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These protein-rich wild turkey recipes are the bird hunter's best-kept secret

Grilling + Smoking
Grilling + Smoking
Hunting + Fishing
Hunting + Fishing
September 2, 2022
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You've done the hard part of acquiring your own wild turkey—hunting, butchering, and preparing the meat. For some of us red-blooded Americans, though, that comes more naturally than the next step: cooking the bird. 

Hey, what can we say? Some of us are about as graceful in the kitchen as a turkey with its head cut off. 

Luckily, we've got some simple, mouth-watering wild turkey recipes that will allow you to make the most of your hard-earned catch. 

Before we get there, though, let's talk a bit about preparing the bird.

Hunting and Preparing Wild Turkey

Reaching up to 30 lbs, a single wild turkey can provide enough meat for several meals for a large family. Despite their attractiveness to hunters and natural predators alike, they remain abundant across the US. 

So grab your best shotgun for hunting birds, and head out into the woods. Tip: the ideal time to hunt turkeys is generally around the start of their breeding season, when adult gobblers are most fully developed (usually early spring).

The breast and legs are the most popular cuts from the bird, but great turkey wings can be had if you're willing to go through the trouble of plucking and cleaning. A properly butchered turkey should provide you with:

  • Breasts
  • Drumsticks
  • Thighs
  • Wings
  • Giblets

Butchering should be done right away. If you happened to body-shot the bird, don't forget to remove any stray pellets from the meat—unless you'd like to pay for any of your dinner guests' dental work. 

You can opt to either skin the bird or pluck it. Skinning it is easier, but it's best to pluck it if you plan on roasting or smoking the turkey.

While you may be averse to organ meat dishes, there are some surprisingly tasty preparations of turkey giblets. We won't cover them in this article, but battered and fried liver make a great snack for the adventurous eater.

Grilled Lemon Herb Wild Turkey Breast

Let's start simple with this wild turkey breast recipe. Fresh breast is an excellent protein, so often there's no need to dress it up too much. 

To begin, you'll be slicing the breast into individual "steaks." Depending on the size of your bird, one whole breast should yield about enough to serve 3-5 people.

Ingredients:

Meat:

  • Boneless meat from one breast, sliced into 1-inch thick cutlets

Marinade:

  • 1/3 cup lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 tbsp dried parsley
  • 1 tbsp dried basil
  • 1 tbsp vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed or finely chopped
  • Sea salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:

  1. Slice the turkey breasts into 1-inch thick cutlets. Always cut across the grain as it makes for more tender meat.
  2. Combine the marinade ingredients in a medium-sized bowl. 
  3. Add the turkey to the bowl or place it in a large plastic freezer bag and pour in the marinade.
  4. Mix or shake the contents to evenly coat the turkey and place it in the refrigerator. The turkey can marinate for up to 24 hours but should sit for a minimum of 1-2 hours.
  5. Heat your grill to medium-high (around 350 degrees F). Place the turkey directly on the grate and cook for approximately 10 minutes per side until it reaches an internal temperature of 150 degrees F.
  6. Remove the turkey from the grill and cover it loosely with foil. Allow the meat to rest for 10 minutes—this allows the juices to soak back in, making for juicier meat.

Smoked Wild Turkey Leg

Turkey leg is a very lean cut of meat and therefore can end up dry and tough if not cooked properly. There are plenty of ways to do it right, but this recipe calls for brining and smoking it—low and slow—to bring out the tenderness.

Ingredients:

Meat:

  • 2 turkey legs

Brine:

  • 1 gallon warm water
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup kosher salt

Optional aromatics:

  • 2 bay leaves
  • Crushed peppercorn
  • Lemon or orange slices
  • Crushed whole garlic cloves

Seasoning:

  • Cajun dry rub (or your favorite BBQ spice rub mix)

Instructions:

  1. In a container large enough to hold the brine and turkey legs, combine the water, salt, sugar, and any optional aromatics. Stir until sugar and salt fully dissolve.
  2. Add the turkey legs to the brine and cover the container. Place it in the fridge for up to 24 hours. If you're in a hurry, you can get away with a 1-2 hour brine soak.
  3. Remove the turkey legs from the brine and pat dry with a cloth or paper towel.
  4. Thoroughly coat the legs with a dry rub seasoning. Tip: err on the side of too much seasoning. Home cooks tend to under-season their meat—plus you'll lose a lot of it on the grill. 
  5. Heat your smoker to 225 degrees F using your favorite mix of wood or pellets. Place the legs directly on the grill, close the lid, and cook until the thickest part of the meat reads a temperature of 150 degrees F. This should take approximately 3 hours. 
  6. Allow the meat to rest for 10 minutes.
  7. Serve and enjoy!

Pulled Slow-Cooker Wild Turkey Sandwiches

Sometimes it's great to throw some things in a pot, forget about them, and serve. That's why wild turkey recipes for the crock pot are fantastic. Slow-cooked pulled turkey makes an awesome base for sandwiches, or anywhere else you'd serve pulled meat.

Ingredients:

  • 4 turkey thighs
  • 1 finely chopped red or white onion
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp dijon or yellow mustard
  • 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar

Directions:

  1. Coat the turkey thighs with cumin, salt, pepper, chili powder, and paprika. 
  2. Place the thighs in the slow cooker along with the onions and garlic.
  3. Combine sugar, ketchup, and mustard and pour into the slow cooker.
  4. Close the pot and cook on Low setting for 5-6 hours. 
  5. Uncover and shred the turkey meat using two forks. Pour in the apple cider vinegar. Discard the turkey bones.
  6. Throw it on a bun and dig in! We love it served with a zesty slaw and a couple of pickles.

If you’ve already hunted your turkey, then you probably don’t need telling—wild turkey beats barnyard turkey any day of the week. Now that you’re armed with some great simple wild turkey recipes, it’s time to get cooking! 

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