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Plucking Your Wild Turkey

The traditional way to clean a wild turkey is to pluck the feathers off and then gut the bird. This will keep the skin on the turkey which will give it more moisture and flavor after you cook it. You can also save the "giblets" (heart, liver, gizzard) from the bird and make a traditional turkey gravy later when you cook it.

It is preferable to pluck the turkey before removing the entrails. This keeps feathers from getting inside the bird cavity and in general keeps things cleaner. If you've already field-dressed the bird, don't worry about it but be sure and rinse out the cavity good to remove any feathers when you are done plucking.

Turkeys have over 5,000 feathers on them and it is easier to remove them if the bird is dipped in hot water. Some people use boiling water but many people swear that water at 140 degrees is the optimal temperature for plucking a bird. Once a bird has been dipped in hot water, the feathers will come off much easier and they also are easier to handle since they are damp and they won't fly around the room. A large washtub is best for dipping the bird but you may have to improvise if one's not available. The large primary wing feathers can also be a problem and it's easier to just remove the wing at the first joint past the shoulder so those very large primary feathers don't have to be pulled out.

If you have left the legs on to help you dip the bird, you now need to cut them off. Then it is time to go ahead and remove the entrails by gutting the bird. This process is basically the same as Field Dressing with the exception of needing to remove the head with a large knife, cleaver or hatchet. Some people also like to use the neck to toss in the stock pot. That is your choice. You can also save the turkey giblets (heart, liver, gizzard) and use them to make a traditional turkey gravy. The gizzard is what allows the bird to grind up its food. Be sure and cut the gizzard open and to thoroughly clean it.

You should now have a cleaned bird that is ready to be cooked or frozen.



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