- June 29, 2022
Hopefully, you might be one of the lucky hunters who has already successfully tagged a spring gobbler. If not, or if you invested in a second tag for this season, the good news is that there is still plenty of time to connect with a spring turkey. Most turkey hunters I have talked with about
Hopefully, you might be one of the lucky hunters who has already successfully tagged a spring gobbler. If not, or if you invested in a second tag for this season, the good news is that there is still plenty of time to connect with a spring turkey. Most turkey hunters I have talked with about cooking a wild turkey have their own favorite recipes, but if you are open to trying something new, here are a few suggestions:
First, one of the most important steps to ensuring a great tasting meal of a spring gobbler is to handle the bird correctly in the field.
Once the bird has been properly tagged, it is critical to remove the entrails to allow the carcass to begin cooling. If you have a lengthy drive until you return home, then have a cooler with ice in your vehicle and place a Ziploc bag of ice in the body cavity to aid in cooling down the meat even further. This cooling process is applicable to all game birds and game animals and will help in reducing any chance of spoilage of the meat and will help ensure the best flavor when it is presented for a meal.
There is the old standby of roasting the bird as you would with a domestic turkey, but keep in mind that a wild bird is much leaner than the usual “butterball” bird. You can pluck, or you can just skin the bird, but either way, using an oven bag for roasting will help hold the moisture of a wild turkey. Further, roasting time is noticeably reduced when cooking a wild bird.
One option would be to roast the bird in a Big Green Egg cooker — they really hold the moisture when cooking any kind of meat, and it is easy to incorporate a smoke flavor using the Big Green Egg.
But there remain many options to making use of the entire bird — after all, let’s show respect for this great game bird and “waste not- want not!” I am always amazed and disappointed when someone tells me they always “breast out” a wild turkey and discard the legs and thighs because they are too tough. That is both wasteful and disrespectful of the bird! I use both the leg and thigh meat and gladly accept any that my fellow hunters want to give me! Most often, I will place the accumulated legs and thighs in a large soup pot, cover the meat with water and bring it to a hard boil — then reduce the heat to yield a slow simmer and let it do its magic for an hour or more. After the long simmer, the meat will be “fall-off-the-bone” tender and can be used in soups, casseroles, salads or used in cold sandwiches, or served hot with gravy over toast or waffles.
And, then there is the breast meat. The entire breast or one side of the breast will take on a wonderful flavor when slow-cooked in a smoker. Be sure to have a bowl or tray of water in the cooker to help keep the meat moist.
The occasional basting with butter (everything tastes better with butter!) will help as well.
Cooking in a cast iron fry pan or on the grill is best accomplished when the breast meat is sliced — usually, a quarter to half-inch thick, but thinner works well in the frying pan.
A thin layer of batter or a film of your favorite cooking oil will help the cooking process and add to the flavor as well.
Cubing the breast, leg, or thigh meat into one-half to inch size cubes will allow it to be used in soups, chili, or in casseroles. Once the meat is cubed, it can also be ground into burger meat.
The ground meat is excellent as turkey burgers for use in chili or makes great sausage, either as loose sausage or stuffed into casing material and twisted into links.
A crowd-pleasing favorite, especially when introducing wild turkey meat to those who have never had the chance to try it before, is to stir fry 1”
cubes of breast meat and serve them with a mayonnaise and Dijon mustard dip or honey mustard.
However you decide to use the meat, it is great to know that it is that “free-range” meat that so many folks are longing for and pay a high price for at the grocery store. Further, it is not pumped up with all of those government-approved chemicals that make the domestic turkeys so plump and juicy!
If you haven’t done so before, I urge you to try using the leg and thigh meat as I mentioned — I think you will be pleasantly surprised.