As promised below, here’s how I prepared a 17 1/2 pound Narrangansett turkey.

First, I seasoned it inside with kosher salt and let it come to room temperature for about 2 hours. I made a dressing of Costeaux sourdough, torn into bite-sized pieces, and 2 diced yellow onions and one head of celery, trimmed and diced, sauteed in 2 sticks of butter until very soft. I added half a bunch of Italian parsley, minced, and about 2 tablespoons of freshly minced sage and seasoned it well with kosher salt and plenty of freshly ground black pepper. I filled both cavities of the bird with the hot stuffing.

I melted a stick of butter and added a couple of big chunks of the turkey’s fat and about 3 tablespoon of good medium-dry Madeira.

I set the turkey breast side down on a rack on a sheet pan, used a sturdy sage sprig to baste the bird all over with the butter mixture and then wrapped the wings and pope’s nose in cheesecloth soaked in butter. I put the turkey into a 450 degree oven for 30 minutes and then basted it all over and reduced the heat to 300 degrees. I kept about 1/4-inch of water in the pan so that the drippings wouldn’t burn. I basted every 30 minutes and after 2 1/2 hours, I pulled the bird out of the oven, reversed it to breast up and put it back in the oven. I wrapped the drumsticks, which were getting quite dark, in foil, removed the cheesecloth and basted the breast very thoroughly. In another 45 to 60 minutes, the thighs had reached 155 degrees so I pulled the turkey out and tented it with foil. It rested for about 45 minutes and then it was picked up.

This morning, I heard from the friend for whom I cooked it: “OooooOoooohhhoohhhHHooooooHoooooooooooo!  Juicy, tender, tasty, delicious, melted in our mouths yum-yum to my tum-tum! Absolutely amazing! Best ever. Deliciously scrumptious! I don’t know if I will ever be able to eat another turkey again . . .  It really was the most delectable Thanksgiving ever!”


Heritage breed turkeys need different cooking techniques that the white broad-breasted turkeys that have been ubiquitous in the United States for decades. I overcooked my first heritage turkey–years ago–as I did not realize that these birds typically cook much more quicker than their commercial cousins (just as grass-fed meat does).

This year, I think I have finally mastered the process. I cooked a 17 1/2 pound Narrangansett turkey for someone else and they were thrilled with the results, calling it the best turkey they have ever had. Later, I’ll post how I did it.

In the meantime, I’m curious how yours turned out. Please take a few minutes to share how you prepared yours and how it turned out.

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  1. marissa guggiana

    I have been getting my Thanksgiving turkey from Slow Food Russian River for years now. This year, our SFRR bird was raised by the Thode family and was a 16 lb Bronze. I basically cook them like I would a big chicken, since the proportions are the same. Lots of s+p on the outside and cavity, stuffed with onions and herbs (and various other things lingering in the fridge) and plenty of basting. 3.5 hours later (at 350), the bird was perfect.

    November 23rd, 2012 11:56 am

  2. sunny

    We purchased ours throught the Slow Fdod/4 H Cooperative. Ours was a Narragansett as well. We had a 9 pounder, cooked for 4 hours but brined it for 2 days. It was delicious! The best dark meat I have ever had.

    November 23rd, 2012 12:50 pm

  3. Pam Davis

    Thanks for the suggestion to not overcook… We roasted our 15# heritage bird at 425 for 30 minutes, then turned the heat down to 350 until, mindful of your suggestion to not overcook, the thigh reached 165 degrees. When carving there was just a tad too much pink around the joint and the deepest parts of the though. We put part back in the oven for a while. AMAZING flavor. Not much of a turkey fan, it was like none I’ve ever eaten before. Four times the price but it was so worth it.
    Carcass is simmering right now…

    November 23rd, 2012 2:16 pm

  4. Rich Sanfilippo

    This is the third one I’ve done and it turned out great. As mentioned, these take less time to cook than “commercial” birds and the taste is fantastic. For prep, I just use kosher salt inside and out and let that sit (in a plastic bag) for ~ 2 days. Pat dry and let it sit for a few hours before cooking. Less salty than brine and you can still stuff it this way, if you choose.

    November 23rd, 2012 5:03 pm

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