Jeremiah Doughty | From Field to Plate
In recent years, more and more hunters are learning just how amazing turkey legs and thighs can be off the wild turkey. This old school mindset of just saving the breast meat is becoming something of the past, There has even been the hashtag (#savethelegs) going around the past two years. I have been a huge advocate for eating all the bird forever, and it excites me that so many folks are finally jumping back on the eat the whole bird wagon. Did you know that on an 18 to 20-pound tom you’re averaging 3 pounds of leg meat?
WATCH: How To Clean a Wild Turkey
Now there are many of you who are still scared to take the legs and thighs for a couple reasons: The first is you don’t know how to remove them or feel you’re going to ruin the meat somehow. The second is that you don’t know how to cook them, because they don’t cook up like your typical turkey leg you see at the county fair. The wild turkey legs are filled with tendons that turn hard as rocks when you cook them, and this scares many people off.
Turkey Leg and Thigh Recipes
- Captain’s Braised Wild Turkey Legs
- Wild Turkey Leg and Thigh Barbacoa
Three Steps to Break Down a Turkey Leg
Here are three simple steps to get more from your turkey harvests this year. Below you’ll see step-by-step instructions with pictures to detail how to break down a turkey leg. Give it a try and remember what I always say, “You can’t screw up, it’s just another meatball.” Meaning, even if you hack at the meat, it’s still gunna get eaten.
Step 1: Removing the leg and thigh
Coming in next to the breast you will take your knife and slice straight down. Your knife will soon hit the ball socket joint that attaches the thigh bone to the pelvic bone. Once your knife hits this spot you just press down on the thigh and the ball will pop from the socket. Once this happens, just take your knife and cut straight down. This will remove the whole leg and thigh off in one beautiful piece.
Step 2: Foot Removal
When you look at the turkey leg you will see where the skin from the foot comes up and meets the drumstick or the tarsus meets the tibia. This is a hinge joint and technically the ankle of the turkey. First take your knife and cut from the back of the ankle. You won’t need much pressure, you will see that the ankle snaps and inside you’ll find a couple tendons. A simple cut and the leg will come off the foot. If you don’t see the tendons or feel it’s not right, make sure you are cutting where the ankle bends.
How To Debone a Wild Turkey
Step 3: Separating drumstick from thigh
This is the easiest one to get off. We just removed the ankle, now we move up the leg and now you come to the knee of the bird; this is a pivoting hinge joint. If you fold the leg back and hold onto both the thigh and leg you will see a line running vertical down the thigh. Take your knife and cut horizontally in the middle of that line and you will find yourself in the dead center of the knee joint. Cut through the tendon that connects the two halves – cut along each side. Turn the leg over and finish the cut between the two bones that make up the knee joint, the fibula, and the femur. At this point, you will now have separated the thighs from the legs.