Preparing Wild Turkey

Wild turkey is an awesome part of our Thanksgiving feast. However, it cannot be treated the same way as a domestic bird. I learned this the hard way, when the first year I simply roasted it like a typical Thanksgiving turkey and everyone pretended to like it while they chewed each tough bite for a long time! Here are some tenderizing tips for wild turkey:

1. Hang the bird to age and tenderize the meat-Start by field dressing your turkey (remove organs, entrails, and crop then rinse and pat dry these cavities). Hang the turkey by it’s neck for 3-7 days in a cold location (35-45 degrees) in it’s feathers.

2. Soak the turkey meat overnight in lightly salted, cold water– Once the turkey has aged, pluck the feathers and prepare it for a whole roasting turkey, or breast it. Place either the whole turkey or the breast meat in cold water that is lightly salted for about 8 hours or overnight. If you are just using the breast meat, soak it in the water in the refrigerator. If using the whole bird, a clean cooler with ice water works well. This has a similar effect to brining, though less salt is used (only 1-2 T per quart of water). Rinse the meat and wrap it tightly in butcher paper to freeze or cook it from here.

3. Cook properly– A roasting bag can help keep the turkey moist, along with basting or braising techniques. Do not overcook the turkey, but make sure it reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees. USDA has a helpful fact sheet for safe turkey preparation.

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