How to Clean and Cook Turtles in a Few Easy Steps

How to Clean and Cook Turtles in a Few Easy Steps


Getting Everything Together

You will need a fillet knife, meat cleaver or hatchet, wire cutters, protective gloves, heavy-duty kitchen shears, a couple of sturdy sticks, pliers and possibly a serrated knife. You should also have a couple of feet of thick gauge wire. Think of the wire from a hangar as an example. You also need a large bucket, preferably a 55 gallon drum and some patience.


The first step is to place the caught turtles into the drum and fill it with water. Flush and change the water daily for up to a week. Turtles will ingest the clean water and it will help to cleanse their system of impurities. The amount of time that you will need varies on the quality of the water at the site where the turtles were caught. This is not necessary, but it is very beneficial. It will reduce the amount of stink and crud that you need to remove as you are cleaning them, their meat will be free from more contaminants, and the finished product will taste better.


Don’t worry about feeding the turtles while they are being cleansed. If some of them start to die off, then you can simply prepare those first.


Cleaning the Turtle

The first step is to remove the head from the turtle. Place the turtle on its belly on a flat surface and hold it down. Take extra care if you are working with a snapper to avoid injury. The best way to coax a turtle to stick its head out of the shell is to use a stick. Place the stick horizontally across where they tuck their heads into their shell and move it near and far to coax the turtle into biting it.

Pull on the stick as the turtle has a firm grip around it until as much of their neck is exposed as possible. Give it a good whack with the hatchet or cleaver, and use enough force to get it done in one strike. This will minimize the mess associated with blood spattering all over the place while also preventing the turtle from thrashing around. It’s also the humane thing to do.

The next step is to feed the wire through the tail of the turtle by using the pliers. You may also be able to penetrate softer shells of some turtles in the rear as well. It may take some force to push it through, and consider crimping the end of the wire in order to make it sharper. Once you have fed the wire through the rear of the turtle, twist it in place and hang the turtle upside down to drain all of the blood and some bodily fluids. Let it hang until the blood stops dripping and clots begin to form.

The next step is to remove the nails or claws from the turtle. Keep in mind that the turtle may still have active reflexes after they die, so use gloves and handle with care. Snip the nails with your wire cutters.

Once the claws have been clipped, the next step is to boil and scrub the turtle clean. The easiest way to do this is by grabbing the turtle by the wire and gently lowering it head first into the pot of boiling water. Remove, scrub and repeat as necessary. You may also need to replace the water and boil again a couple of times if the turtle is really dirty or was caught in dirty water.

There are different opinions as to how long to boil turtles. Some people say that five minutes is enough wheres others suggest that you cook it for 10 minutes or more. Keep in mind that if you plan on frying or grilling the turtle meat, then you won’t need to cook the turtle by boiling alone. This stage is mainly to put the turtle to rest and make removing the shell and meat easier.



Removing and Cooking the Meat

The meat of the turtle is mainly located in the legs and underside of its body. You want to take your fillet or serrated knife and carefully cut around the edge where the white, fleshy underbelly meets the shell. You can either cut off the legs and tail or use the serrated knife to separate them from the body of the turtle if you want to use them for meat or flavoring as well.

It’s important that you try to avoid poking or gouging the inside of the turtle where its organs and internal matter are situated. The innards contain a lot of gross and foul-smelling substances that are best left intact. Discard the innards and shell once the meat has been removed. Rinse the meat and prepare as desired. You can also keep it in the refrigerator for a few days or in the freezer for a longer period of time if the meat is properly packaged.

Turtle can be prepared just like any other meat, and it tastes particularly delicious grilled or roasted over a fire.

Following these steps will minimize the amount of difficulty that you will encounter while preparing turtle meat. Chances are that you will also develop your own techniques as you become more experienced. Turtle meat is not as common as it used to be, but it makes for a great and nutritious meal when other options are not available, so don’t think twice about trying this out for yourself.


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