How to Clean a Wild Turkey

Here's how to clean a wild turkey for your Thanksgiving meal.

Field dressing a turkey is not nearly as hard as some might think. And since turkey hunting season almost always coincides with Thanksgiving, why not try it out this year? This well-filmed video shows us how to clean a wild turkey before a meal.

It's from Steven Rinella and the folks at MeatEater, and does an excellent jobs explaining what they are doing and showing us how to do it.

The turkey body can be a quandary for those who are only familiar with the grocery store version, but getting to that point isn't difficult.

The first thing recommended is simply to cut off the turkey's beard. Some people pull it off, but it can be part of a turkey hunter's keepsake. It's easy enough to cut off with a good sharp knife.

While Rinella prefers to pluck the tail, body, and breast feathers off the bird, some folks prefer to peel off the skin with all the feathers still attached. Then they slide their blade down the center of the bird along the breastbone as they peel the meat back. Keeping the skin on is the more traditional way to do a whole bird.

Though it might be tempting, the best way to approach the turkey breast meat is to leave it attached and maintain the complete bird. You should still remove the breast sponge, the reserve deposit of fat found just above the breast plate. It can spoil, and shouldn't be part of what you take home.

Next you should gut it by making a small cut and pulling the organs and insides out of the chest cavity. You can save them for giblets, or discard the innards along with the breast sponge.

Rinella goes on to split the bird, which might not be a bad idea if you are cooking for a smaller group, or only have a few who are willing to try wild game for a Thanksgiving dish. If harvested and prepared correctly, it shouldn't scare anyone away.

We have more than one wild turkey recipe worth trying on the site, but you can use any traditional Thanksgiving turkey recipe you normally use.

Butchering your own wild game is a rewarding experience, especially when you're able to share it with others. Since most of us in America have the opportunity to do it, it's important to stress that more should try.