Tasty Tuesday: The life skill of dealing with a turkey carcass

What exactly DO I do with a turkey carcass?

This was a question I asked for years, right before I surreptitiously dumped the whole greasy mess into the trash and hoped that I wouldn’t be kicked out of the League of Responsible Dutch Women. Fortunately, my very NOT-Dutch father-in-law came to my rescue with this easy method of dealing with a turkey carcass and coming out waaaayyyyyy ahead.

I’m posting this because this takes a very little bit of preparation and is so worth doing. It’s also an important life skill, especially if you’re interested in healthy, homemade food that saves you money. So do NOT throw out that turkey carcass. You’ll LOVE the thick, rich, delicious stock you get in the end.

First of all, on Thanksgiving Day, I start with a big, heavy, deep stock pot on the counter right next to the turkey as it’s being carved up for dinner. Into the stock pot goes:

  • giblets (which I can’t stand to deal with any other way)
  • bones
  • skin
  • meat scraps
  • neck
  • onions and carrots that I used to fill the cavity of the turkey during grilling or roasting
  • basically everything–even those things that you can’t eat (like the bones)
  • enough water to cover the carcass

Before I even sit down for the holiday dinner, that stock pot is on the back burner, starting to simmer. After dinner, if there are dribs and drabs of gravy that don’t get saved as leftovers or if there’s leftover drippings from the pan, all that goes into the stockpot.

I bring the pot up to a boil and then turn it down as low as I can. I keep the pot covered, the burner on, and enough water in it to keep the carcass covered. I let this pot simmer overnight on the stove for 18-24 hours total. I don’t want the pot of stuff to cool down but I also don’t want it to boil. I want a steady simmer. This, of course, also extends that holiday turkey smell in your kitchen for another day!

Then I take a colander, line it with cheesecloth (leaving the ends of the cheesecloth hanging over both sides), and place the colander over a large bowl. Then I pour the contents of the stock pot into and through the colander. The cheesecloth in the colander catches all the chunks and lets the liquid (stock) flow through into the bowl.

After all the juice has drained through, I gather up the edges of the cheesecloth and…..DUMP the whole thing in the trash! The large bowl is full of the richest, yummiest stock that I then freeze in small containers and use for soups and potpies.

If you use the cheap cheesecloth you can buy in the baking aisle of the grocery store, you probably need to have at least two layers in the colander. I have, on occasion, used unbleached muslin to strain. Then I washed the muslin afterwards.

This might sound like it’s a lot of work because it takes about 24 hours, but it really isn’t. It takes a long time, but requires very little effort. I can’t begin to tell you how much better this homemade stock is than anything you can buy in a can. A huge advantage to making stock from your turkey carcass is that the stock isn’t filled with sodium like the canned broth you buy at the grocery store. You can throw in extra garlic or herbs if you want to take the stock in a certain flavor direction.

And what about all the leftover food from Thanksgiving dinner? Well, pop into My Sister’s Kitchen for some ideas here, here, and here on ways to use your Thanksgiving leftovers.

Psssssttttt! If I can’t convince you to try making your own stock, then I’d be happy to take that turkey carcass off your hands!

Wishing each of you a very blessed Thanksgiving,

Barb Kelley.


  1. Oh, Barb! ( do I begin all my comments that way?) Homemade stock is SOOOOO much yummier than anything you can buy! I love those easy directions!

  2. This is totally worth it!! I always volunteer to cook a turkey for the thanksgiving dinner at church. The honest reason I do that has nothing to do with selflessly giving my time to the church, I want that carcass!!

  3. Carol, that is so funny! I’ve thought the same thing!

  4. Makes a great pot of beans!!!

  5. Terrific tutorial! My “lazy cooker” tradition is to immediately cook that carcass, like you recommended, for a few hours, then make a pot of turkey noodle or rice soup with the smaller scraps of turkey–so I DON’T HAVE TO COOK FOR A COUPLE OF DAYS!! I left a pot of soup for my mom and sister when I left this year, so they could relax. Sharon