Butchering Turkey

Charl M
By Charl M November 24, 2020 08:47

Butchering Turkey

Thanksgiving is just around the corner and many families are looking forward to spending some well earned time together.

Turkeys are synonymous with Thanksgiving dinner, and most of us just drop by the supermarket to buy one, take it home and prepare it. But, what would you do if the supermarkets and roads faced a government shutdown and all you could get was a locally raised live turkey.

Could you still meet your families Thanksgiving expectations if you had to complete the whole cycle form live turkey to thanks giving dinner? This article will discuss the process from slaughter all the way through to having a turkey in the fridge on Thanksgiving morning.

Related: 4 Lost Thanksgiving Dishes That You Can Recreate at Home

Returning To The Old Ways

The modern world is slowly but surely leading us away from tradition and self sufficiency, towards greater dependance on governments and large corporations for survival. But not all of us feel comfortable to place our lives in their hands.

The ability to provide food is an age old and honoured tradition. The future may see us returning to the old ways of living. Raising animals and harvesting them may again become one of the cornerstones of survival.

I prefer fresh turkey that has never been frozen. I do find that it’s tastier. It’s also a great teaching opportunity, not just for the kids, but also to remind you where the food we eat comes from. Raising your own birds has the added benefit of knowing they were raised and slaughtered ethically.

End of Life

It’s an uncomfortable reality to face, but every ounce of meat we consume, was once a living animal. Ending the life of an animal that will provide us with sustenance, is completely natural. It’s important to acknowledge the sacrifice, and allow the animal to die with dignity and respect.

There are many ways to end the life of a bird. Some people choose to stun it with electricity, then sever the main arteries in the neck. Other stun birds with impact to the head, then sever the arteries. You can also just sever the arteries and let the bird bleed out.

There are pro’s and con’s to the various way’s. Where I come from, we chop of the head with a sharp and heavy knife.  It’s best done by two people, on a firm surface like a chopping block or thick piece of timber. One person is holding the bird down on its side, the other is controlling the head and delivering the fatal strike close to the head. From there you take control of the neck to ensure the blood is directed into a dish.

The picture’s in this article start from where the head has already been severed, and the bird is hanging by it’s feet, the last of it’s blood dripping into a large dish. We opted for a 7 pound female turkey who had suffered a a leg injury and had difficulty moving.

It was an humane kill, and I felt that her death could contribute to knowledge on the subject. Even though she is smaller, the exact same principles apply.

Butchering Turkey Equipment Needed

  • Chopping block
  • I large bowl or dish for capturing blood.
  • Large heavy knife (Super Sharp)
  • Small knife
  • Scissors
  • Stanley knife
  • Cutting board
  • I work on old newspaper, saves time cleaning up
  • Bag for feathers

Butchering Turkey Scalding and De-feathering

#1. Plucking a turkey can take a while, so it’s best to scald it in very hot, but not boiling water. The water must be around 60 degrees Celsius, or 150 degrees Fahrenheit. A few minutes of vigorous dunking will do.

Take the bird by the feet, and work it into the water. Move it about, up and down and sideways to ensure the water reaches everywhere.

Butchering Turkey You can use a prodding stick to push parts down that want to float. After about two minutes, start pulling at the feathers. As soon as the come of easily, hang the bird and pluck it. You will see that a very thin outer layer of dead skin also comes of during the plucking.

Butchering Turkey Some of this dead skin will remain on the bird after plucking. I just rub that off with a wet cloth and some cold water, until I have only clean, pale skin remaining.

Butchering Turkey Related: The Ultimate Chicken Meat Processing Guide for Preppers

First Cuts

#2. The first cuts are to remove the lower parts of the legs. This is the scaly shin portion and feet. Cut through the skin, all the way around the joint. Then use a scissors to cut the ligaments, or twist them hard to remove.

Butchering Turkey You can now rinse the bird in clean, cold water, dry it off, and move it to where you will be butchering it further.

Next you remove the crop, which is a sac of air and food, located on the front of the breast where the neck enters the body.

Butchering Turkey Make a thin cut through the outer layer of skin and pry it open until the entire sack is outside. You want to pull as much of it out as possible, finally cutting all tissue to remove it completely.

Butchering Turkey Organ Removal

#3. Turn the bird on it’s back, with the tail pointing toward you. Make cut from above the cloaca, or the “but hole”, up toward the breast bone. Don’t cut to deep, and DON’T cut the actual “but hole”. Pry this cut open until you can fit your hole hand inside the chest and intestinal cavity.

Butchering Turkey Push your hand in there and loosen the intestinal sac from the body. Try to cause as little damage to the intestines a possible.

Butchering Turkey

Once you have pried it loose, remove it from the body. Then cut it free, ensuring the cloaca is still attached to the intestines. This cut is done between the cloaca and the tail, or you can cut the tail of along with the cloaca.

Butchering Turkey You can now remove the giblets; heart, liver and gizzard(stomach). I leave the neck on the bird, but some folk count the neck as part of the giblets.

You can trim the main arteries off the heart. I split the liver in two, removing the glandular tissue that connects the two liver lobes. The gizzard is severed in the middle of the two white sinewy parts, and then cleaned under running water. Also remove the hard “skin” portion inside the gizzard.

Butchering Turkey Related: How to Can Your Leftover Turkey


#4. You are now basically done. You can cut the neck to your preferred length.

Butchering Turkey And then give the bird one final wash. I like to rinse the intestinal cavity under running water, while brushing it out with a bottle brush or old tooth brush. Dry if of as well as you can before packing.

I then wrap the gizzards in small bag and stuff them back where I found them.

Butchering Turkey Then compact the turkey as much as possible and wrap it up tightly in a butchers bag before putting it into the fridge for storage. If you are storing for more than three days before cooking, I would suggest freezing the bird.

Butchering Turkey Cooking

The images show the turkey being cooked in a home made smoker. This one was made using an old 55 gallon oil drum. It is really cheap and easy, and works really well.

Butchering Turkey I smoked the turkey in there for around two hours on medium to high heat.

Butchering Turkey I stuff some onions and garlic into the cavity to release flavour and moisture. Other spices include rubbing with melted butter, salt and pepper. You can get as creative as budget and time allows. I close the front skin flaps over the breast to seal in moisture.

Butchering Turkey You will see that I make a fire separately, and use a shovel to transport the required amount of charcoal into the base of the smoker. I test the heat by tapping a whet finger on the top of the drum. When it sizzles, it’s hot enough.

Butchering Turkey So there you got it folks. Fresh turkey for Thanksgiving. The founding fathers would be proud!

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Charl M
By Charl M November 24, 2020 08:47
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  1. Dan November 24, 15:20

    Thank you for the article. All of the necessary information is conveyed in an effective way and the photos are very helpful!

    Reply to this comment
    • City Chick January 4, 20:19

      Although I’m saving this article for future reference, the closest I’ve come to something like this was several years ago, when I had to purchase a kosher turkey for Thanksgiving as none other was left at the local market. To my surprise, the darn thing came with feathers! Totally threw off my cooking time as I had to spend more time than planed getting the bird ready to go in the oven. A Pair of culinary tweezers came in handy. While I was at it, I decided to spatch-cock the bird to open it up and lay it out flat in the pan to get the actual cooking time back on schedule.

      Reply to this comment
  2. left coast chuck November 24, 16:36

    I have found when disjointing fowl that using anvil type garden pruners work quite well. When I hunted pheasant I had a pair that were just for that purpose. More recently they have gone into g.p. pruning service. Were I to butcher a turkey, I would once again invest in a new pair for bird disjointing purposes.

    Got a joke recently: ” Shot my first turkey this morning. Scared the shit out of all the folks in the frozen food aisle. Loads of fun.”

    It is actually funnier with the caricature of the turkey accompanying it. Sometimes pictures do make a difference.

    Happy isolated Thanksgiving to all

    Reply to this comment
    • red November 24, 19:37

      LCC: My stepson is an avid hunter, so I tell folks that’s him in the picture. 🙂

      We used to do a lot of poultry every month, sometimes several hundred. Dad bought Mom a plucker and she said it was the best birthday present she ever got. Parrot jaw cutters are the best way to take off the feet! Happy thanksgiving. niio

      Reply to this comment
    • Prepper In Training November 25, 19:04

      Now we KNOW why there is a run on toilet paper.

      Reply to this comment
  3. Lily November 24, 16:46

    Good one… I’ll try it cause I am butchering 2 turkeys tomorrow and I was thinking of cooking roasted turkey with white wine and rosemary gravy for Thanksgiving, but I would like to try something new. Any suggestions?

    Reply to this comment
    • Govtgirl November 26, 23:21

      Yours sounds so elegant! Have no suggestions re turkey as make the traditional Pepperidge Farm stuffing with Apple, raisin, celery and walnuts added and jarred gravy. Same meal for Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas except turkeys were all huge and very expensive this year so having duck. Happy Thanksgiving to you and all our prepper friends!

      Reply to this comment
  4. red November 24, 19:47

    When I was a kid, Mom bootlegged (anything sold under the table for those not familiar with that term) a lot of poultry.

    In a kill cone, hold the head and cut the arteries so the bird bleeds out. when its close to bled out, pierce the roof of the mouth into the brain. this loosens the feathers and they should strip right off after the bath. Waterfowl are supposed to be dry plucked and this saves a lot of bother.

    Tomorrow, the young Turk will go in the sauna minus the breast. None of us like it, so it gets boned and ground to mix with pork or hamburger for sausage. niio

    Reply to this comment
  5. City Chick November 24, 20:34

    Both timely and good to know! There are a lot of wild turkeys that come to roost here every Fall in the big city. They are especially prevalent downtown Manhattan around Battery Park, Staten Island, and they flock in huge numbers to coastal Queens. They must think they are safe here in this so called sanctuary city, but little do they know, that is in the leftists name only! Thanksgiving is just days away! Thanksgiving Blessings to all of you!

    Reply to this comment
    • left coast chuck November 25, 04:44

      CC: You could probably get a lot of fun out of shooting one of those turkeys around Battery Park. Of course, I would wear my antics outfit if I were going to do that. Wild turkey is supposed to be superior to domestic turkey.

      I understand that Franklin wanted the nation bird to be the wily turkey rather than the bald eagle which he considered nothing but a fish thief.

      As any wild turkey hunter will tell you, they indeed are wily, and difficult to hunt. Well, easy to hunt, it is in the catching that the difficulty comes into play.

      Have a happy albeit solitary Thanksgiving.

      Reply to this comment
      • City Chick November 25, 19:25

        LCC – This year, camo and kakis are on the fashion runway. All now very trendy in the big city these days. Even Melania Trump has taken to this fashion trend. Note her outfit at her campaign speech from the Whitehouse. She wears it so well too. High fashion – Not just black anymore!

        Reply to this comment
        • red November 26, 01:48

          CC: Post SHTF, of course, the kernel of corn and thread work well to catch most birds. One thing about wild turkeys is, they domesticate themselves if fed regularly. niio

          Reply to this comment
  6. clergylady November 25, 02:56

    Since the surgery on my right arm with the bone cut through and pushed togeither with a bar and screws the hand is pretty weak and awkward. So I don’t attempt to pluck birds. I just skin them. To roast I rub inside and out with butter and chicken bullion powder. Still tastes good.
    Whatever I’m butchering gets laid on butcherblock and head quickly removed with a hatchet then hang by tied feet to hang and bleed out into a bucket. Then guts and head go in the bucket. When its a rabbit I use a hatchet and my 22oz framing hammer. Lay the hatchet on the neck and quickly hit a heavy blow with the hammer to sever the neck. Hang to bleed.

    Reply to this comment
    • IvyMike November 26, 01:06

      Hope young people reading these posts are impressed at how the old folks here take whatever misfortune comes their way as just another of life’s challenges, then go straight ahead living. A hatchet and a framing hammer! That’s bad ass, don’t mess with Clergy Lady.
      I believe the Federal Government should be sure the hungry are fed, Conservative friends insist that is a job for churches and charities. I am impressed at the huge effort these private organizations are making, it’s something we all should be proud of. Enjoy Thanksgiving, everybody!

      Reply to this comment
    • red November 26, 01:52

      ClergyLady: Had mine done today. They removed the last two moldy brain cells so I’m now fit to vote for biden, LOL.
      They took a small rock out of the kidney. Annoying now, but not actually painful. They doped me with opiates and that is painful.
      A lady in town is giving away free bunnies. BYOC, so I’m out. No cages. But, when I get back into rabbits, I want American blues. niio

      Reply to this comment
  7. City Chick November 25, 04:12

    Clergylady – A slow and steady routine of simple physical therapy exercises will help you regain both your arm and hand strength. Don’t dismay. In short order, you’ll be as fit as a fiddle plucking that bird by next year.

    Reply to this comment
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