Thanksgiving Wild Turkey from 'The Wild Chef'

Thanksgiving Wild Turkey
Travis Rathbone

There are a few wild turkey recipes in Jonathan Miles's new cookbook, The Wild Chef, but none are as iconic as the Thanksgiving turkey. Gloriously golden, with ultra-crisp skin, this stuffed bird is truly a thing of beauty. It's a simple recipe, cooked for a couple of hours in a moderate oven, but one trick helps to maintain the integrity of the lean breast meat: a couple of coats of pork fat and a sheath of fatback, salt pork, or bacon.

Why I picked this recipe: While I'm not necessarily a "bacon goes on everything" person, I do believe that a slice or eight can do wonders to a lean wild (or heritage) turkey.

What worked: I loved this turkey—easy, well-seasoned, and super pretty. What more could you want?

What didn't: The recipe doesn't mention how to divide up the pork. I used 1/4 pound, minced, for the stuffing; 1/4 pound, minced, for brushing; and 1/4 pound, sliced, to top the bird in the oven.

Suggested tweaks: If you aren't planning on hunting down a wild turkey this year, you could use any smallish bird following these same directions. This recipe works particularly well for leaner, darker heritage breeds. If you're roasting a larger bird (more than 14 or 15 pounds), you'll want to adjust the cooking times by increasing both the 350 degree cooking time and the 375 degree cooking time. Cover the bird with aluminum foil if it starts to brown too much before the meat is cooked.

Reprinted with permission from The Wild Chef by Jonathan Miles and the editors of Field and Stream. Copyright 2013. Published by Weldon Owen. All rights reserved. Available wherever books are sold.

Recipe Details

Thanksgiving Wild Turkey from 'The Wild Chef'

Active 30 mins
Total 3 hrs
Serves 10 to 13 servings


  • 3/4 pound (375g) fatback, salted pork, or bacon, 1/2 pound minced, 1/4 pound sliced

  • 1 wild turkey, 11–13 pounds (5.5–6.5kg)

  • Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • 1 yellow onion, minced

  • 3 ribs celery, minced

  • 4 cloves garlic, minced

  • 4 cups (8 ounces; 250g) toasted diced bread

  • 1 cup (8 ounces; 250mlchicken stock

  • 6 sprigs sage, minced

  • 2 sprigs rosemary, minced

  • 8 sprigs Italian parsley, minced


  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Render half of the minced fatback slowly in a heavy-bottom sauté pan. Reserve and keep warm.

  2. Dry the turkey very well with paper towels. Using a brush, coat the exterior with some of the warm minced fatback and season well with salt and pepper inside and out.

  3. Heat up the remaining minced fatback on medium. Add the onion and season with salt and pepper. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, then add the celery and cook for 5 minutes more. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Remove from the heat and add the toasted bread. Moisten with stock and add the minced herbs. Taste the bread cubes and add more broth and herbs as needed—they should be moist and tasty. Gently fill the cavity of the turkey with this mixture, and cover the breast with the remaining slices of fatback.

  4. Place the turkey, breast side up, in a heavy roasting pan and put it in the oven. Roast for 1 hour. Remove the fatback, raise the oven temperature to 375°F (190°C), and continue roasting for 1 hour to brown the breast. Remove the turkey as soon as it registers 160°F (71°C) on an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh, away from the bone.

  5. Let the turkey rest for at least 20–30 minutes before carving it across the grain with a sharp knife.

Nutrition Facts (per serving)
596 Calories
27g Fat
12g Carbs
72g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 10 to 13
Amount per serving
Calories 596
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 27g 34%
Saturated Fat 8g 41%
Cholesterol 257mg 86%
Sodium 1369mg 60%
Total Carbohydrate 12g 4%
Dietary Fiber 1g 3%
Total Sugars 2g
Protein 72g
Vitamin C 2mg 8%
Calcium 70mg 5%
Iron 3mg 19%
Potassium 732mg 16%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)