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What size turkey is best for eating?

7/22/20 @ 7:20 AM
MEMBER since 7/9/12

Going to try turkey hunting in fall. Don’t care about a trophy. I just want one to try a good recipe on and see if I want to do it again.
What is the difference in quality of meat with different sized turkeys? 

8/5/20 @ 3:49 PM
User since 6/1/09

Always shoot jenneys in the fall,they always clean up real good and can roast in a low oven,drum sticks get scraped for the dog but the rest is good.Spring Toms are skinned and breasted,cut for cutlets, stir fry,nuggets,or pounded for cordon blu. Sticks and thighs slow cooker for 4-5 hrs and shredded with whatever sauce you like. 

7/28/20 @ 6:13 PM
User since 2/8/11

In my opinion, because wild turkeys aren’t bred to be table fare, the skin isn’t particularly edible. A domestic turkeys skin cooked at high temps will crisp up nice and is good to eat. Cooking a wild turkey at high enough temps long enough to crisp the skin will absolutely ruin the meat. I’ve never been able to get wild turkey skin to be anything than chewy rubber that honestly doesn’t taste particularly good. I can see where the skin may help retain some moisture but I guarantee if you cook it to an internal temp of 147* and tent, you’ll never pluck another one. I’m all about trying to utilize all parts of an animal and I’ve plucked plenty of turkeys but in my opinion all it results in is keeping the flavor of the seasoning and cooking method from flavoring the meat itself. 

Plucking and cooking a whole wild turkey and having the whole bird be thoroughly cooked and not overcooked is virtually impossible. The legs, thighs and wings really need a long slow cook until tender and breasts need a warmer cooking  method but only until just cooked through. 

7/28/20 @ 7:58 AM
MEMBER since 6/30/01

Not worth plucking a Tom, easier than a Jake, young birds are full of pin feathers,harder to pluck in my opinion,I always pluck a Tom.

7/26/20 @ 10:45 PM
User since 2/11/19

Any size as long as it says Butterball on it.

7/25/20 @ 7:00 PM
User since 2/6/06

I once shot an embarassingly small poult one fall turkey season on opening day.  They all look big flying I guess.  The breast meat was like a chicken breast you buy at the store.  It wasn't a lot of meat, but not going to lie it was excellent.  

7/25/20 @ 11:35 AM
User since 2/8/11

As for size, I don’t think it matters. Yes, a poult, jake or jenny will be slightly more tender but also less flavor. I shoot exclusively adult toms and they are excellent. If you haven’t eaten a wild turkey, the breast meat is similar to color and texture as a pork loin roast. The flavor is similar to domestic turkey, just more intense and I would say with a slight tang . 

7/25/20 @ 11:30 AM
User since 2/8/11

Number one thing with wild turkeys is to NOT ever cook them like a domestic turkey!!! Every recipe you find for cooking domestic turkey says to cook it until 180*. That’s fine for a creature that’s born and lived in a giant Petrie dish of filth. Wild turkeys don’t carry the amount of bacteria that domestic turkeys do.

The sweet spot for done but not over done on wild turkey breast is 147* internal temp. Tent for 20 mins. If you pull it at much more than 150* it rapidly goes downhill. 

Legs, thighs and wings are best long cooked until tender. I’ll grill them for just a few minutes per side just for flavor and place in a crock pot with turkey gravy, butter and water until tender. Shred and eat over wide noodles. Carnitas is another option. 

I hot smoke all my turkey breasts. I dry brine for 24-48 hours. There’s some science involved. Salt will penetrate the meat and draw out moisture for the cells. The moisture will dissolve the seasoning. The cells will then rehydrate, drawing the flavor with it. Some seasonings are oil soluble, which is why I add oil. Hot smoke at 225-250* for 3-4 hours until internal is 147*. An accurate thermometer is key as a few degrees low and it’ll be underdone. A few degrees over and it will be overdone. I do baste every 1/2 hour or so with bacon grease.

Dry brine for one adult tom breast-

•1 heaping TBSP kosher salt, **add less if salt is in another seasoning being used or fine grain salt  

•1 tsp or more black pepper

•1/2 tsp garlic powder

•1/2 tsp dry thyme, add if fresh

•1/2 tsp dry rosemary, add if fresh

•optional Cajun or southwest style seasoning to taste, (check for salt content and adjust added salt)


Place all ingredients and breast in a ziplock for 24-48 hours. 

Tenting under foil and resting is also key. The temp when you pull it at 147* technically is underdone. Tenting will allow the residual heat to finish cooking. It also allows the meat to relax and reabsorb the moisture. Allow to rest for 20 minutes. 

Slice against the grain to 1/8-1/4” slices. Great as a normal meal or as a sandwich.

7/23/20 @ 6:32 AM
MEMBER since 7/9/12

Thanks for the responses guys. I had heard at one point sometime in the past that the big ones didn’t taste the same. I feel better now about taking a bigger one if the the chance is in front of me. 

7/22/20 @ 8:52 PM
User since 10/20/12

You can pluck a hen or jake, anything bigger it’s not worth plucking. 

7/22/20 @ 3:12 PM
User since 2/6/06

No difference for me either, but just needs to be cooked moist as it's a dry meat.  Bacon helps.   

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