Butchering

By 12-16 weeks of age turkeys can become "broilers" or "fryer roasters"; by 22-26 weeks of age they should weigh enough to be heavy roasters. If you're not sure if the turkey is heavy enough for butchering, weigh it. Broiler-fryers are considered ready at around 4 lb. If it's a torn and weighs 18 lb. or more, that's good enough. (Those numbers are for Broad-Breasted Whites—lighter breeds could be considered ready to roast at lighter weights.) If your turkey is not yet up to the weight you desire, turn it loose and continue feeding it another couple of weeks, then weigh it again. If you keep turkeys longer than 6V2 months, the hens may start to lay. Both toms and hens tend just to acquire fat after that age rather than to grow. And soon they'll go into their first molt, which means many more pinfeathers to fight with. Turkeys are quieter than chickens to have around while they are young, but once the toms reach maturity (at 5 or 6 months) they will start to gobble noticeably. If you send your turkeys out to be butchered, Lane Morgan suggests scheduling will be easier if you don't do it around Thanksgiving. Beat the rush.

Killing a Turkey: First, catch the bird and tie its legs. (If you can first herd the turkey into a confined area, especially a small, dark room, it helps.) Then grab its legs and tie them together. The butchering process with a turkey is basically the same as that with a chicken except that your bird is approximately 5 times bigger. It will take you about half an hour to kill and pick 1 bird, and another half hour to finish it up freezer-ready. The turkey may then be beheaded with an ax (a 2-person job, one to hold the turkey and one to chop). Another method is to suspend a cord or wire from a beam, so that the lower end comes even to about your shoulder. Hang the bird from this by its legs— head downward. Give it a sharp blow on the back of its head to stun it, then reach a sharp knife through its mouth and cut crosswise to sever the arteries in the throat. Or use a turkey-sized killing cone. And/or cut the throat just back of the jaws. Allow the bird to bleed out thoroughly.

picking: To dry-pick, begin doing it immediately, while the bird's still warm. Be careful not to tear the flesh. Pull the wing feathers and the main tail feathers by yanking them straight out. Remove the breast feathers next because the skin of the breast is tender and likely to tear if it's cold. Jerk them straight outward from the bird as it hangs, a few at a time. After plucking the breast, move up over the body and then to the back. Finish on the neck.

Scalding is easier than dry-picking, once you've figured out how to manage the logistics. A metal garbage can is an easy answer. Scald the bird at 140-180T for 30-60 seconds. (See "Scalding" under "Chickens.") Turkey pinfeathers are probably easiest to remove under running water with pressure and a rubbing motion, or with a dull knife by applying pressure between knife and thumb, the way teenagers squeeze pimples. Then singe and eviscerate, same as chicken. Remove the oil sac on the tail as for waterfowl.

Continue reading here: Cooking a Turkey

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