Sunday, May 25, 2008

Preparing, Cooking, and Eating your Wild Turkey

OK, you've just legally harvested your trophy gobbler and you have your hunting buddy take a few "hero" shots to post on your blog and preserve the memory of the hunt. What's next?

Well, it's time to take the edible meat from your bird so you can enjoy the fruit of your hunt. Below is the process of butchering your bird, preparing the meat to cook, and chowing down on it.

First, you will note the relative bloodless process of taking the breast meat from a wild turkey. You simply lay the bird on it's back, find the breast bone, make a one inch incision, then rip open the chest cavity exposing the breast meat- the only real edible meat on a wild turkey. The legs are not like fat, dark meat, domestic turkey legs, instead they are skinny and very sinewy. Not good eating unless you're a pilgrim who just came over on the Mayflower and haven't had fresh meat in 90 or more days.

With the meat extracted and in a plastic bag for transport home, you can have the rest of your bird for a cool mount, if you so choose. I have mounted several of my turkeys. When you get the meat home, it goes in the refrigerator immediately. I no longer freeze my wild turkey meat. I eat it within days of harvesting. I don't think wild poultry freezes well. I shot my bird on Monday, we ate it on Saturday. When I was ready to cook it, I took the meat out of the bag, washed it, and cut it in to strips.

This time I had several different seasonings I wanted to try, as you can see below. I made a hotter (more spicy) batch, and some that were just plain poultry seasoning. I have tried grilling, broiling, baking, and frying my wild turkeys. With no question, frying is the best. Frying in peanut oil is supreme. This time, however, I didn't have any peanut oil, so corn oil was fine.

I dip the strips in milk (buttermilk works great too), then bread the pieces. Then I plop them in to the deep fryer (not in view).

After one batch is done, I put them on a baking pan and keep them warm and crisp in the oven while the others are cooking.

BAM! They're done. Add a side of fried potatoes, and you have yourself a great meal!

How does it taste? Well, honestly, not as good as domestic turkey, but still very good. Remember that a wild, mature gobbler like the one I shot is 3-4 years old. Domestic turkeys you eat for Thanksgiving are less than 18 months old and the "Young Hens" so many people like are 6-9 months old. Further, domestic turkeys are usually penned up, fed grain non stop, and even injected with various things before and after they are slaughtered. Wild Turkeys live on the nervous run most of their days, eating insects and anything else they can forage. There's no way an old wild turkey is going to taste like a Butterball.
Despite not being as tasty as a domestic turkey, the satisfaction that goes with making a meal out of something you spent hours hunting is indescribable. I also think it's the proper way to honor the animal you harvest. Nothing should be killed if it won't also be eaten.


Rick Calohan said...

Tony, reading this post and looking at the pictures reminded me of two things, the American Sportsmen and The Thanksgiving Song by Adam Sandler of course this is the edited lyrics the song

Love to eat turkey
Love to eat tur-r-rkeyyyy
OO i love you
Love to eat turkey cuz its good
I love to eat turkey like a good boy should
Cuz its turkey, to eat, so good
Turkey for me turkey for u
Let's eat the turkey in my big brown shoe
Love to eat the turkey at the table
I once saw a movie with Betty Grable
Eat the turkey all night long
50 million Elvis fans cant be wrong
Turkey-lurkey doo turkey lurkey that
I eat that turkey then i take a nap a special night
Jimmy Walker used to say DYNOMITE...THATS RIGHT
Tukey with gravy and cranberries
Cant believe the Mets traded Darrel Strawberry
Turkey for u and turkey for me

Oh, white meat and dark meat
You just cant lose
I fell off my Moped and i got a bruise
Turkey in the oven and the buns in the toaster

Wrap the turkey up in aluminum foil

Turkey and sweet potato pie
Sammy Davis Jr. only had one eye
Oh turkey for the girls and turkey for the boys
My favoirte pants are courdaroys
Gobble Gobble goo and Gobble Gobble giggle
I wish turkey only cost a nickel
OOOO I love turkey on Thanksgiving

jeff said...

I like to marinade the breast in Italian dressing for a couple hours, then throw that bad boy on the grill. But, I think I'm going to have to try your recipe. Wild turkey + hot oil sounds good to me! The fried potatoes looked good too. Was that green pepper I saw in there? Any onions?

I tried cooking the legs once. only once. I had them in the crock pot slow cooking for about 10 hours. I think I would have had better luck trying to eat my Cabelas insulated rubber hunting boots. On the bright side, we ended up having really good pizza and buffalo wings that night!

By the way, when we enlarged the picture of you and the boys, my oldest son Ryan was impressed that you son has a snowman cup and a Spiderman plate!

Reepicheep said...

That's a great tune!

Check out the Freddy T's cup also! Yep, that's diced up potatoes with green peppers and onions..a touch a seasoned salt fried up in some oil. Good eatin'

Rick Calohan said...

The better half makes a mean Potatoes O’Parpan, of course, you have the diced potatoes, red and green bell pepper, garlic, onions, salt, pepper, paprika fried up in of course good ole American Salted Butter, served alongside some biscuits, and summer sausage gravy makes me proud to be an American and a husband to a Filipina!

Barnezy said...

nice knife Rambo!!! Did I ever tell you about the time when a turkey walked right under my treestand during whitetail season and I elected to throw my shoe at it in order to render it unconscious? I didn't? Well, I missed by a good two feet (windy day) and thats about the closest I've ever come to real turkey hunting. Looks like you had a blast, well done with the photo documentation. I'll send you a photo of my black buck antelope later this week. SDG

Frontier Forest said...

Looks mighty fine to me! Have you ever tried using a box of “Shore Lunch” for you batter? Mostly for fish but works great for poultry too.

malcolm said...

Nice treatment of "healthy" wild turkey meat with no chemicals, steroids or preservatives. Breading and deep frying would render almost anything edible, maybe even dog

Reepicheep said...

Hmmm....deep-fried dog. Might not be half bad.

jeff said...

At the NJ State Fair held in our area, they always have a booth with deep-fried stuff. Deep fried oreos, deep fried twinkies, deep fried everything. No thanks. I have to draw the line somewhere. I think my body would shut down if I tried a deep fried twinkie!

M. Jay Bennett said...

Dad used to make us fried wild turkey fingers. Very good!

jeff said...

The Freddy T's cup has been duly noted. So now, if we ever get out to KS, we'll have to vist Freddy T's and Waffle House!

Jonine said...

Thanks for the directions. My husband just killed a turkey last night for the first time. So, I'm looking it up on line and run across your blog and had a great kind of laugh. We love Narnia, Reepicheep is one of our favorites, AND we're reformed!

Brandon said...

I found this blog from a Google search.
I really enjoyed your how-to on cooking Wild Turkey.
The pictures and story are fantastic! Thanks!

Anonymous said...

You are missing the boat wild turkey legs, thighs and even some back meat and wings are all great eating. I use the wings,back,thighs and drumsticks in soups stews gumbo jerky potpies. You owe it to the turkey to use all edible meat.


Anonymous said...

I guess all taste buds are different ... I think breaded fried wild turkey breast beats domestic turkey any day!!
Joy D.