Vineyard Manager by day, Dave Vella is a masterful chef of game birds and has shared with us his favorite way to prepare the Thanksgiving turkey.
When cooking any wild game, always take into consideration that the meat has much less fat than domestic raised animals. Care must be taken to not overcook to dryness.
The first step in cooking a wild turkey whole is to brine overnight in a salt water brine.
After rinsing the bird with water, I stuff the turkey with fruits and vegetables with the intent of flavoring and maintaining the moisture of the bird. Before stuffing I will give the body cavity a healthy sprinkling of coarse ground garlic powder, garlic salt and poultry seasoning.
I quarter orange, white onion, apple and jalapeno pepper and stuff the body cavity. I will then use a stainless steel lacer to close up the cavity opening to help hold the moisture in the turkey.
I will then give a good rub to the outside of the bird with the same spices used in the cavity.
I prefer to cook the turkey on my Traeger smoker barbecue grill. I will smoke the bird, depending upon size, for 2-3 hours. Then turn up the heat to 325 degrees and cook until an internal temperature of 160-165 degrees is reached. I have found that a digital thermometer, which will constantly monitor and send the temp to my phone, is immensely helpful in avoiding overcooking.
Chef's Note: This recipe can be used for wild or domestic turkey, though cook times may vary.