the indirect heat area. Close the cover and cook for 2 hours, turning the rack 180 degrees halfway through.

After 2 hours, flip the bird over head-to-toe (so to speak—breast should be up now, and neck where the tail was) and grill for another 1 to 1-1/2 hours, turning the rack 180 degrees halfway through. Use a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the leg without touching bone to test if the turkey is done (should read 145F).

Take the turkey off the grill, tent loosely with foil and let rest for 20 minutes before carving.

Serves 12

A Story of Heritage Turkey

Turkey is the iconic American bird. So it’s only fitting that it takes center stage for that iconic American holiday: Thanksgiving. The species is native to the Americas, but many of the breeds that populated our country’s agricultural landscape throughout the centuries were a mix of indigenous wild turkeys and domesticated ones bred in Europe from stock originally exported from the New World. So from early on, in quintessential American fashion, the turkey became a cultural hybrid.


But there’s more to the story. To me, turkeys are a living illustration of how much our country’s food culture has changed in the past 50 years.

For hundreds of years, up until the mid-20th century, farmers bred turkeys for flavor, beauty and yield. Each breed was developed for a different purpose: Narragansetts were good foragers where food was scarce, the Bourbon Red was prized for its meat and the Standard Bronze for its beautiful plumage. By the 1950s though, as our food system became more industrialized and turkey breast became a deli standard, two of those factors—flavor and beauty—fell from consideration. After all, people no longer bought turkeys from their nearest turkey farmer, they bought it prepackaged (and probably frozen) from one of the burgeoning supermarkets in the area.

Turkey breeders began selecting for birds that could be developed quickly, could efficiently convert food into the coveted breast meat and would have flawless skin once plucked. Thus the Broad Breasted White, in a time when Wonder Bread and Twinkies were considered modern miracles, took the market by storm. Today, they make up about 99% of the turkey market in America, and many of those other breeds—what we now call heritage turkeys—are close to extinction.

What Are Heritage Turkeys? There are roughly a dozen varieties of heritage turkeys, seven of which were recognized back in 1874 in the first edition of the American Poultry Association’s Standard of Perfection—the official guide to breed standards for all types of poultry. Technically, the term “heritage turkey” is defined by these three characteristics:

  • They can mate naturally. This may sound self-evident, but the Broad Breasted White—because of its short breast and legs—cannot mate on its own and must be artificially inseminated in order to reproduce.
  • They must be able to live a productive life outside in their natural environment. In contrast, heirlooms’ buxom cousins are much less hardy and more prone to disease.
  • They must have a slow (some might say “normal”) growth rate. Mass-produced turkeys develop so quickly that their muscles can outpace the rest of their bodies.

It’s ironic to me that something has to be defined with a fancy moniker like “heritage” to say it can live a normal, healthy life in a natural environment and that what we take for granted as “turkey” is something that came from generations of artificial insemination, doesn’t develop properly and doesn’t have the fortitude to live in its native habitat.

Why Would I Want to Buy a Heritage Turkey? The easy answer is incredibly flavorful, juicy meat. The more in-depth answer is, by serving up a heritage turkey you’re helping save them from disappearing altogether. Four of the roughly dozen heritage turkey breeds are listed on Slow Food’s Ark of Taste as near extinction. The more demand there is for these heritage breeds, the more incentive farmers will have to raise them.

How Are They Different? True heritage birds look, well, scrawny. They have longer breast bones and legs, making their breast look more pup tent than plump. They also layer on fat differently, since they’re essentially a wild animal, so you’re likely to find large deposits towards the neck rather than distributed throughout. While the breast meat doesn’t taste enormously different, the dark meat is redder with a much richer flavor, almost like that of duck or goose.

Do I Have to Cook a Heritage Bird Differently? Because heritage birds have smaller breasts, they cook faster and can dry out easily. Cook the bird until a thermometer inserted into the deepest part of the thigh (without touching bone) reads 145F-150F (it will continue to cook as it rests).