Thanksgiving seems to be a distant memory now, but I did want to circle around and talk about cooking a turkey using the tips discussed in Episode 29 and also talk about making turkey noodle soup with the leftover carcass and meat. This goes beyond Thanksgiving, and I hope you use this episode and the recipes/tips discussed when you cook a turkey in the future.
As I mentioned in Episode 29 of the Small Scale Life Podcast, Julie, the boys and I went to Julie’s cousin’s house in Becker, Minnesota, for the day. We got to enjoy the day with family, and they handled all of the elements of the meal. It was a lot of fun to talk and hang out, and the food was fantastic! Unlike last year, there was no snow on the ground, and I got some good pictures of the sunset.
With the boys home for that long weekend, we decided to cook a turkey on Sunday. I wanted to try Jack Spirko’s cooking advice, so I started to thaw the bird for Sunday. Unfortunately, I did not get it thawed out in time to quarter and brine the bird for 24-hours, but I did try quartering the bird!
Learning to Quarter a Turkey
In Jack Spirko’s The Survival Podcast Episode 2116, he made a case for quartering a turkey before cooking it. Jack resorted to this when he had to cook a 38-pound turkey. No conventional smoker, roaster or oven can handle a 38-pound turkey. His solution was to quarter the turkey, which means you:
- Remove the wings
- Remove the thighs and legs
- Remove the breast cutlets from the skeleton
Cook these pieces of meat together, but you can remove the various pieces as they hit the right temperature. That means you can remove the wings (which usually cook first), then the breast meat, and finally the legs and thighs as they hit 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Using this method, you won’t have shriveled wings and Sahara-like breast meat!
I have to admit, I was a little intimated by quartering a turkey. I had never done it before, even when I cooked the whole bird in a roaster. When I carved a turkey, I usually sliced a bunch of breast meat off, and then I would remove the legs and slice some thigh meat (dark meat). It was not intentional or planned; I just did it.
At Julie’s cousin’s house, I watched as Julie’s uncle carved the turkey. He essentially quartered the bird after it came out of their roaster. It did not look too complicated, but I still was unsure. I even asked her uncle if he ever quartered a turkey before cooking it, and he had never done that method before.
Still a little unsure, I went to everyone’s favorite go-to for do it yourself-type videos: YouTube. I watched two very good videos on quartering and deboning a turkey:
The first is from Jack Burton from stellaculinary.com
The second is from Matt Proft, who was a turkey farmer for several years (according to his channel).
Both gentlemen made great videos, so check them out before trying this.
Quartering a Turkey
Since this was my first time quartering a turkey, I decided to not make a video. I figured that I was stumbling along on this one, so it would probably not make for good video. Sharp knives, slippery turkey meat and cameras seemed like a dangerous combination.
Grabbing the cutting board, knife and turkey package, I got to work. I removed the neck and the package of giblets. If you listened to Episode 29, you know where those giblets went (garbage can). The neck went into a stainless steel stock pot.
I quartered the bird with the following steps:
- First, I removed the wings and put them in a cake pan
- Then, I cut the top of the turkey (breasts) from the bottom of the turkey (legs and thighs). Removing the wings makes this easy.
- Next, I removed the legs and thighs from the bottom of the bird. The bottom of the bird went into the stock pot for soup later.
- While I could have removed the breast cutlets, I decided to move ahead and get the turkey into the roaster. I did not go that extra step this time.
With the bird quartered, I lined the roaster with tinfoil and dropped the meat into it. I brushed on olive oil and honey, and then I sprinkled on sage, rosemary, garlic powder, seasoning salt and pepper. I cooked the turkey at 350 degrees Fahrenheit until the meat was 165 degrees Fahrenheit. When I took the meat out of the roaster, it literally fell apart, and that was without brining the turkey before cooking it. For more on brining the turkey, head over to Episode 29 of the Small Scale Life Podcast.
Turkey Noodle Soup
After the quartering process, I had a stockpot with some meat and water in it. After the turkey dinner was over, I divided the turkey: some was for sandwiches and some was for the turkey soup. I added the turkey to the stockpot, and I turned on the heat. We let the turkey stock simmer for two or three hours, and once it was completed, we removed the bones from the stock. We also removed the meat from the stock and set it off to the side. We’ll add it back in before the soup is complete.
At this point, you have a choice. Because we used dark meat and the carcass to make the stock, it does have some fat in it. If you want to remove some of that fat, you can let the stock cool and remove it from the top of the stock (fat will congeal on the surface of the stock). Otherwise, you can proceed as normal. The choice is yours,
Once you are ready, you can begin to add to your stock to make soup. We added onions, carrots, celery, salt and pepper to taste. You can also add thyme and parsely to the soup. Then we added the egg noodles to the soup. Cook the soup and noodles until the noodles are soft, and you are ready to roll!
It is a pretty tried and true method to make turkey noodle soup. We have also done this with a chicken carcass as well (from rotisserie chickens). While this has been general instructions, I’ll have a written recipe for you as well (because I know some of you prefer that).
Putting It Together
The next time you make a turkey, give these ideas a try. It isn’t as hard as you think, and I certainly learned a lot about the anatomy of a turkey using this method. The turkey noodle recipe is easy cheesy, and it is a great way to save some money by getting several meals out of one bird. Spread your wings and give it a try!