How To Clean Turkey Necks

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Who does not love holiday food and a turkey is one of the best parts of the holiday meal. People eagerly wait for the holidays just to enjoy the delicious turkey with their family and friends. But to make a good turkey, the meat must be cleaned properly; thus, in this article, we will discuss how to clean turkey necks to enjoy some clean and delicious meat.

How To Clean Turkey Necks

Cleaning a turkey is one of the most rigorous processes, especially cooking and eating a wild turkey. We recommend a store-bought turkey, as a lot will reduce the efforts for cleaning. We will be discussing each step in detail to understand all precautions and tools you need for cleaning.

Turkey with a close up of its neck

Step 1: Thaw The Turkey Before You Start Cleaning

If you are not going to cook the turkey right away after you buy it from the store. It is recommended to thaw your turkey before you start cleaning; it will improve the texture of the meat after cooking.

Here are the steps you need to follow:

  1. Take the turkey and place it in a plastic bag.
  2. Fill a bucket with cold water and completely submerge the turkey into that cold water.
  3. Make sure you change the water after every 30 minutes.
  4. You can also directly take the turkey and thaw it into the microwave by setting it in defrosting mode. 

You are not comfortable with any of the methods above; you can refrigerate the turkey for at least 24 hours. Here are some precautions that you might follow:

  • If you are thawing the turkey in cold water, make sure the plastic wrap is airtight, the water should not enter the wrap.
  • If you are thawing in a refrigerator, thaw it for at least two days before cooking.
  • Make sure your hands are perfectly washed before you start handling the turkey. Tie up your hair and wear rubber gloves for protection.

Step 2: Removing The Packaging And Placing Turkey In The Baking Dish

Once the thawing is done, move forward with removing the packing and placing the turkey in the baking dish.

Remove the packaging without damaging the turkey’s skin and take it out carefully and place it on the baking dish.

Here are some pointers for consideration during the process:

  • Do not let many surfaces touch the turkey; the more surfaces the turkey touch, the more you will need to clean the turkey.
  • Ensure the juices that come off the turkey do not touch any of the other food around it. If there is an accidental contact, make sure you throw away the food.

In the last point, there is an exception, the food that is supposed to be cooked inside the turkey does not need to be thrown in case of contact.

Step 3: Removing The Neck And Giblets From Turkey

Once the packaging is removed and the turkey is placed on the baking dish, it is time to remove the neck and giblets from the turkey.  

Raw turkey
  1. Grab the turkey with your hands to hold it still.
  2. Now take your other hand and carefully reach the inside of the turkey and pull the neck and giblets, leaving the inside hollow.

You can choose to cook the neck and giblets of the turkey. Here is the link to a video highlighting the amazing recipe to cook the neck and giblets of the turkey.

Step 4: Rinsing The Inside Of Turkey

Once the neck and giblets are removed, it is time to move forward with rinsing the inside of the turkey. Here are the steps that you need to follow:

  1. If you have planned to cook brined turkey, start with emptying your sink.
  2. Take a bowl and using your thermocouple water heater add some hot water and a few drops of organic soap in it. 
  3. Now take a soft brush, dip it into the soapy water and start cleaning the inside of the turkey.
  4. Now fill the turkey with some cold water ( 2- 3 inches) and rinse the turkey’s cavity with some hot steam.
  5. Once the cavity is cleaned, drain the water out from the turkey and place it on the roasting pan.

If you are not cooking brined turkey, you do not need to wash the turkey outside. This is because cleaning the outside of the poultry animals does not help in removing bacteria at all.

Though here are some pointers you might consider while cleaning the inside of the turkey.

  • Make sure the roasting pan is kept next to the sink to avoid any extra mess.
  • Cover the surrounding area with paper towels to avoid any spills in your floor.

This is one of the most crucial steps in hygiene; thus, make sure you take your time while going through the process.

Step 5: Washing The Areas Touched By Turkey

When you are cleaning the turkey and removing the head and the giblets from the body, many juices are being secreted from the body; that juice contains a lot of bacteria.

Thus you need to start washing the areas touched by the turkey to ensure the hygiene of the kitchen and other eatables is not compromised.

Here are the steps you need to follow:

  1. Start with washing your own hands and forearms with warm water and soap. Wash for at least a minute to make sure the bacteria is removed.
  2. Take a bowl and add some hot water to it. Add a few drops of liquid soap and mix it well.
  3. Now take a scrub brush and start cleaning the sink, shelf, and other utensils that the turkey has touched.
  4. Make sure you throw away all the eatables that the turkey touched, as they are cross-contaminated.

This step is necessary to ensure the safety of the kitchen and the family members as well. Meat can be a source of various diseases; thus, we have to make sure that we eat clean meat.

Here are some pointers that you might want to consider while cleaning:

Oven roasted whole turkey
  • You can also spray an organic disinfecting liquid into the kitchen for extra protection.
  • You can also make one by mixing bleach and water and rubbing it on the kitchen surface. Make sure you clean the bleach coating before using the kitchen.

Plucking A Clean Wild Turkey

The mechanism mentioned above works well for the store-bought turkey, but this method of cleaning the turkey will work well with the clean wild turkey. Here is what you need to do to pluck the clean wild turkey.

  1. If you are planning to roast or deep fry your turkey, start with plucking the turkey’s feathers with your bare hands. Make sure you wear rubber gloves.
  2. Now take a sharp knife and remove the head and neck of the turkey; you can also remove the wings if you like. Make sure you leave the drumstick shape after cutting.
  3. Now heat a large pan at 66C and dip the turkey into the water for at least 30 seconds to make the plucking easy.
  4. Take a strong rope and hang the turkey at head height. Now start to pluck the feather, taking a few at one time.
  5. Once the turkey is entirely plucked, take a knife and remove the turkey’s innards for clean meat.
  6. Now you can start separating the body parts of the turkey if you want to cook separately.

Go for a store-bought turkey if you want a shorter process of cleaning and cooking; dealing with a wild turkey requires some elbow grease.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Will Happen If You Forget To Rinse Turkey While Cleaning?

If you are cooking roasted turkey, there is no need to rinse the turkey at all, but if you cook brined turkey, you cannot miss this step at any cost, as food cooked inside the turkey can spread bacteria if not rinsed. Here is what will happen if you forget to rinse the turkey while cleaning.

How Long Will It Take For Turkey To Unthaw In The Refrigerator?

The turkey should be thawed for at least 24 hours for every 5 pounds of frozen meat. So for a 20-pound turkey, you will need to thaw it for four days. Keep a check on the turkey while it is in the refrigerator; see if the turkey needs to be drained. Here is the answer to how long it will take for the turkey to unthaw in the refrigerator.


Cleaning the turkey necks might seem like a lot of work, but trust us, once you taste that delicious meat after cooking, all this hard work will seem worth it, it might actually be easier than cleaning sheepshead. Make sure the hygiene of the kitchen is not compromised at any cost. Keep your kitchen organized and disinfected during the cleaning process, and it will minimize the mess in the kitchen.