This recipe combines techniques from the America’s Test Kitchen roast turkey recipe with a secret ingredient – dried ground Koji rice – to create a well-seasoned, tender, and flavorful meat. You may find that there are very few drippings in the pan when you roast your turkey. This partly a result of mild water loss from the meat while dry aging, and partly because some of the tougher connective tissue in the meat has broken down, so the meat does not contract as much when heated and less moisture is squeezed out (this is good, because your meat ends up juicier in the end!)
Before you Begin
This recipe requires refrigerating the salted turkey for 2-3 days in the fridge, so plan accordingly. You will also need a rimmed baking sheet with a wire rack that fits inside. Please note that cooking times may vary a LOT depending on the size of the turkey and how long it is salted and resting; use a thermometer as a guide, not the time.
6 tablespoons granular (dried) rice koji, ground to a fine powder (semi-optional -- see notes)
3 tablespoons Diamond kosher salt (large grains), or 2 tablespoons Morton’s kosher salt (small grains), or 4.5 teaspons of table salt
10-12 lb heritage turkey, patted dry
Grind koji in a spice mill or a blender to a fine powder, transfer to a small bowl, and mix in salt.
Place wire rack in rimmed baking sheet and lightly grease rack. With turkey breast side up, using sharp knife, slice through skin between breast and thigh down to joint on both sides. Using your hands, pull each leg quarter back to expose joint between leg and breast. Remove legs by cutting through hip joint and then skin. Slice through membrane connecting breast to backbone. Bend backbone away from breast to break where it meets rib cage; use knife to remove completely. Reserve backbone for making stock for gravy.
Using your fingers, gently loosen skin covering legs and breasts, separating as much skin from the meat as possible without tearing. Rub koji mixture under skin all over meat and inside cavity, distributing evenly. Season outside of chicken generously with pepper and place on a wire rack set inside a rimmed baking sheet. Chill at least 2-3 days, leaving uncovered up to 48 hours, then loosely covering if chilling longer.
Before roasting, remove turkey from fridge and allow to rest for 30 minutes. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 250 degrees. Transfer breast to large plate and set aside while leg quarters start roasting. Flip leg quarters skin side down and transfer to oven; roast until thighs register 140 degrees, 30 to 60 minutes.
Flip leg quarters skin side up and place breast, skin side down, on wire rack next to leg quarters. Return to oven and roast for another 30 minutes.
Flip breast skin side up and continue to roast until breast registers 155 degrees and thighs register 175 degrees. Remove turkey from oven and let rest for at least 30 minutes (the temperature will continue to rise during this time).
While turkey is resting, increase oven temperature to 500 degrees. Stack turkey assembly on second baking sheet to prevent excess smoking. Return turkey to oven and roast until skin is golden brown and crispy, 5 to 10 minutes.
Rest turkey for 15 minutes, then carve and serve.
You can put the salt/koji mix on the outside of the skin but you will have to rinse it off before baking to avoid it browning too quickly.
Use the neck, giblets, and backbone to make a stock for gravy; this recipe generally does not produce much in the way of drippings.
While you can spatchcock the turkey and it will speed up cooking time, but we still recommend separating the legs entirely and giving them a head start – in an older, more active bird, those legs have some strong connective tissue, and the difference in time to cook the white and dark meat is greater
You can also skip the koji and apply just the salt for a dry brine; for similar tenderness, if you are omitting the koji, dry brine 4 full days before baking
PRO TIP – Save the bones from your turkey after you finish eating it! The bones from pastured poultry are FULL of healthy minerals and fantastic flavor. I have an Instant Pot, and will usually just chuck in the bones along with any scraps of meat, 1 quart of water, a couple tablespoons of apple cider vinegar (which helps get the calcium and other minerals out of the bones and into the broth), veggie scraps, a bay leaf, a couple peppercorns and a generous pinch of salt in, then cook at high pressure for 1-2 hours, until the bones are starting to crumble. Strain and you have a great soup base or a healthy, tasty snack! Here are instructions on how to do it stove top: https://homesteadingfamily.com/how-to-make-chicken-bone-broth/