How to Use Every Part of the Turkey

Written by Jonathan Dick

Thanksgiving is a great time of the year for us to remember what we hold most dear. It is also a great time to not waste those blessings.

Every year families roast turkeys for Thanksgiving. After the day is done, they have so much wasted turkey that they don’t know what to do with. Part of being self-sufficient is knowing how to use as much of your resources as possible – and that includes Thanksgiving turkey.

Below are some tips on how you can use every part of your turkey this Thanksgiving. Check out these ideas and add your ideas to the end of the list. Happy Thanksgiving!

turkey bonesCarving the Turkey
The first thing you’ll want to do in order to use all the parts of the turkey is get all the meat off the bird that you can. You will need a carving fork, a carving knife and a boning knife.

Legs & Thighs
1. Place the turkey on a flat surface or cutting board breast-side up. The legs should be facing away from you. Steady the turkey with your carving fork.

2. Cut along the skin that separates the leg and the carcass.

3. Lay down the knife and pull the leg away from the carcass until the join snaps out of the socket. If the turkey is too hot to touch, use a dry, clean towel to protect your hands.

4. Cut the rest of the leg, including the joint and the meat underneath the joint. The leg should easily pull away from the carcass now.

5. Lay the leg on a flat surface or cutting board with the knee facing you. Locate the joint that connects the drumstick bone and the thigh bone.

6. Place the knife directly above the joint and cut through all the way to down. You shouldn’t feel any resistance when you cut, if you do, you’re cutting into the bone and you need to re-position.

7. Repeat steps 2-6 for the other leg.

8. Now hold a drumstick vertically by the bone (ankle) and cut straight down along the bone. Rotate the bone and continue to cut down the bone until all meat is off the bone.

9. Lay a thigh on the cutting board skin-side down. Cut along both sides of the bone from one end to the other.

10. Hold the knife parallel to the cutting board and slip it underneath the bone. Cut along the length of the bone and pull the meat away. Repeat with the other thigh.

Wings
1. Grab a wing with your hand and gently pull it away from the carcass so you can see its attachment.

2. Work the tip of the knife in between the ball joint and the wing socket. Cut all the way through the joint and remove the wing. Repeat with other wing.

Breast
1. Steady the breast with your carving fork.

2. Cut along the breastbone in the center of the breast.

3. Using the tip of the knife, cut along one side of the rib cage. Gently push the breast away from the ribs.

4. Continue to cut along the rib cage and cut straight down to the socket where the wing was attached. Continue to cut through until the whole breast is detached. Repeat for the other side of the carcass.

You can also check out this video from Cooking.com for instructions:

Bones
There are a few things you can do with the bones. For example, you can make turkey stock with the bones. You’ll need:

• Turkey bones
• Onion
• Carrot
• Celery
• Thyme

The amount of vegetables you use depends on how many vegetables you’ll need. The more vegetables you add, the more flavorful your stock will be. Add all the ingredients into a bowl and fill with water to cover all the contents. Cover and let it simmer for 3-4 hours. Once it’s done, strain the contents and you have your stock!

Innards & Giblets
The giblets are the bag of innards inside the turkey that you pull out before you cook it. And, little known fact, you can create gravy from the giblets! You’ll need:

• Bag of turkey giblets
• 1 teaspoon sage
• 1 stalk celery, chopped
• 1 small onion, chopped
• 2-4 tablespoons seasoned flour
• Water

Place the giblets in a saucepan and add the salt, sage, celery and onion. Cover it with water and bring to a boil. Simmer for 2-3 hours. When the meat is starting to fall away from the neck bones, remove and strain the liquid. Chop the liver, pick the meat off the neck and gizzard and add to a blender. Puree the contents. Add flour seasoned with salt and pepper. After the turkey is done roasting, remove the fat drippings from the tray and add the blender contents to the tray. Place the tray back in the oven and roast for 15 minutes at 450-500 degrees. Thicken as desired with water.

Feet
Even the turkey feet can be useful. Throw them in a pot and boil them for an hour with vegetables and you’ll have yourself a tasty turkey feet soup! You can also remove the claws and dip them in batter and fry them.

Your Ideas
Now it’s your turn. What do you think? How could you use up all the parts of the turkey? Comment below and let us know your ideas.

Updated November 16, 2012

35 Comments

  1. Brenda wrote:

    You should NEVER give cooked bones to dogs. They can splinter and choke or injure the dog internally.

    November 17th, 2012 at 5:41 am
  2. Jonelle Sherwood wrote:

    Great ideas but I think your “turkey stock” idea needs work…. like maybe cooking the bones with the vegetables? Otherwise, technically, you only have watered down vegetables and turkey bone liquid. Just saying.

    November 17th, 2012 at 6:06 am
  3. ken wrote:

    better broth by roasting the carcass along side carrots, onions, parsnips, for about 1 hour. then bring to boil and let simmer for 2 hours..

    November 17th, 2012 at 6:06 am
  4. jean wrote:

    One should never give turkey bones to a dog.

    November 17th, 2012 at 6:27 am
  5. susan wrote:

    I own a Vita Mix and do use the bones to make dog food though. I pour some stock, the neck and giblets, and the bones in the Vita Mix and grind them into a puree that looks like a sludge. I cook some brown rice, diced sweet potatoes, and mixed veggies. Mix the cooked veggies, rice, and bone-mixture together in a large container, sprinkle the top with dicalcium phosphate, and store in the fridge. I put a generous scoop on top of my dog’s dry food every day; if it’s cold outside, I microwave it first. This is a wonderful way to use all the turkey or chicken scraps leftover after soup has been made.

    November 17th, 2012 at 6:31 am
  6. chad b wrote:

    every year my Mom boils the entire turkey carcass with veggies to make a stock similar to as mentioned above. She makes a roux from flour, adds the stock, turkey meat, the innards, plus somes celery, onions, peppers & spices to make a turkey gumbo that we eat over rice. My favorite meal of the holiday season!

    November 17th, 2012 at 7:17 am
  7. Scott wrote:

    Do not feed cooked turkey bones to your dog! Raw are ok but cooked poultry bones are dangerous for all breeds! Please don’t give them turkey bones, very dangerous!!!

    November 17th, 2012 at 8:07 am
  8. Maria Stahl wrote:

    Agreed, Jonelle. Not to mention it doesn’t sound like they are even doing this in the refrigerator. Sounds like a huge food poisoning party to me.

    November 17th, 2012 at 9:01 am
  9. Lisa Cate wrote:

    Sounds like they’re doing it while the turkey is still warm. You wouldn’t want to put it in the refrigerator until it’s had time to cool down or would risk heating whatever else is in there. Carve, eat, then refrigerate the leftovers…

    November 17th, 2012 at 10:41 am
  10. Jock wrote:

    Turkey or chicken bones should NOT be given to a dog. The bones can splinter and cut the throat or stomach or intestines.

    November 17th, 2012 at 10:42 am
  11. Eel wrote:

    To make stock, boil the bones, skin, neck, etc with the peelings and cuttings from the carrots, onions and celery from preparing the turkey dinner. Let simmer a few hours. Strain out bones, etc.. Refrigerate. Skim off fat. Jar or bag and freeze.

    Save your peelings and cuttings each time you prepare veggies (freeze). Whenever you want soup, boil them up for the stock.

    November 17th, 2012 at 11:10 am
  12. Jeff wrote:

    Right on all counts. Do not give dogs poultry or pork bones. Turkey stock needs to be cooked, here are a couple recipes:
    http://www.food.com/recipe/rescued-turkey-stock-24576
    http://whatscookingamerica.net/Poultry/turkeystock.htm
    There’s a bunch more if you Google “Turkey Stock Recipe”

    November 17th, 2012 at 11:18 am
  13. Adelaide wrote:

    I think this is as wonderful post, reminding people to not be wastful. We have lived in plentiful times for so long, sometimes we forget. More difficult times are coming, and we need to be mindful of that.
    I think the poster may have meant to simmer the Bones and veggies for a few hours??? I’m doing that With our bird again this year.
    ..and no our dogs don’t get the bones either…..at least not the cooked ones.

    November 17th, 2012 at 11:56 am
  14. JoAnne wrote:

    Your deas are some I have done. I take what meat is left on the bones after I have cleaned most off, I add to the pot and boil which cleans what meat is left onto the bones. I do like the idea of adding the veg. as it would make the broth with more taste.
    your idea on the giblets I found interesting. I like giblet gravey, but my children do not and this would work as long as there as no taste of the liver.

    November 17th, 2012 at 1:24 pm
  15. The Ready Store wrote:

    Sorry, that was meant to have read “simmer for 3-4 hours” not “sit for 3-4 hours”

    November 17th, 2012 at 1:58 pm
  16. Diane wrote:

    Ready Store, your ideas are good, all in all. I knew what you meant. Actually, I don’t boil the vegetables, bones, etc. – not after I discovered what magic happens inside my pressure canner. The turkey carcass is too large for my regular pressure cooker, in which I do cook chicken bones, leftovers, etc. for the dogs. After an hour, and allowed to cool naturally, the bones can be crushed into tiny pieces. The roasted veggies from the turkey pan make wonderful stock, along with the bones, as well. It just depends on whether I want to can the stock into jars afterward, or just freeze the whole thing for dog food.I agree, never give poultry or cut bones (beef or pork) to dogs.

    November 17th, 2012 at 5:14 pm
  17. Karan wrote:

    I PACE AN APPLE INTO THE CAVITY OF MY TURKEY
    I PLACE MELTED BUTTER AND HERBS UP UNDER THE SKIN USING SLITS TO MAKE POKETS THEN WRAP THE TURKEY IN FOIL PLACE IN 350degrees PRE HEATED OVEN ON set temp up to 400 degrees FOR FIRST 30 MINUTES THEN TURN DOWN TO 200 AND BAKE OVERNIGHT (do not open oven or temp will drop)after abot 15 hrs remove from OVEN SET ON COUNTER FOR ABOUT 20 MIN UNWRAPPED THEN THE MEAT FALLS OFF THE BONES LITERALLY.
    FREEZE BONES FOR FUTURE CROCKPOT OF BEANS
    OH ALWAYS PLACE BREAST SIE OF TURKEY DOWN INTO BOTTOM OF PAN THIS WILL ALLOW JUICES TO MOVE INTO IT AND YOU HAVE MORE MOIST WHITE MEAT
    I BAKE STUFFING SEPARATE IN ANOTHER PAN

    November 17th, 2012 at 6:22 pm
  18. Evelyn Vickers wrote:

    Does anyone have a recipe for turkey knuckles and noodles

    November 17th, 2012 at 10:15 pm
  19. Nola wrote:

    Here in the south, we cook the gibblets into a white gravy. Pour over the cornbread dressing-Heaven on Earth!

    November 18th, 2012 at 11:14 pm
  20. Hunker Bunker wrote:

    Is the advice here to take the entire breast off before slicing individual pieces? That may be a good idea. I have trouble with it crumbling when trying to slice with it on the bird.

    November 20th, 2012 at 8:58 pm
  21. Laura wrote:

    You put the bones in the pressure cooker for an hour or so with a bit of vinegar and enough water to cover the bones. The vinegar softens the bones so they are edible. Or you can use a crock pot for 12 hrs or so. Cook however long it takes either way; you’ll be able to cut thru the bones. You’ll see, they won’t hurt your animals. Use the stock for soup. The animals love the bones. You can cook beef bones this way too.

    November 22nd, 2012 at 5:53 am
  22. Sunshine 49 wrote:

    After I carve the turkey I put it back in the roasting pan, cover with water, add veggies and cook for at least an hour. Great soup and it helps to clean the pan.

    November 22nd, 2012 at 6:11 am
  23. Cheryl wrote:

    I like to add the onion, celery, and carrots to the bones with water and let it cook for hours until the bones dissolve. This adds extra calcium to the stock.

    November 25th, 2012 at 11:13 pm
  24. Laurie wrote:

    I cook my turkey in a crock pot with one tablespoon of vinegar- it comes out very moist. After removing the meat, and the juices, all the scraps go back into the crock pot with about 2 cups of water and another tablespoon or two of vinegar and cook it again. Even the hardest bone is crumbly and we drain the second batch of stock juices for meals. The scraps from this batch are given to the animals. Totally no waste. I don’t add vegetables to the stock until I use the stock.. I like to eat all my vegetables fresh.

    December 3rd, 2012 at 8:00 am
  25. NameJO R wrote:

    My mom cooked all the giblets by simmering in water then picked off bones and cut up all giblets and used broth and giblets in stuffing to flavor it .this was then baked in the bird wonderful no waste. like the idea of cooking bones with vinegar so animals can use when I am done making broth with them. need to simmer bones in stock as that releases protein and gelatin into stock to make it taste better and more nutrition.

    November 6th, 2013 at 9:41 am
  26. Diana wrote:

    When it comes to the turkey soup, I like to do a Tuscan bread soup and use up the leftover dressing, too.

    Saute some garlic in olive oil along with your celery, carrots, and onions, add your turkey bones and any giblets, and simmer into a nice, rich turkey broth. Then add several cups of bread stuffing, tomato paste/chopped tomatoes, and a lot of dried basil, or better yet, a couple of tablespoons of pesto. Simmer to thicken, taste, and adjust seasoning as needed. Fry up some parmesan cheese into cheese “crackers,” break into crouton size, and sprinkle over soup before serving.

    And if your leftover turkey bones have now morphed into leftover soup–add enough dehydratedd precooked beans plus chopped escarole, kale, or spinach to soak up the liquid in your leftover soup and turn it into a one-dish dinner.

    November 28th, 2013 at 7:53 am
  27. Jim, The Traveling Salesman wrote:

    BROWN FOOD TASTES GOOD! Roast the carcass (350 for 1 hour) with the meat you weren’t able to pick off and Carrots Celery, Onion, Turnip, and GARLIC. Break down the carcass – just tear it apart and flatten it. Put all of that into a pot with salt, thyme, sage, and rosemary, then cover with water, simmer slowly for an hour, uncovered. Strain and add some meat & roasted veggies back into this stock, season to taste.
    Our favorite is to put this into a dutch oven, bring to a boil, and top with raw biscuits. Quickly put it into a 350 oven until the biscuits are nicely brown.

    November 29th, 2013 at 7:11 am
  28. jon wrote:

    After the bones have been boiled, the skeletons fall apart. Collect the bones and dry. Give them to your children with a hot glue craft gun (not the really hot ones) and see how many interesting combinations of dinosaurs they can come up with?

    November 29th, 2013 at 3:09 pm
  29. Angela wrote:

    Years ago a friend taught me to shop all stores that gave away a turkey for free or crazy low price with other items. Those extras went into food storage. My daughter carefully prepped and froze so much meat that we did not have to buy chicken for a year!

    December 3rd, 2013 at 7:24 pm
  30. Greg wrote:

    Did I miss something? Where did Jonathan say to give your dog turkey bones? Also, don’t give them chocolate or avocados…even though that wasn’t mentioned in this article.

    November 24th, 2014 at 8:00 am
  31. Treasa wrote:

    Do NOT use onions in any recipe for dogs – or grapes, raisins or chocolate. Onions can cause Chrones in dogs, a serious kidney disease.

    November 24th, 2014 at 12:06 pm
  32. Elaine wrote:

    I regularly make my dog food after canning poultry. For 3 days, I will cook (on low) the bones, skin, guts, whatever, with plenty of water until the bones are very crush-able. Then I add cooked rice and cooked carrots. Then all is mashed into mush and canned up in pints.

    November 24th, 2014 at 6:58 pm
  33. MJ Dean wrote:

    After cooking and straining the broth, I bring the broth (6 to 7 cups) back to a low boil, add fresh veggies (celery, carrots, onions, cut bite-size). Add canned broth if you don’t have enough from the turkey. Before veggies are tender, make noodles–3 or 4 eggs, beaten with a couple tablespoons of water, salt to taste (I use about 1/2 tsp.) and enough flour to make a dough that can be rolled out onto a floured board. I roll them fairly thin, patting lightly with add’l flour, and turning the dough over to keep it from sticking to the board. Try to have the dough dry looking (not sticky) but not a lot of flour on them when ready to cut (pizza cutter works). Drop the strips, a few at a time, into boiling water (use a BIG pot and watch that it doesn’t boil over). They should boil gently after all have been added, and after about 10 minutes, test one to see if they’re tender. YUM! A whole ‘nuther meal! Chicken works good, too. Add pieces of cooked chicken or turkey to the cooked noodles and serve. Very economical, great tasting.

    November 24th, 2014 at 10:43 pm
  34. Paula wrote:

    My Aunt Helen always made a “leftover casserole”.
    In a casserole dise, Layer stuffing, turkey meat, mashed potatoes and top off with leftover gravy. Cover with plastic wrap and/or foil, and freeze. In a few weeks, after everyone is past the “had enough turkey” stage, you can heat it up and have a quick meal! My kids love this, even though they are all grown up now!

    November 25th, 2014 at 8:50 am
  35. Jeff wrote:

    Similar to the “leftover casserole” mentioned, we make “Thanksgiving Pies”. Mix chopped up turkey, stuffing, chopped much smaller green beans, and enough gravy to make it look like thick oatmeal. Pour into a premade or homemade pie shell and spread top with mashed potatoes like you would a shepherd’s pie. Freeze until you want to bake up the Thanksgiving taste all over again !

    December 10th, 2014 at 12:33 pm

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