Depending on the bird you get and the type of person you are, most mature male wild turkeys yield 8-10 pounds of meat, granted you salvage the legs, thighs and breasts. Here to help us prepare the tastiest of turkey is David Draper, a freelance writer specializing in wild game cooking, and Ryan Neeley, Camp Chef marketing manager.
Let’s set the scene; a gorgeous wild turkey lays at your feet. You visualize what to do with your trophy. You’ll mount the beard, spurs and fan on the wall. Perfect! But what about the meat you worked so hard to hunt down?
“The meat you harvest is another trophy, and whether you cook it the same day, a week later or a month later, you can enjoy that experience again at the dinner table and share it with family and friends,” Neeley said.
So, what’s the best way to prepare it?
“Fresh wild turkey is the best wild turkey. I try not to freeze it. If I tag out, I’ll butcher the bird, get whatever meat I’m going to use and then brine it,” Neeley said. “Whether you fry it, smoke it, grill it or whatever, it’s always best to use a salt and water solution to brine your bird first.”
Doing so pulls the blood out of the meat enhancing the natural flavors. If freezing the meat is your best option, Draper suggests using a vacuum sealer or a chamber vac to best preserve the game meat. He uses a Weston, but also recommends Cabela’s and FoodSaver brands.
When cooking, Draper likes to prepare a turkey using ingredients and flavors relative to the geographic location of where he harvested the bird.
“I try to make dishes regional. If I kill a bird in Alabama, I’ll try to make bar-b-que out of it. When I’m hunting out west, I use southwest, tex-mex flavors like cumin, coriander, cinnamon and peppers,” Draper said. “It’s best to pair fresh seasonal ingredients with your bird. I like to use morels, asparagus and first of the year greens. Fresh food from locals is the best way to eat if you can.” He has a good fried turkey and morels recipe found here.
Much like Draper, Neeley tries to enhance the wild flavors from a game bird by using natural flavors like oregano and sage, but his go-to dish is turkey milanese. He cuts the breasts in half, uses a cast iron skillet and drizzles balsamic vinegar on the finished meal.
Both individuals agreed that smoked turkey breasts are delicious. Neeley suggests using a Camp Chef SmokePro DLX Pellet Grill, and he swears by the Camp Chef Competition Blend BBQ pellets saying they have a unique smoky flavor. He recommends a good thermometer and encourages folks to watch it carefully.
They also agreed the legs and thighs are best cooked slow in a crock pot. Draper believes the leg meat is the most versatile and has more flavor. He advises people pull the meat off the bones and use every last bit of it. It goes well in stroganoff, burritos, carnitas, pot pies, stew, chili, gravy, omelets, enchiladas, dips and many others.
Once you’ve prepared the bird using your preferred method, you can sit back, enjoy and think about all the positive things revolved around eating wild turkey, just be sure to check for stray pellets.
Pros to Eating Wild Turkey
RN – “It's wild, organic and fresh.”
DD – “You obtained your own food and sourced it yourself, which is a big deal.”
RN – “You know how it was handled, because you did it yourself.”
DD – “It’s healthier for you; it doesn’t have chemicals in it, and it’s very lean.”
RN – “Eating a meal you provided and cooked can bring you a great sense of satisfaction.”
DD – “You get your food straight from the land.”
In addition to the thoughts above, buying licenses, ammunition, hunting gear and other supplies drives the conservation of the game species, ultimately securing the resource, and meat, for years to come, granted you get an opportunity and make a good shot. Which highlights the only con to pursuing wild turkeys, “It’s never a guarantee. If you don’t punch your tag, you won’t have food on the table,” Neeley said.