Turkey hunters far and wide know how delectable the breast of a wild turkey is. It is sort of the ultimate reward after harvesting a bird. Put against the taste of a wild turkey breast, most all other food (wild and store-bought alike) fails in comparison, and this is probably the root of the misconception that the breast is the only piece of a wild turkey worth keeping. This is simply not true.
Have you shot a bird yet this season? If so, don’t get rid of any of it! Here are specific ways to honor your harvest by not wasting a feather.
Heart, liver and all the other neglected pieces — we could’ve eased our way into this one, but it is probably the most often discarded and rebuked part of the bird post-harvest, and it’s worth mentioning, first, how these frequently abandoned pieces can be used.
From Field to Plate’s Jeremiah Doughty is as known for using all parts of his harvest as much as he’s known for turning them into mouthwatering meals. He’s provided some advice for these neglected parts and other great ways to make use of your whole bird.
“Gizzards take very well to breading and frying,” Doughty said. “Make sure they’re cleaned well. Add them to a skillet and sauté with onions, garlic and olive oil until veggies are tender and serve over rice or pasta.”
For the turkey heart, Doughty demonstrated that, by gently squeezing it, the clots come out pretty easily. After that and a good rinse, Doughty suggests not being afraid to season with your favorite flavors or marinades.
“When you're cooking it, make sure you don't cook it more than 150 [degrees] internal temperature,” Doughty said.
Whether it is smoking the heart, making pâte, adding them to soups, stock or frying, there are many ways to not let these nutritious pieces go to waste.
Head and Neck
The head and neck have a small amount of turkey meat that you shouldn’t let go to waste. Throw the head in with your stock (see “Carcass” below) or anything else to which you’re trying to add depth of flavor.
If you’re not planning on using your head for food, creating a euro mounted skull is a great way to remember the hunt and not let it go to waste.
For the neck meat, Doughty suggests smoking it and making turkey neck soup. There are numerable ways to utilize this part of the turkey, including the below recipe.
- Wild Turkey Frittata
Feet are an acquired taste. A simple way to utilize the feet that isn’t too out of the ordinary is by throwing it in stock, which will add depth to the flavor, but make sure you wash them thoroughly before throwing in your stock pot.
Feet and legs can also be dried and used as backscratchers.
OK, everyone’s favorite. There’s really no need to sell you on the wild turkey breast; it speaks for itself. Make sliced deli meat or stuff and roast with your favorite ingredients. Here are some recipes that we think suit the wild turkey breast well.
- Wild Turkey Roulade
- Wild Turkey Barbacoa
- Wild Turkey Schnitzel
Thighs and Drum
The tasty dark meat from the thighs and drums is as versatile as it is delicious. Here are numerable recipes that lend themselves well to the use of thighs and drums.
- Curry Wild Turkey Burgers
- Backfin Wild Turkey Burger
- Wild Turkey White Chili
- Wild Turkey Osso Buco Risotto
- Asian Wild Turkey Meatballs
Do not throw your wings away. There is delicious meat attached that you can use in soups, salads and sandwiches, and if you really want to elevate them, try the below Buffalo Wild Turkey Wings recipe.
- Buffalo Wild Turkey Wings
Using the carcass for a stock is a great way to utilize some of the parts you still aren’t sure of and an excellent way to have a large stockpile of delicious, nutritious broth for soups and countless other meals.
When creating a stock, roast the bones in the oven at 375 degrees along with onions, garlic, carrots and celery. Roast for about 30 to 45 minutes. Remove and add to a stock pot along with herbs (rosemary, thyme and or any others you'd like to add). Add enough water to cover bones and other ingredients. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer four to six hours. Strain and store in the fridge for seven days or freeze for six months.
For more detail on making a stock, visit the below recipe
- Wild Turkey Stock
Feathers and Wing Bones
From making a turkey call out of the wing bone, to making fly fishing flies out of the feathers, there are a multitude of ways to make sure you use your whole bird and none of it goes to waste.
Wing feathers for fly tying, arrow fletchings, wing feathers for art projects and crafts: there are several ways to put these parts to good use.
- Fan Tail Mount Frame
- How to Build a Wing Bone Yelper
Using all of your bird is a great way to show respect for the harvest, and it is a great way to supply you and your loved ones with many delicious meals and equip yourself with some practical items. This type of resourcefulness can be done with any game you harvest — even fish. Don’t let it go to waste and enjoy!