How To Process Your Own Turkey

by Meghan H

Published November 14, 2022

In late 2022, many of us in the United States are keenly aware of the escalating food prices, and often a lack of food on store shelves. So many people have taken it upon themselves to secure their food as much as possible. Homesteading, gardening, and owning backyard poultry have hit a peak in popularity. Many small homesteaders raise chickens for eggs and possibly even meat, learning how to process the meat birds themselves to avoid the hard-to-get processing dates with their nearby poultry processors.

Broad Breasted Turkeys ready for processing Meyer Hatchery

Processing a turkey is similar to processing a broiler chicken, but you’ll need to be aware of a few differences and ensure you have the right equipment to handle a large turkey.

Can You Even Pick It Up?

The first realization I came to the first time I processed a turkey was that they are heavy! I struggled with getting a live bird with flapping wings into a cone for the dispatch. If you plan to use a cone, ensure that you have one that is large enough to accommodate your turkey. If you do not have a turkey-sized cone, you can hang the bird upside down by the legs using a rope and a nearby tree limb.

The Scald

After the turkey is dispatched and has bled out, next comes the scald. Luckily, if you use a propane outdoor turkey fryer to heat your scalding water, it’s already built to handle a turkey. Don’t overfill the pot with too much water since the turkey will displace a lot of water volume in the pot. You could accidentally get burned if the hot water overflows.

Turkey Plucker Meyer Hatchery

The Pluck

If the scald is done properly, hand-plucking your turkey shouldn’t be difficult. I tried to use my automatic chicken plucker to pluck my turkey, but the machine couldn’t handle the size and weight of a turkey. If you want to use your automatic plucker to pluck a turkey, I suggest removing the feet first. This trick helped my plucker do a little better job on the turkey.

Finishing Up

Evisceration is easier with a turkey because of its size. There’s simply more room to get your hands into the body cavity. If you want to save the “giblets”, they typically consist of the neck, liver, and heart. Be careful that you do not accidentally rupture the gall bladder when cleaning the liver. The gall bladder is a dark green, long but slender, fluid-filled structure attached to one side of the liver. If you get the gall bladder’s bile on any meat, it taints the meat with a bitter flavor that cannot be washed off.

After evisceration, rinse the carcass inside and out and let the processed turkey rest for 24 hours in a large cooler filled with ice water. If you plan to freeze your turkey, make sure you have a turkey-sized freezer bag to package it into. 

Hopefully, you find this tutorial helpful if you plan to process your own turkey soon. If you have processed your own turkey and have further tips to help others, leave us a comment. Enjoy your Thanksgiving!

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