Sunday, January 31, 2010

PostHeaderIcon You got your bird now what? Cooking Wild Turkey

How to Cook a Wild Turkey

by Naomi K. Shapiro

The "sky's the limit" when it comes to methods of preparing wild turkey -- all of them work, and all will provide some of the finest unattainable-anywhere-else eating. Trust me on that one! Here are just some of the ways to do it:


  • ROASTING

    This traditional whole turkey dinner is not difficult. You clean the bird, stuff it if you wish. Season it any way you like, cover it with an aluminum foil "tent," insert a meat thermometer into the heaviest portion of the breast, and put it in the oven at 325˚ F., until it's done. Some strong caveats: Wild turkey, like any poultry needs to be cooked thoroughly. Most suggest an internal meat temperature of 180˚ -- some even go to 190˚ -- or "in between." Cooking thoroughly is particularly critical because wild turkey -- is just that – "wild," and thorough cooking will kill any pathogens that may be present. A good idea is that when the temperature on your meat thermometer reaches 160˚-170˚, remove the foil "tent," and let the bird finish cooking. The skin will brown and crisp up beautifully. Don't toss those "drippings" in the bottom of the roasting pan. Drain them, and combine them with seasonings and a simple flour roux, and you'll have a fabulous smooth gravy (assuming you "stir" continuously when making the roux and combining it with the drippings) to serve along with the bird itself. One quick tip -- I usually put the turkey on a rack in the roasting pan, so that the entire bird is cooked evenly.

  • BREAST ONLY

    Follow the same procedure as roasting the whole bird, but don't remove the foil "tent" until almost the very end of the cooking, as the breast will dry out more rapidly than a whole bird. A few minutes without the "tent" will still "brown" the breast without drying it out. We also very lightly "brush" the turkey breast with a bit of olive oil to keep things "moist" before we start roasting.


  • TURKEY "FINGERS"

    Cut the turkey into strips -- breasts – thighs -- whatever. Dip them in your favorite "wash" and breading and deep fry them. You'll never be able to eat fast-food chicken "nuggets" again.


  • GRILLING

    Marinate whatever part of the turkey you're going to grill -- teriyaki, Caribbean jerk, BBQ – whatever -- for 24 hours – and then grill. But grilling can fail, so make sure that, for instance, if you use "strips" -- that they're wide enough so they don't drop through the grill grates; and if you're grilling a breast, I would suggest you cut it into half-inch or so slices, because if you grill the whole breast, you're liable to overcook the outside layer(s) while the interior never gets done.

  • DEEP FRYING

    In the last few years, deep frying a whole turkey has become very popular. Any number of capable fryers are offered for sale. Prices can vary from $60 to $100 -- and more --depending on its size (30 quarts and up), and materials. The nice thing about deep frying a turkey is that it's fast, and the deep frying seals in the juices so that you've got a totally moist bird with a wonderful crispy outside when finished. Now there are so many variables that we'll just provide some basics, and you can "fine tune" the method you want to use. First -- do "whole bird" only – with bones in. Read the instructions CAREFULLY on the electric deep fryer you'll be using. Fill the oil to the recommended level depending on the size of the bird. If you don't carefully do this, hot oil can and will be displaced by the bird when you insert it for frying. Don't "play any games" with a deep fryer. The oil is usually about 350˚ and can cause very severe burns. Figure that it'll take about seven to eight minutes per pound to deep fry a whole bird with its bones in That's super quick when compared to roasting. Again, our suggestions are just that -- "suggestions," and each bird and each fryer can be different. So be extremely cautious and enjoy the rewards.

  • SOUP

    Nothing better than parboiling skinned turkey in a big pot (make sure you include the bones!), remove the collected scum as the turkey cooks, then combine with any/all kinds of veggies, onions, leeks, beans, pasta, rice, barley, and you'll have a soup to remember.

  • CASSEROLES

    Cut turkey into chunks or slices, and combine with veggies, potatoes, rice, pasta, soup mixes, seasonings, and some stock for moisture,

While a wild turkey breast looks like "white meat", generally, wild turkey TASTES more toward "domestic turkey dark meat" than "white." That's really a good thing. The flavor is full and magnificent without being overpowering -- and there is little, if any, "gaminess" to the flavor of wild turkey. And yes, depending on the age of the bird, and what it generally has eaten, the flavor will vary, but not greatly.

Get some great wild turkey recipes on the Foremost Hunting Site

(Phil Schweik of Hooksetters Guide Services contributed to this article).

Naomi K. Shapiro, OWAA, SPJ, can be reached at cre8vnaomi@gmail.com

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