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Farmer Sam’s fav ways to prepare Pastured Poultry.

Speedy fast version for experienced folk: Put the bird breast side down in a roasting pan with a small amount of liquid in it, cover it well with a tight-fitting lid or with foil, and roast in your oven until the meat is tender

 

Leisurely version for folks that like the story along with the recipe: This method works especially well with pasture raised meats, as in any chickens or turkeys that were raised naturally outdoors, and NOT fed copious amounts of grain and kept in confinement. 

Birds raised naturally have spectacular flavour, but they can turn out more firm and dry compared to a conventionally raised bird you might be used to getting from the store, especially if you don’t cook them right. 

The simplest method is to braise the bird and do this with the breast down. Most times people cook with the breast up, because it looks pretty. That’s nice, but I’m more down with food tasting spectacular than having pretty pictures to post on social media.

So forget bringing the big roasted bird to the table for photo op’s and carving, and instead bring a ready-to-eat platter of tender juicy meat that is falling off the bone. 

Remember, whether your bird is purchased from the store, the farm, the farmers market, or you raised it yourself, thaw it safely (keep it cool as it thaws) and rinse it off before cooking.  

 

Here is the breakdown of how to roast the perfect tender juicy pasture raised bird: 

1) Find a roasting pan with a tight-fitting lid that is large enough for the chicken/duck/turkey/goose you might be preparing. 

2) If the beast you want to prepare is too large for any of your roasting pans, cut the bird up into pieces (breast, legs, back, wings). You can cook the back with the bird, or pop it into your freezer to roast and make bone broth with another time. Don’t know how to cut up a bird? This link will help. 

3) Place the whole bird breast down onto the roasting pan. If the bird has been cut up, put the legs and wings and back (if you are roasting the back) around the breast, which should be face down.  

4) Add some water or bone broth to the roasting pan. I like to see at least a centimetre of liquid in there. Season the bird if you like seasoning. I usually add a sprinkle of salt. If you bird is whole, you can stuff the cavity with lemons and rosemary. I avoid bread stuffing in the bird because it steals all the juices for gravy. (Make the stuffing in a separate dish and use some of the pan drippings to make it awesome.)

5) Cover the bird with the lid and pop it into a hot oven. If your roasting pan lid isn’t tight fitting, use foil to make a cover and tuck it round the lip of the pan, you don’t want all the liquid in the pan to boil away. Don't have a pot with a lid that fits well? Go to this link and look at the pictures to see how to get around that with foil.

 

Cooking temps:
If you have all day, you can cook at 250 degrees. If you have less time, and the pan or foil cover seals well, turn the heat up to 350 degrees. If you have forgotten to put the meat in the oven when you were supposed to and you are pushed for time, crank that puppy up to 450 degrees. If you go with the highest heat, make sure the bird doesn’t run out of liquid. 

 

Cooking time:
It’s dependant on the size of the bird and what temperature you cook it at of course but here is a general guide.

Slow cooking – Assume you need at least 6 – 8 hours unless it’s a small bird

Medium heat – Assume about 4 – 6 hours for an average bird

High heat – Assume about 3 – 4 hours 

 

How to tell it’s done:
I tend to cook by smell and feel and appearance:

- When it starts to smell really good and your kids or pets start to harass you, it’s probably very close or ready.

- When the joints are nice and loose, or the meat is really easy to pull off the bones, it’s ready

-If it looks golden and super yummy, that beastie is ready!  

If you’ve done your job right, the meat will slip off the bone and you will have lots of pan juices to make gravy with. If you’ve left it in too long, you will be short on pan juices and the meat might be a bit dry.  

 

Other ideas for your birdies: 

Brines are a great way to avoid the problem of the bird getting dry if you forget about it whilst it cooks in the oven. Maybe you have to go help a cow give birth, maybe you have to run to the store for something, maybe you are watching TV and forgot you are cooking.

Avoid those problems that cause dry birds by brining your bird.

You can brine in a clean cooler, a clean bucket, or even a big stew pot. A favourite brine of ours for the holiday season uses a handful each of apricots and cranberries, then a teaspoon each of cardamon, allspice, cloves, cinnamon in a 1/4 cup salt per every 2 litres of water (or 1/2 cup of salt per gallon of water). Use a half teaspoon of the spices if you are roasting a small bird.

A large bird like a goose, turkey, or duck might need 48 hours of brine, a smaller chicken or small stewing hen will probably be fine with 12 – 24 hours.

 

Basting: Yes, you can slow cook and baste. I tend to baste the bird when it starts to smell good. This also lets me poke and prod it a bit to see when it's going to be ready. I pull the bird out, uncover it, baste it, poke at it, over it back up and pop it back into the oven.

A fun way to baste a bird if you are leaving it whole and can't bare the thought of putting it breast side down is to coat the bird with bacon fat or butter, and then drape a cheesecloth that has also been soaked in butter or bacon fat over the bird. This is the equivalent to using caul (mesentery) fat on your bird. Caul fat can be hard for most folks that don't butcher at home to come by, but cheese cloth is generally available. 

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