When they are older just cook them different, low and slow for older birds. We rotate our breeders every 3 years and the ones we don't sell go to the freezer. We eat alot of turkey so we started cutting them up into meal + 1 leftover size meals. that works great for us.
I also cook turkey year around. It seem that there is two methods on line about cooking a heritage turkey. HI and LOW. They are leaner so they need to be cooked different than most turkeys. I have not noticed needing to cook older birds any different than any other heritage bird. I usually brine my turkeys first. Everything I read on line on cooking heritage turkeys say . "Heritage turkeys should be cooked at 425-450 degrees F until the internal temperature reaches 140-150 degrees F. Fast cooking at high temperatures is a better method than slow roasting so they don't dry out " If you notice this is a lower internal temperature than you normaly see for turkey. I even seen some that asked for 130 degrees. This is even lower than Alton Brown recomends(151) that some people have a fit about. The turkey does reach 161 after sitting 15 minutes.
I have also read cooking it slowly, at lower temperatures and with more moisture. To me that is not roast turkey. I personaly hate a turkey that has been steamed in any way. I hate those cooking bags too for the same reason. I also hate meat in a crock pot. It sucks every bit of juice out of the meat.
Steve, can you give specific temperatures and times, please? I was asked this same question by another breeder the other day.
When I'm cooking a whole turkey in the oven I start at 325 covered and go until I get clear juice 1/2 way thru the breast, then uncover and raise the heat to 450 to brown it. Once it's brown as you want take out of the oven and recover it. When we cook a full bird it's for a special meal and guests so I don't like to hover over the oven taking temps i'd rather enjoy the fest.
The times really depend on the size of the bird.
If i'm cooking a whole bird on the smoker grill I have no idea of the temp, I just go by the juice - we have a meat thermometer somewhere but to be honest I couldn't tell you where it is.
The other smoker grill won't fit a whole bird but it's great for breast fillets and smaller pieces. That's a breast fillet in the middle pan and thighs on the right.
Another thing we do is cook the legs in the pressure cooker - 15 minutes at 15 pounds pressure. You can use that meat for tacos etc. It freezes well and makes a quick meal.
Maybe more up your alley is the breast fillets can be sliced and make a great stir fry or curry. The red Thai curry that brings sweat to your forhead when you eat it.
This is making me hungry.... One of us needs to make a road trip to swap recipes.
Thanks for the information, Steve. How would you adjust those temperatures for an older bird?
Nice smoker, very nice. I have two small ones that I brought over from England. One was originally bought in Hone Depot in Miami and the other, picnic size, was made in Australia. Both are too small for a full sized turkey. I've been looking to buy or build a bigger one. An American guy in Udon makes and sells some superb stainless steel one based on the oil drum design. Nice but expensive. An American friend up in the mountains here had two huge stainless steel cold smokers made to his own design. I think I will have a hot smoker/BBQ made when I get a good design with the obligatory images and drawings. Shop bought ones are made from thin steel sheet. Locals get hold of old oil drums and modify them. The more common ones here, though, look like clay pots for charcoal in metal buckets with a very big lemon squeezer on top. I'll use charcoal rather than gas because I like to smoke meat too. Bottled gas, I think, is dangerous. A huge outdoor market burnt down a couple of weeks ago when one exploded.
Red curry is good. Jungle curry is even hotter, they say, but I usually can't tell the difference. I prefer my turkey roasted and without chili of garlic added but a curry made with me supervising the quantity of flavourings will be worth trying.
I don't know whether I shall be able to visit the States again. Getting visas for a Brit and a Thai living in Thailand might be a bit of a headbanger these days. Even getting a UK visa for a Thai national spouse is a gamble. If you find yourself heading in this direction a gastronomic tour of Isaan is definitely on! In the meantime, perhaps we could start an International Turkey Recipe thread on BYC. What do you think?
That was for an older bird. For a younger one about 375 for the cooking temp and the same to brown it at the end. We have a Weber "kettle" type grill that will fit a whole turkey in it. That design does very well for direct or indirect cooking. That is all we use is charcoal and wood. If i'm going to use gas you might as well just cook it inside.
I do like the cooking from other parts of the world, I was born and raised in a "meat and potatoes" family, very bland but wholesome foods. When I started traveling I was sampling everything. We have a pretty extensive cookbook library at home that covers the world pretty well, European, Russian, Polish, Korean, Thai, Chinese, Japenese, Philippeans. You never know where you are going to eat at our place. I do like the idea of an international turkey recipe thread that would be very interesting.