How To Clean A Turkey

Have you just killed your first turkey? No? Perhaps your husband has brought home a turkey after weeks of dredging through the wilds?

Not that one either? Maybe you have bought a turkey from the store and want to know how to clean it?

Regardless of which person you are, we are going to cover all the bases today. In this article, we are going to look at the best way to clean a store-bought turkey and how to clean a wild turkey.

That way, you will be able to rise to the occasion no matter what situation you are in. 

So, without further ado, let us begin. 

How To Clean A Store-Bought Turkey

The first thing we would like to make clear is that you actually should not wash a store-bought turkey unless it has been brining.

This is the process of soaking your turkey in salted water. The experts working for the USDA have assured us that if you just wash every turkey, you can increase the risk of foodborne illness.

So, unless you have a turkey that has been brining, do NOT wash your store-bought turkey. 

If you are reading this section because your turkey was brining, then you should follow these steps. 

Empty Your Sink: There should be nothing else in your sink when you start this process. So, wash all the dishes and clear away any towels, sponges, or anything near the sink, so you do not splatter raw turkey fluid on them.
Prepare: Place your roasting pan close to the sink so that you do not drip water all over the counters and floor. An optional step is to place paper towels around the sink so that no juices drip on your surfaces.
Cold Water: Fill your sink about one-third full of COLD water. Grab your turkey and place it in the water and run your cold water tap into the cavity of the turkey and let it flow through.
Take The Turkey Out: When your turkey is sufficiently clean, lift it out of the water and allow the water to drain from it before you place it into the roasting dish.
Clean-Up: before you touch anything else in the kitchen, you will need to clean up all the turkey water and any dripping that has happened. After that, clean your hands with soap and hot water.

How To Clean A Wild Turkey

There are several steps to cleaning a wild turkey, and there are some decisions you will need to make along the way.

Do you want to pluck the turkey, or skin it? How do you gut a turkey? See, there are a lot of things that go into cleaning one of these birds, and luckily for you,

we are going to tell you the best way to do it all. Starting with the plucking or skinning of a turkey. 

How To Gut And Clean A Turkey

Before we get into plucking turkeys, you will probably need to know how to gut one of these birds. This process might seem disgusting, but it is necessary and really simple.

This process will take place after you pluck a turkey and before you skin a turkey.

How to Clean a Turkey

Separate Esophagus And Trachea: Lay the turkey on its stomach and make an incision on the back of the turkey’s neck so that the esophagus and trachea are separated.
Breast Sponge: Just above the breast of the turkey is something known as a ‘breast sponge’ this is not something you want to keep as it can easily spoil and is basically just a fat deposit. What you basically need to do is cut around this part of the bird and discard it.
Cut An Opening On The Back End: The next thing you will need to do is gut your turkey. To do this, you will need to make an incision on the turkey’s back end. This incision should be between the anus and the breastbones and has to be big enough to get your hand inside the cavity. Make sure that you are cutting carefully so that you do not cut any of the internal organs. Some of them you can keep and eat later.
Insert Your Hand: With your hand inside the turkey, pull out all of the innards. You can keep organs like the heart, liver, and gizzards which can taste good if prepared correctly.

Tip: To get rid of all the intestines, you can cut around the anus and remove it.

Clean Out: Next, you need to clean out the bird, using cold water you can rinse the cavity and get rid of any blood or unwanted dirt. 


If you have opted for plucking your turkey, this is how you can go about doing it. 

Hot Water: Now, you do not need hot water to pluck a turkey, but it certainly makes it easier to do and helps to avoid tearing the skin. If you use water that is about 140-degrees, you will get the best results. Once you have your water, dip the turkey in for a couple of minutes before you begin plucking the bird. 

Note: At this point, you should NOT gut or dress the turkey. You will pluck it whole before you gut it or do anything else to the bird.

Pluck: The key to this step is to take a few feathers at a time and pull against the grain. Pull upwards, in other words. If you have elected not to put your turkey in hot water, you will need to be more careful with plucking. Take only a few feathers at a time and pull them out. Continue plucking your turkey until you have a completely naked turkey.


Skinning can be a little more complicated and require confidence with a knife and an understanding of a turkey’s anatomy. But, it is an easy skill to master. 

A Small Incision: The first step in skinning a turkey is to make a small incision on the breast. Dig your fingers in and pull the skin back so that the breast meat is exposed. 

Peel Away: You will need to continue peeling the skin. Over the thighs and breast, until you have exposed all of the parts you want to keep. 

Filet The Breast: Use your knife and slice down both sides of the keel bone or breastbone, this is so that the meat gets separated. Make sure to get all of the good meat as you remove the breast meat of the turkey. 

Thigh And Leg: Keep the turkey on its back and place a hand on the bird’s thighs. Press down firmly so that the joint cracks/pops. This makes it easy to run your knife near that thigh area and cut the meat off the turkey carcass. 

At this point, you should have the breast meat, thighs, and drumsticks of the bird, these are the best pieces of meat. Now, it will be important that you check what your state’s law is on leaving behind turkey carcasses and wasting meat. 

So, just be aware of what your rules are before abandoning the remains of the bird. 

Final Thoughts

That is all for this article, we hope that you have learned a great deal about how you can pluck, clean, and dress your turkey.

It is not a pleasant job, but it is one that you might need to know. Especially if you have an interest in hunting for your own turkey meat.

George Alexander
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