Welcome to Flawed yet Functional! Thanksgiving is almost here, and I can’t wait to grill a whole turkey! But with every holiday, there is a chance for waste. I don’t like waste! Today let me share how to use the whole turkey carcass and thereby minimizing waste and providing even more nutritious food than just at the holiday meal! There’s so much more to be done with that bird! Let’s talk about how to use it all!
Make Turkey Stock for Gravy
First thing Thanksgiving morning, put the turkey neck and all the organs that come inside of the turkey into a stockpot. Ours came with gizzards, heart, liver, kidneys, and the neck. Don’t let these gross you out! Not only is organ meat SO GOOD for you, but it will also make the most amazing gravy you’ve ever tasted. The first step to great gravy is great broth! Here’s how to do it:
Add the following to the stockpot with the neck and organ meat:
- 2 carrots, roughly chopped
- 2 celery stalks, roughly chopped
- 1 quartered onion
- 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon dried sage
- 2 teaspoons sea salt
- 1 teaspoon ground pepper
- 1 gallon of vegetable stock or water
Allow this to simmer on the stove all day (or cook in a slow cooker on low overnight), until you are ready to make gravy. If your holiday meal falls at lunchtime, you might want to make this the day before.
Use Organ Meat in Gravy
Check out this gravy recipe for all the details, but the basics of gravy are to collect the drippings from the cooked turkey then add broth from the stockpot mentioned above to get to your desired amount of gravy.
Add spices, salt, and pepper until the gravy is to your liking then, and here’s the secret to killer gravy: mince up the organ and neck meat from the stockpot and add it to the gravy. Lastly, thicken to your liking.
Again, don’t be grossed out. This. Is. Killer. You will never return to broth-y gravy after you taste this!
Until about 4 years ago, I threw the organs and neck away every year. What a waste! They are delicious, nutritious and make the BEST gravy you’ve ever tasted!
Eat the Turkey Meat for a Holiday Meal
Obviously. Eat the white and dark meat at your holiday meal!
Don’t care for dark meat? Still, buy the whole bird! Read on to see what to do with all the leftover meat on the bird or the meat that wasn’t everyone’s favorite.
Leftover Meat for Leftover Meals
Now that the holiday meal is over, pick that bird clean! Don’t try to squeeze this activity in on the day of your gathering, wrap the carcass up and toss it in the fridge or garage (if it’s cold enough where you live!) to attack in a day or two.
When you have time, get all the meat off the bones. You will be shocked by how much you get. We had already eaten 2 complete meals, with guests, off our turkey, and the bird looked pretty picked over. I picked 8 cups of meat off the bones! 8! That’s 4 more meals for my family.
Now, what do you do with bits of meat instead of nice slices? I’m so glad you asked!
Shepherd’s Pie is one of my favorite ways to use Thanksgiving leftovers. I will sautee and mix any leftover vegetables and create a gravy over it, toss in Turkey bits then cover with whatever mashed vegetable we have leftover. Bake it all for 20 to 30 minutes until bubbly and hot. It’s a whole new meal!
The best part is that you can really use up any sort of vegetable. You can pull the fresh vegetables from a veggie tray, cooked vegetables from green bean casserole, or really any other veggie you are serving. Combinations are endless as are the flavors!
When sauteing the vegetables begin with the raw ones then stir the cooked ones in with the turkey at the end just to warm. With this staggered method of adding vegetables and meat, you won’t overcook the vegetables and turn them to mush!
Thanksgiving Meal Remix
Create Thanksgiving Dinner #2 (or 3 or 4…). Just because the meat is in bits doesn’t mean you can’t warm it up, cover it in gravy, and serve all the other leftover sides you’ve got lying around!
Don’t overthink the leftover process, or you may find yourself too exhausted to put forth the effort. You can totally eat Thanksgiving meal again and again and again. If you don’t feel up to recreating the turkey meat into soup or shepherd’s pie or some other dish, just warm it up and serve it with all the other sides in the fridge!
Chili made from un-ground meat is probably my favorite way to make chili. The chopped meat is tender and juicy from all the liquids in the soup. Add the meat near the end, and don’t cook for too long. Remember the turkey is fully cooked, so just warm it up in the chili, taste for seasoning and serve! My mouth is watering.
Any sort of turkey soup is another good option. Check out these winners below for inspiration!
- Paleo Leftover Turkey Chili
- Leftover Turkey Tortilla Soup
- Leftover Turkey Soup
- Paleo Turkey Bacon Ranch Chowder
Turkey Pot Pie
Turkey pot pie is delicious just as chicken pot pie is! Just swap out the usual chicken, and use your homemade turkey bone broth! See below.
- Turkey Pot Pie by Zen Belly
- Paleo Chicken Pot Pie (just substitute turkey!) by Everyday Maven
- Paleo and Keto Turkey Pot Pie by Cassidy’s Craveable Creations
- Paleo Chicken Pot Pie by Life Made Full
Make Turkey Bone Broth from Carcass
Don’t throw those bones away yet! There is still goodness and nutrition to come from that bird! The final thing I do with my turkey carcass is to make bone broth.
Simply put the bones into your slow cooker and add 12 cups of water (or any amount your slow cooker will hold). Cook on low for 24 hours. You can make your broth more flavorful by adding carrots, celery, onion, and apple cider vinegar, but simple water and turkey bones work fine too!
Strain out bones, skin, and meat and discard. Taste the broth for seasoning then add salt and pepper as needed (not necessary, you can add more seasoning when you use the broth.) Freeze the bone broth for later use or refrigerate if you’ll be using it in a week or so.
Slow cooking the bones for 24 hours allows the collagen to come out of the bones and into the broth. Collagen is good for you on many levels:
There you have it! That bird can do so much more than just feed you at the holiday meal! Did you know how to use the whole turkey carcass? These five different ways allow you to minimize waste this holiday season AND improve your health along the way! If this is not your regular practice, stretch yourself this holiday season to learn something new! From organ meat to bone broth, try to use up the whole bird!