Cooking Wild Turkey ODFW Facebook Live Show Notes

screen-shot-2016-11-18-at-2-23-14-pmThanks for joining us on the ODFW Live Facebook Event, I will post a link to the video here once it airs. See links at the bottom of this post for more of my favorite wild turkey recipes. POSTED LIVE SHOW.

Tom Kha Gai being demonstrated and sampled at the 2013 O'Laughlin Sport Shows.


Field Care – gut immediately because of their thin stomach walls and their light bone/cartilage.  Birds can easily be tainted by a gut shot. If you have a chance to gut the birds right after the shot, do it, be sure to get all the lung tissue out. Birds don’t have much fat so their body heat is held in their internal organs. After gutting rinse with cool water – a creek or jug of water. Then get the bird COOLING asap!

Cleaning Game Birds

To skin or to pluck??  When and why to use other methods.

If a bird is body shot, don’t try to pluck and serve whole.  In my opinion, breasting them is best, then remove thighs & legs and cook separately.

Also when it comes to body shot birds, I like to cut the meat into chunks or strips so I can remove bb’s and feathers from the meat.  Dental care is way to expensive!! 

If plucked right after the shot, the job is easier but be quick and gut the bird as soon as possible after plucking.

Time is a factor in plucking too, some birds are super easy to pluck but skinning is so much faster. The challenge lies in keeping the meat moist during the cooking process of skinned birds.

For turkey, we’ve found the best way to pluck is to dip the bird in boiling water for 7 seconds, then remove feathers by pulling down toward the tail.  Avoid grabbing too many feathers at a time as this will tear the skin. 

Birds that have been plucked and not boiled, will have some downey feathers left over and those can simply be singed off with a torch.

Preparation best for freezing?  They do freezer burn easily so you want to keep track of them in your freezer.

Some people claim freezing with feathers on is best.  We prefer to have them cooking ready. Vacuum sealing is always best but protect the bag with a paper towel in spots bones may pierce through.

One thing we have really tried to do is eat the birds as they come in. 

We’ve got a great bird here, most of the time with wild turkey, I will break them down and cook them using several cooking methods.


Removed from the bird, this can be treated like a lean, free-range, boneless chicken breast. Cooked hot and fast, this meat is very flavorful, versatile and tender. Separate out the tenderloins as they cook faster.

The breast can be cooked whole but be sure to replace the fat by covering with something like bacon, sausage, even coconut oil and greens. You can also base as the breast cooks.

Slice breast meat and tenderloins for stir-fry or fajitas.

Slice larger steak sizes and pound into cutlets for a “chicken fried steak” style or marinate and sear on a hot grill just a minute or so per side.


These are not your average drumsticks. Wild turkey legs are tricky and full of tiny bones, tendons and ligaments and it can be challenging to get all the meat. The best way to cook these is LOW & SLOW. Any seasoning, cooked until the meat is falling from the bones will treat you with a very tasty part of the bird. Just let the meat cool a bit, and pull it away making a pulled-turkey meat. This can be put back in the liquid or put into any kind of dish. This meat also freezes well for a fast weeknight dinner.


Right into the stock pot goes the rest of the bird along with the chopped up gizzard. With a few veggies tossed in, you will have an amazing turkey stock in 8-12 hours. Simmer on low heat adding water if desired or let it cook down and you have a concentrate. This freezes well and makes amazing soup and noodles.

BUT IF YOU ARE LOOKING TO COOK THE BIRD WHOLE, especially for a big dinner like Thanksgiving or Christmas, there are some steps you can take to optimize flavor and texture.


WHY BRINE?  A salt brine breaks down proteins allowing them to fill with moisture and trap liquids in the meat helping the meat to stay juicy in the cooking process.

Brining can add all sorts of great flavors, black tea brine, fresh herbs

Super basic is simply water and salt,

1 quart liquid to 1/4 cup salt (multiply as needed to submerge bird)

Add: 1/2-1 cup sugar, granulated onion, granulated garlic (or fresh chopped) Herbs such as rosemary, thyme, sage… whatever’s in the garden. Even a tablespoon or two of poultry seasoning.

Brine 8-12 hours in the refrigerator or in a cooler with frozen water bottles.


Pat dry, discard all brine.

ADD OTHER FLAVORS TO THE BIRD IN CAVITY AND ON THE OUTSIDE (onion, lemon, herbs, olive oil or butter) – No salt though.

Replace skin – BACON STRIPS ARE EASY… OR there are lots of options, spice paste, sausage, chicken skin, coconut oil and greens. I’ve even coated with a heavily sausaged stuffing.

USE AN OVEN BAG… helps retain moisture, keeps your oven clean, turkey will brown under the bag but if you want a crispier bird you can open up the bag in the last 10 minutes of cooking time.


LOWER TEMPERATURE MEANS LONGER COOKING TIME BUT IT WILL BE A JUCIER BIRD. 300º FOR 10-15 minutes per pound of bird. Wild birds can cook much faster so start checking temperature after an hour to gage where the bird is. You can cook as low as 275º or up to 325º and you will get different results.

I NEVER stuff the bird, especially with a stuffing that has raw egg. If you must stuff a bird, precook the stuffing in the microwave and put it in the cold bird.

Food safety officials recommend cooking wild turkey to an internal temperature of 165º but at home I may only go to 160º (remember the bird is still cooking, especially if you are using some kind of bag or cooking in cast iron). Be sure to check the internal temperature in a few places.


Cooking Game Birds… TIPS

1.  Add fat

2.  Cook in a moist environment or cook quickly: LOW & SLOW or HOT & FAST

-Crock Pot

-Clay Pot

-Dutch Oven

-Oven Bags

-Covered in a spice paste or bacon or sausage (domestic chicken skin)

-Wrapped in some sort of crust – salt crust, flour crust, pie crust, parchment paper

-Be creative… TURKPHEASQUAILTurkpheasquail

-Boning animals out and adding some kind of a moist stuffing also works well.

Plank Cooking Game Birds – Planked Turkey Breastplankedturkeylr

1. Keeps lean meats & fish moist

2. Infuses smokey flavors (more so when grilling with planks)

3. Keeps grill grates clean.

4. Novel & easy serving presentation.

5. Can be done on the grill – direct or indirect heat or in the oven or over a campfire.

Smoking Domestic Turkey sh-smk-turk-14

Cooking Turkey Legs & Thighs

Cooking Game BirdsCGBCoverLR

Ideas for grinding game birds


This entry was posted in Media, News, Seminar Notes. Bookmark the permalink.