Wild Turkey Time

It doesn’t have to be a wild turkey. Use this maple syrup glaze on a farm raised turkey and you’ll be just as happy. Plus you don’t have to worry about biting into buck shot.

A plate of wild turkey (1) One of my life’s greatest pleasures is wild turkey. Another
one of life’s pleasures is having a hunting friend who shares. Our dear friend,
the award winning Field & Stream editor, Jay Cassell, shared one of his
birds with us and as always it’s a flavor revelation. Wild turkey tastes good.
Really good. Now, I’ve heard some people say its too lean and tough, and it’s
true that the legs and wings are inedible. These turkeys actually run around,
so their legs are tough, it’s not like a raised turkey that just stands around
waiting to be fed. But the breast meat has a distinct, delicate, non-gamey
flavor. And no, it doesn’t taste like chicken. It tastes like turkey.


I’ll share this cooking technique with you because even if
you don’t have a wild turkey sitting in the freezer, this should taste just as good
using a farm-raised turkey. The other advantage of farm raised is that they are
usually well plucked.  Not that I’m
saying Jay’s a lousy turkey plucker. I’m just saying….


The basics:

ºBrine for 4-6 hours

ºLard with bacon, fill cavity with 1-2 tangerines

ºRoast for 1 hour, then start

ºBasting with maple syrup/rum glaze and keep roasting &
basting until done



The secret is to brine, baby, brine. It makes all the
difference with a lean meat, and turkey qualifies as lean. Guidelines for
brining are here.
  Brining is not
the same as marinating because the large amount of salt used in brining
actually causes a protein melt down and osmosis. One of the few times in life
when a melt down is desirable.


Due to my nomadic life style, I don’t have any spices left
in the cabinet, so I headed on over to the A&P where I had a small heart
attack over the price of dried herbs. $250 a pound for parsley?? $263 for
marjoram? Not that I was buying a pound, but still. I wound up buying some
roast meat spice mix that was about 50% salt and since I was brining anyway, I figured
this would do the trick to season the brine.

I’m also a fan of the garbage bag method. Put the birdie in a
doubled garbage bag, add the cooled brine to it and a bag of ice, or two bags of
ice, just be sure you have enough water and ice involved to keep the bird
submerged. Then it goes into an old cooler, with a good lock and onto the back
porch. Raccoons can be very inquisitive so a seal on the cooler is essential.

If you have a small turkey or chicken, then you can probably
make room in your fridge, but the key here is to keep the bird at 38F/3.3C, or
damn near freezing, if you catch my drift.

Topsy Turvey Turkey (1)  After a few hours in the brine, a nice warm shower to start bringing
the birdie up to room temp and to rinse off any residual salt, we are now ready to roast it. I pierced a few
tangerines and filled the narrow bird cavity with the citrus fruit. This
particular turkey had a strange physique, that’s another difference between
wild and unwild. The wild guys come in all shapes and sizes and this guy had
the narrowest rib cage, so there was no way I could get him to lay quietly on his back
in the roasting pan. Although I did keep trying. I larded Mr. Tom Narrow Chest with a full blanket of bacon, and carefully slid it into to the oven. But, it still kept tipping over and then the bacon would slide off and by now the thing is HOT and HEAVY. Finally giving into
Newton’s Law of Gravity, I tipped the bird over and each time I basted it, I flipped it over and moved the bacon along with it. Why am I telling you all
this? Because one day you may have a tipping bird on your hands and instead of
coming up with some elaborate propping up system that surely will involve
scorched fingers, you now know that you can use the tip method Just make sure
you are using a roasting rack in the pan or you will no longer be tipping you
will be ripping that bird’s skin off.Carving Duo


About halfway through the roasting process, I started
glazing the bird using a milder variation of my maple syrup bourbon glaze. This
glaze was  6 oz of maple syrup, 3 oz of rum and a stick of cinnamon.
Turkey is a delicate flavor and you don’t want to overpower the turkiness of the
meat with too aggressive of a glaze. 

After about 3 hours, the turkey was probed for doneness with my trusty thermometer, and
with clear juice literally bursting out of the probe hole; I knew we were in
good shape.  I drained the turkey
juices, mixed them with the remaining maple glaze, brought it all to a boil,  and that was our ‘gravy’. Use a
probe thermometer on a turkey, ok? You want it to be about 180F/82C on the thigh, or a little less on the breast. I have my hands over my ears and I’m singing
LaLaLA if you are talking to me about a pop-up thermometer. Turkeys have a lot of angles,
creases, crevasses and they have more mass than a chicken, so even though I can
eyeball the skin of a chicken, shake its leg, check to be sure the body juices
are clear and free of blood and pronounce it done, I don’t trust those methods
with a big turkey.

 Happy Diners The rest was easy. I turned over carving to the Intrepid
Carving Duo, while everyone else got the veggies onto the table. There was much
grousing about how long it took to take the picture, but all in all, a fine
time was had by all. 

Rumor has it there is some more wild fowl in my immediate
future. What good luck!


Posted in


  1. John Sconzo on January 20, 2010 at 8:50 pm

    Looks and sounds great. I have never had wild turkey despite the fact that they frequent my front and back yard. Of course, those are mostly hens, but every now and again a tom comes by. If only I could pull the trigger on something other than my camera!

  2. JudithKlinger on January 25, 2010 at 11:48 am

    Ciao. I hear you on the hammy
    taste, and Ive been there. I dont add sugar to my brine and I dont
    leave it in too long and I think that keeps it from going all hammy.
    What kind of oven do you have?? The inferno model??

  3. Dana McCauley on January 25, 2010 at 1:49 pm

    I’ve seen loads of wild turkeys just running around here in Ontario being wild but I’ve never had one. I need to find myself a hunting friend, too.

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