By Andrea Paran, Freelance Writer and Communications volunteer.

With Christmas only weeks away our thoughts are turning to what we are going to eat! For the traditionalists among us there’s nothing more special than a gorgeous roasted turkey to take centre stage on our celebratory table. We caught up with Adam from Leadoux Turkeys to learn all about their free-range farm and to discover the secret to a perfectly cooked turkey on Christmas day!

Leadoux Turkeys originally started off as a hobby farm for John and Judy Leadoux. In 1980, they purchased 21 acres of land in the foothills of Mt. Taylor, not too far from Bairnsdale, however John wanted to do something different on the land rather than raise cattle or sheep. He had fond memories of his cousin Frankie growing turkeys, and they had always fascinated him, so he purchased 100 of them and the farm was born.

The farm has been a family run business from the very beginning. John, who was actually a boiler maker by trade, repurposed his skills and built all the sheds and processing plants himself! He was extremely passionate about his turkeys and their welfare, spending many hours ensuring that they were well looked after – an ethos which is still carried on today. Judy is the managing director and runs the farm – on any day you’ll find her looking after orders, advertising, purchasing, certifications, regulations, HR or finance. She is supported by her family and they also have a team of six permanent part-time staff.

Today the farm is still operating from the original Mt. Taylor site, however when you have that winning combination of an excellent product, ethical animal welfare and reasonable pricing you can be guaranteed that success will follow. And indeed, it did! Leadoux Turkeys has continued to grow from strength to strength and has outgrown its current facility, which is fantastic news for a family operated business! Their new 100 acre farm will be situated 13km before Bairnsdale and will be purpose built for free-range turkey production. They plan to build on their existing principles of high animal welfare and an excellent product, and will have the ability to sustainably grow and process at least 20,000 hybrid Broad Breasted White turkeys per year. The new farm will also be environmentally sustainable utilising solar power and other energy efficient infrastructure such as extensive composting to minimise their environmental footprint while reducing costs. The turkeys will also enjoy an enhanced free-range environment with continuous access to the outdoors, safety from predators and shelter from the elements including air conditioning.

If, like us, you are concerned with the welfare of animals on farms you can rest assured that Leadoux Turkeys take this issue very seriously. They believe that free range is better for their turkeys as it allows them to freely express their normal behaviours such as room to spread their wings, roost on outdoor perches, take dust baths and graze for insects and green pickings. Their predator proof enclosures avoid overcrowding and minimise any disease issues. The farm also has its own processing plant which avoids the stressful practice of transporting live mature turkeys for long distances.

Adam Leadoux below shares his well tested top tips for getting your Turkey just right this year. Follow these guidelines and we’re sure your roast turkey will be a hit!

 

“The best tip we have is to use a digital thermometer when cooking your turkey. There can be a lot of pressure on Christmas day to get that turkey perfect, and a thermometer takes away all the guesswork.”

  • A thermometer that you can leave in place while cooking the turkey is the best way to go as you don’t want to open the oven to monitor the temperature. Otherwise any accurate meat thermometer will do.
  • The temperature to aim for is 75° Celsius ‐ this is the minimum temperature to reach to be safe.
  • The temperature probe should be inserted into the thickest part of the breast but not touching bone.
  • Remember to let the turkey rest outside the oven for 30 minutes after cooking. The temperature in the thickest part of the breast will continue to rise while resting, so you can remove the turkey from the oven just before it reaches 75° Celsius, ensuring that the internal temperature registers a steady 75° Celsius or higher while resting.
  • You can visually confirm your turkey is cooked by checking that the juices that come from the turkey run clear and are not pink when carving.
  • If you don’t have a thermometer your cooking time guide is:
  • Oven: 45 minutes per kg (including seasoning) PLUS 30 minutes in a pre‐heated 180° celsius oven.
  • Weber (kettle with Heatbeads): 25 minutes per kg (including seasoning) PLUS 30 minutes.

 

For seasoning, you can’t go wrong keeping it simple with salt, pepper and maybe a little thyme, rosemary and sage. Ensure the turkey is dry, brush the dry skin with cooking oil, generously apply your seasoning and rub into the skin.

 

For the stuffing, you can get as creative as you like, but Adam’s go‐to favourite is simply half a loaf of day old bread torn into 1 inch pieces, 2 small onions chopped, 250g of fatty bacon pieces, and 5 grams (one tablespoon) of mixed dry herbs. Mix together and half fill the cavity being sure to allow hot air to get into the cavity. You can also stuff the neck cavity. The turkey should be stuffed just before cooking, and if you are cooking by weight without a thermometer, remember to add the weight of the stuffing for your calculation.

Some Final tips:

  • 30 minutes prior to cooking remove the turkey from the fridge to allow the temperature to start to rise.
  • You do not need to wash your turkey ‐ simply wipe the skin with clean kitchen paper to dry the skin immediately prior to seasoning.
  • Cover your turkey with a tent of foil while cooking, ensuring it does not touch the skin. The foil can be removed towards the last third of cooking to brown the skin. If you are using a Weber you do not need foil.
  • Brining turkeys prior to cooking has become popular to keep the turkey moist, but if you are starting with a good quality free‐range turkey (like a Leadoux free‐range turkey) we don’t think it’s necessary, particularly if you are cooking with a thermometer.
  • Many of the cooking guides and recipes recommend covering your turkey with bacon or adding butter under the skin to stop it from drying out. By all means do this if you want, but it’s not necessary if you are starting with a quality free‐range turkey and are cooking with a thermometer.
  • When cooking by weight ‐ remember that each oven will be a little different. Keep an eye on your turkey as it cooks ‐ this is where the thermometer is super useful.
  • If you are roasting on a Weber Q or equivalent gas BBQ you will need to use a trivet and convection tray to raise the turkey off the grill and to protect it from direct heat.

Happy roasting and feasting!

Leadoux Turkeys are so popular that they have now sold out for pre-sales this Christmas season. But, there is still time to buy direct at  Collingwood Children’s Farmers Market this Saturday 8th Dec and Gasworks next Saturday 15th Dec.