I’ll never forget the first time I shot a big Tom turkey around Thanksgiving. I was so happy to bring meat back to the family (kind of a primal thing) and they were proud of me.
Then, after hours of preparation and anticipation, well, it tasted like one of my work boots. I learned later that you need to prepare wild turkey a little different than store-bought turkeys.
It’s no secret that the bigger the turkey, the tougher it will be. The nice thing about fall turkey hunting is that you can shoot a hen too. I always prefer a hen to a Tom but hey, I’ll take what I can get.
One thing to remember about wild turkeys is that the amount of fat is considerably less than the big fat farm raised birds at the grocery store. That means you have to add your own fat—a lot of it! Butter has always been my favorite fat to add with bacon grease coming in a close second. Heck, it’s Thanksgiving for crying out loud, add both for incredible flavor!
If you want to cook your wild bird the conventional way, you’re in for some work. That work involves a lot of basting and a lot of patience. If I choose this method (which I rarely do), I rub the heck out of the cavity and the whole bird with butter and then cover the breast with a lot of bacon strips. I place a couple of grapefruits inside the cavity (halved) and fire up the grill. Then I make sure I have plenty of butter (and beer) and keep basting the heck out of it. It does turn out good but most of us have other things to do (like watch football).
The other way that works pretty well is to deep fry the bird. This way is quick and it locks in the juices. I’ve had decent results cooking this way but it’s always a bit stressful, especially if you have a lot of kids and dogs running around. Keep a fire extinguisher handy!
The easiest and tastiest way I’ve found to prepare wild turkey is to throw it in the slow cooker.
Once you clean it, turn it on its back and surgically remove the breasts. Then remove the legs and thighs like you would a chicken. I leave the skin on the legs and thighs. Typically the thighs and legs are a bit tough, hence the slow cooker.
Here’s where you have a couple of options. You can put both the breasts and legs/thighs in the slow cooker if you want to make it easy or you can deep fry just the breasts.
If you go with the slow cooker, you’re almost done. Place the pieces in and cover them with a couple of cans of soup. You can mix it up but cream of mushroom and French onion together will give you a delicious, super tender meal. You can throw some veggies in too like carrots and onions if you want, or just make your usual side dishes.
If you’re a super cook and want to just slow cook the legs/thighs and cook the breasts differently, here’s a great way to do it and a popular way amongst many hunters. Take the breasts (you’ll be amazed at how big they are and how much meat you’ll get) and cut them into strips. Always slice against the grain.
Now, soak the strips in buttermilk overnight. Something in the buttermilk acts like a tenderizer. Beat a few eggs and have some flour handy. Dip the strips in the egg, then the flour and then roll them in bread crumbs. You can use Italian or whatever you want. I’ve even heard of rolling them in crushed ranch flavor croutons (sounds pretty yummy!). Then simply deep fry them in a big pan until they’re golden brown and cooked through. Now you have something the kids will go crazy for! Happy Thanksgiving!
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