The author skins the bird by laying it on its back and cutting the skin along the breastbone, from the crop to the bottom of the breast. Pull the skin and feathers down to expose the entire breast.
The author’s wife takes a cooked turkey breast out of the smoker after cooking it until it reaches 180 degrees in its center.
Wild turkey meat is very different from the turkey you buy at your grocer’s. It contains very little fat. The wings and legs are very tough and contain the large ligaments needed to propel a large bird into the air and outrun predators. On average, a mature wild turkey gobbler in our area weighs 18 pounds.
Experience has taught us that the best parts of a wild turkey for our table are the breast and thighs. Breast meat can be smoked, fried or grilled. Thighs are best ground into burger or sausage. Liver, heart, gizzard, wing butts and legs boiled in water make a delicious elixir to pour over our dog’s dry food.
Organs are extracted soon after the bird is harvested. We then skin the bird by laying it on its back and cutting the skin along the breastbone, from the crop to the bottom of the breast. Pull the skin and feathers down to expose the entire breast. Then cut the skin on the thigh and leg, from the breast towards the foot. At this point use a sharp, thin-bladed knife to cut the individual halves of the breast off the bone. Remove the skin and feathers from the legs and thighs.
Once the skin is removed, cut the thigh and leg off the carcass at the joint attaching them to the body of the bird. Separate the leg from the thigh by cutting through the joint connecting the two. Separate the wing from the carcass by cutting through the joint joining the wing to the breast. Push the skin and feathers down the wing to the first joint and cut through that joint to remove the wing butt.
You now have all the edible meat on a wild turkey ready for consumption. With practice, the entire job can be done in less than 15 minutes.
This article originally published in THE NEW PIONEER® Winter 2015 issue. Print and Digital Subscriptions to THE NEW PIONEER magazine are available here.
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