Disclaimer: This is one of my “Not for the Faint of Heart” posts. If you fall into that category, please come back another day when I’ll be talking about pudding.
Since it is turkey season, and since I found myself with two turkeys to haul off the field not too long ago, I thought I’d show anyone venturing out this spring how I field dress and butcher a turkey.
Also, the thing I don’t recommend you do at home is try to take pictures while field dressing. Your camera will hate you afterward.
1. Remove the feathers. Pulling them out in small bits while securing the skin with the other hand is the way to go. It prevents the skin from tearing.
2. Cut the wings at the first joint. There isn’t much meat after the first joint, so it is best to cut the wings there once the bird has been well plucked to the tail.
3. Cut the tail right at the base but above the gland. It will begin to look like your Thanksgiving table right there before your eyes..
4. Cut the feet at the joint. You’ll need to bend them to find the break in the joint.
Yes, I have at least two friends, why do you ask?
5. Remove the head at the neck. Leave yourself a lot of room by cutting high at the neck. There is a lot of meat on the neck that makes a great stew.
There is also bone there which means you’ll need a sharp knife to cut around the vertebrae.
I would not recommend this has a wedding gift. It could be taken the wrong way. But it might make a good coffee table conversation piece.
6. Remove the insides. Cut a slit at the base underneath the tail.
The opening should be about this size, large enough to fit your hand inside.
Get your hand in there and pull it out in one handful. The area where the colon meets the tail will need to be cut out.
7. Separate the liver, heart and gizzard from the innards. You will have this interesting art piece once everything is out. The gizzard, heart and liver are all edible and delicious. Do not waste, you worked too hard for this ol’ gobbler and he deserves that you respect every part of him.
8. Remove the crop. At the top where the neck meets the chest, you’ll need to make another slit and pull out the “crop,” which is the semi digested food from the turkey’s chest cavity.
9. Save the tail feathers. They are awfully purty. They make a nice headdress for cocktail parties.
10. Rinse the carcass thoroughly. I recommend a hose with good pressure to help you power wash the insides and remove excess blood and lung tissue.
Then you can keep it whole or take it one step further…
1. Get yourself a good sharp boning knife. Okay, this one is not a good sharp boning knife, I just liked the look of it for the photo. Doesn’t it make me look fierce?
2. Set out a large cutting board and lay the turkey out. Make sure you have a place where the blood can run off and that can be rinsed easily later. I recommend silicon for a cutting board since wood will absorb blood and bacteria.
3. Begin by cutting along the seams of the legs.
There is a natural separation where the legs will come away from the breast easily.
4. Cut to the spine and around the oyster. There is a beautiful piece of meat on all birds called “the oyster.” It is round and sits at the spine at the top if the leg. It is easy to leave behind or ignore, but don’t! It is the best bite of the bird.
4. Pop the leg back to reveal the ball joint.
This will help loosen the leg.
5. Use a sharp knife to remove the leg from the back spine where the oyster is, to the tail. Then repeat steps 3-5 with the other leg.
I would like to interrupt our regularly scheduled programming to show you a mysterious man and his underwater spear fishing gear.
I thought you should know what a good abalone spear looks like in case you want to swim with the Great White Sharks of the Pacific.
6. On to the breast! Cut along one side of the breastbone
Keep your knife close to the breast bone as you slowly peel away all of the breast meat.
When you get to the base cut it off.
Repeat with the other breast.
7. Trim your parts. Now that you have four beautiful turkey parts, trim them of excess tissue and debris and give them another hose down. Then put them in storage bags.
8. Save the carcass for stew. There is nothing like a good turkey stew or even a simple stock. I have a turkey oyster stew recipe in my upcoming book that you’ll love, or you can try this turkey stock recipe, it’s liquid gold and freezes well.
Whatever your adventure, wherever it may be, let it be a wild one.