7 Secrets To Great Tasting Wild Turkey
By John Jameson
A common complaint I hear about eating wild turkey is that the bird comes out dry. There’s nothing wrong with the bird or the cooking method. Your wild turkey is not the same as a store-bought turkey. They’ve been soaked in juices and injected with plumping preservatives to keep them juicy. Wild turkeys are very lean.
A tender bird is ensured through proper preparation, no matter what method of cooking—deep-fried, grilled, roasted, sautéed etc.—is employed. Here are my seven secrets (plus one bonus tip) to great tasting wild turkey every time:
- Timely field dressing is important. That means don’t wait more than an hour or so to remove the meat or gut and pluck the bird. Unless you live less than an hour from where you’re hunting, you should field dress your bird while out on the hunt. This eliminates acid build up inside your kill, which leads to a gamey flavor. I’ve been on hunts where we had to wait longer than this to harvest our meat and it still turned out okay. However, I don’t recommend that you wait.
- Pack a few gallon size freezer bags and some paper towels just in case you need to do your work in the field. If you’re only taking the breast meat and thighs, you can use the gutless field dressing method. It doesn’t hurt to have an ice chest with a little ice in it to cool your meat down on the way home.
- Deep-frying wild turkey is my favorite method for truly juicy turkey meat. However, I never cook the whole bird anymore. Wild turkey wings and legs are tough and strongly flavored. I prefer to only harvest the breast meat and thighs of the birds I kill. I also like turkey heart and liver fried but always separated from the meat. (For a short video of Steven Rinella cooking turkey heart and liver, click here.)
- If you’re frying only turkey breasts and thighs, use a deep pot filled with enough oil to cover and heat to medium high. Dredge the turkey in flour, then milk, then back in flour. Season the meat with salt, pepper and some Cajun spice and fry until cooked to at least 165 F. Yumba!
- An alternative to deep-frying is to marinate turkey in a mixture of fresh olive oil, rosemary and garlic overnight. Then bake in the oven until the internal temperature reaches 165-degrees Fahrenheit, or simply frying in a pan with some olive oil. When roasting, be sure to check your turkey breasts every 10 minutes and baste the breasts.
- I have also used an oven roasting bag for marinated turkey breasts that turned out great. I roast boneless meat in the bag at 350 F for 1 ½ hours. Include some melted butter and olive oil in the bag and prepare to be wishing you had a lot more turkey to cook.
- Another alternative is to grill breasts and thighs that were marinated overnight in a 12oz can of Dr. Pepper with coarsely grated black peppercorn, 1/4 cup of soy sauce and 1/4 cup of lemon juice. You can substitute lime juice for lemon juice or teriyaki sauce for soy sauce, without negatively affecting your bird or the flavor of your meal. The addition of shaved almonds can also substantially enhance the flavor of your turkey breasts.
Bonus Tip: My worst kept secret of all is that I like to sip a little Wild Turkey on the rocks while my bird is cooking. After all, many of the birds I take come from Kentucky. It seems only fitting to do so. Just be careful not to cook yourself, like I tend to. “Do Not Do As I Do, Just Do As I Say!”
What’s your favorite way
to cook wild turkey?
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