Why You Shouldn't Overlook Tender Turkey Neck Meat

When it comes to holiday feasts, the star of the show is often a roasted turkey. There's a reason it's the go-to bird for Thanksgiving: From the breast to the wings, each part of the turkey is a delicacy in its own right. However, one part is frequently discarded as useless: the turkey neck. It's time to recognize this overlooked portion as a secret culinary gem and unlock its potential in the kitchen.

Often dismissed, the turkey neck is a long, slender piece of meat replete with bone and connective tissue. While this description may not initially sound appetizing, these very characteristics are what make the turkey neck a hidden delicacy. Similar to braised oxtails, turkey necks become incredibly tender and flavorful when cooked properly, offering a lip-smacking richness from the collagen. As an extra bonus, the turkey neck also excels as an ingredient for stock, serving as the foundation for a homemade gravy that easily outshines any store-bought version.

Cooking turkey necks

The best way to enjoy tender and flavorful turkey neck meat is through slow cooking, with techniques like braising, stewing, or boiling being most effective. Since the neck is essentially the upper part of the vertebrae, you can break it along the joints to make it easier to cook and eat. However, if you're planning to make stock, you can skip this step.

Another crucial tip for preparing delicious turkey necks is to brown the seasoned meat in the pot you'll be using for cooking. Searing caramelizes the surface, adding a depth of flavor to the final dish. Once browned, remove the necks from the pot and add your vegetables and additional oil for browning. Deglaze the pan with water, broth, or wine to give your turkey necks an extra flavor boost before returning them to the pot to simmer until done.

Lastly, because turkey is a mild-tasting meat, it pairs well with a variety of strong flavors when braised or slow-cooked. Chili peppers, tomatoes, onions, and garlic all complement turkey necks nicely, as do spices like curry powder and Creole seasoning.

Use your turkey neck to make gravy

Another delicious way to utilize a turkey neck is to create a savory stock that can serve multiple purposes: Not only will it enhance your gravy for the holiday feast, but you can also convert your leftover gravy into turkey dip for future enjoyment.

If you do decide to make a gravy based on turkey stock, remember the importance of whisking when incorporating the flour for thickening. Whether you plan to make a roux to thicken the gravy, or intend to add flour directly to the stock, failure to whisk vigorously will result in small lumps that negatively affect the texture of the final product — you're going for thick and smooth, here. To avoid using flour altogether, consider making a cornstarch slurry by mixing equal parts cornstarch and cold water in a small bowl and adding it to the stock, which will thicken almost immediately.