Turn Wild Turkey Into Terrific Table Fare

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Published on: Apr. 2, 2005

Last revision: Nov. 17, 2010

Turkey Tortilla Soup Recipe

Is there a more perfect game bird than the wild turkey? Most Missouri hunters would say no. Calling in a strutting tom provides more thrills and challenges than almost any other kind of hunting. Hunters know that you have to do a lot of things right to fool a gobbler.Given the effort and expertise required to bag a wild turkey, there's no reason to stop doing things right when it comes to preparing your wild turkey for the table. If you take care of your perfect game bird-- even if it is a mature gobbler--it can produce near perfect table fare.

Quick Cleaning

Your first decision will be whether to pluck or skin the bird. Plucking the bird is better if you plan to smoke or roast it whole. However, plucking is time consuming and sometimes difficult, even if you scald the turkey to loosen the flight and tail feathers.

Plucking is particularly difficult in the fall. Most birds are molting then, with new feathers emerging from soft feather sheaths. These growing feathers often tear when you try to pull them out, leaving portions of the feathers and sheaths in the skin.

Skinning is the easier first step toward converting a wild turkey to food. It also leaves open a number of cooking options that will not dry out the bird.

To skin a turkey, hang it up by its feet and snip off the wings at their elbows. Cut the skin at the tail to remove the fan, then, using your fingers, pull down on the skin. You'll have to work it around the legs and wings, but it should pull away easily. Pull the skin down to the neck and then cut through the neck to detach the skin and head.

To remove the entrails, cut a T-shaped slit between the legs, just below the lower tip of the breastbone. Reach in and pull out all internal organs. The heart, gizzard, liver, and intestines come out easily. Make sure that you also remove the lungs, which are tucked tightly against the ribs and the kidneys. These are tucked into two spaces on each side of the spine in the lower back.

Use a garden hose with a pressure nozzle to wash out any small pieces of entrails that may remain in the body cavity. Under gently running water, remove small pieces of feathers that might have stuck to the meat during the skinning process.

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