How to Prepare Wild Turkey
Note: If you don't like hunting or knowing where your meat comes from, you should probably skip out on this post. Photos of meat - as fresh as it gets - follow.
The first time I went turkey hunting, my friend and turkey hunting buddy (THB) warned me that he doesn't much like the taste of wild turkey. Despite his lukewarm feelings toward the taste of this gamey bird, THB helped me call in a tom, then showed me how to field dress it to harvest the breast meat.
I knew I wanted to eat the meat I just brought home. Thus began a search to find the best turkey recipe I could.
My Quest: Find a Tasty Way to Prepare Wild Turkey
Other hunters that I spoke to said they enjoyed wild turkey when it was ground and served in casseroles or tacos, or when it was prepared with bacon. I got a great recipe from a friend for bacon-wrapped smoked turkey, but I don't have a grill set up at my house, so that one was off the menu. However, it jogged my memory of another bacon-wrapped meal that I'd enjoyed in the past, that would allow me to incorporate ground turkey as well: Bacon-wrapped wild turkey meatloaf.
The original recipe comes from The Kitchen Primer by Craig Claiborne. My mom gave my aunt this book back in the 1970's, when cans of something (who knows?) at the grocery store cost $0.43. It's a classic, and it's delicious. When I tried the dish with wild turkey I made a couple modifications, and it is so tasty. Really, this is the best way I've ever eaten wild turkey!
A note about grinding the turkey - I used a KitchenAid meat grinder attachment for my stand mixer. It worked great for me. I ground the meat three times. This worked well for two reasons. First, the meat became very tender as it was ground. Second, the grinding process helped me uncover some pieces of shot that I'd missed in my initial meat cleaning. That was a life-saver...or should I say, bite-saver.
The Recipe for Bacon-Wrapped Wild Turkey Meatloaf
- Cutting board with a sharp knife for chopping veggies
- Two mixing bowls - one medium and one small
- Non-stick cooking spray or butter for greasing a surface
- Baking sheet with a rim, lined with tin foil
- Glass jar to dump grease in
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 1 head of celery, finely chopped
- 2 Tbsp butter
- 2 slices of bread, made into crumbs (or 1/2 cup dried bread crumbs)
- 1+ lbs of ground wild turkey - amount you use effects size of the meatloaf
- 1 lb of ground beef (this spreads out that precious turkey meat so you can share it with more people!)
- 1/2 tsp dried thyme
- 1 Tbsp dried parsley
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1 package of bacon, thin sliced is best
- Chop all the things! Finely chop the onion and celery. Also chop the slices of bread then either crumble it by hand or stick the sliced slices into a (dry) food processor.
- Preheat the oven to 350 °F.
- Heat the butter in the skillet over medium heat. Once the butter is melted, place the onion and celery in the skillet and stir. After the onion is wilted but not browned, place it in the smaller mixing bowl to cool.
- Mix the turkey, beef, bread crumbs, thyme, parsley, and beaten egg in the medium mixing bowl. Once the onion and celery have cooled mix that in too.
- Line the rimmed baking sheet with tin foil and spray it with nonstick cooking spray (or grease it with butter). Place the meat mixture on the baking sheet and form it into a log. Mine usually is semi-circular, 5 inches in diameter and 12 - 15 inches long.
- Wrap the meatloaf in bacon. I like to lay the bacon diagonally across the meatloaf and overlap it by 1/3 slice-to-slice. I wrap either end of the meatloaf with a bacon slice and get the ends tucked under the diagonal bacon. Then I tuck in all the loose bacon slice ends under the meatloaf. Make sure the meatloaf is totally covered in bacon, so it doesn't dry out.
- Bake the meatloaf in the oven for 75 minutes. I like to start checking on the meatloaf halfway through cooking. I dump the grease from the baking sheet into a glass jar to avoid frying the bottom of the loaf. I will probably do this three times total as it is baking.
- After the meatloaf is done, I like to let it rest for 5 - 10 minutes before slicing it. Then, share it with friends and enjoy!