Turkey Day is right around the corner (we're pretty excited for that Tryptophan-induced nap that we all enjoy after stuffing our faces), and heritage turkeys are quickly becoming the talk of the town. You may be wondering what the deal is with these birds. Why is everybody talking about them? Why should we leave our old supermarket turkeys behind? Do they taste better? How should they be cooked?
Don't fret, turkey lovers. We've got some answers for you.
Heritage turkeys are a group of several turkey breeds that were developed in the United States and Europe over centuries, including the Standard Bronze, Bourbon Red, and Narragansett, to name a few. Heritage breeds are actually the ancestors of the common Broad Breasted White Turkey that we are so familiar with today. Unlike today's commercial turkeys, heritage birds have smaller breasts and they take longer to grow. They also mate naturally and spend most of their lives outdoors. The process of raising these birds is more time consuming, generally making them more expensive.
The payoff for all of that time and energy they spend growing is that the meat is richly flavored and incredibly moist. Instead of the slow, low-temperature roasting commercial birds require, heritage birds fare better with fast cooking at high temperatures. This keeps them from drying out (a common Thanksgiving worry) and locks in all of the flavor.
Source: Flickr User ancapron