The traditional way to roast a turkey is on its back with strips of bacon laid over the top, to keep it moist. I used to do it myself the same way. But now, I’ve found a better way. When you put bacon over the top, it’ll help keep it from drying out, but if the skin’s on, not much is going to get past the skin. If you like the taste of bacon, why not get the bacon right up in there?
And another thing … who decided turkeys should be cooked breast side up? All the juiciness goes to the back of the bird. So you baste it and baste it, hoping the basting will somehow make the turkey breast moist. Doesn’t work. What does work is roasting the bird, and that’s any large bird, breast side down.
Here’s a better way to roast a wild turkey.
Yield: 1 wild turkey
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 1-1.5 hours
Total time: 1.5-2 hours
- 1 wild turkey, skin intact
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 4 strips smoked bacon, diced
- 1 lemon, sliced and diced
- ½ cup finely diced onion
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- ½ cup minced fresh herbs, your choice (or substitute 2 tablespoons dried Italian seasoning)
- 3 carrots, whole
- 3 celery stalks, whole
- 2 medium potatoes, cut into 4 wedges
- 1 medium onion, cut into 4 wedges
- 2 cups dry white wine or chicken broth
- Large piece heavy-duty aluminum foil
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Carefully separate skin from turkey body without tearing skin. If you do poke through the skin once or twice, you’re still fine. Start at the neck and put a hand inside, working towards the top of the breast. Feel where the skin connects to the breast and begin working your fingers in between, separating skin from breast. Continue working your hands down the breast towards the back of the bird.
3. Season turkey inside and out with salt and pepper.
4. Combine ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper with the bacon, lemon, onion, garlic and herbs. Spread mixture in the area you’ve created between the skin and the breast.
5. Place turkey, breast side down, in a roasting pan. Arrange carrots, celery, potato and onion under each side of the breast to keep it from falling over. If it won’t stay up, it’s no big deal. Just flip it over to the other side after about 45 minutes of cooking time.
6. Pour wine or broth into pan and cover pan with foil. Place into oven. Depending on the size of your turkey, cooking time will average between 1 to 1 ½ hours. Remove when breasts are 155 degrees.
7. Allow turkey to rest for 5-10 minutes before carving.