Some say that that there are 7 different types of meat in a turtle, but we call BS. There is dark meat and there is white meat, and the tastes are unique in their own way. The closest description is a combination of pork and alligator. Some also say that tastes like chicken, but I had a piece of fried chicken alongside with my turtle the other day, and I also think that's not true. Turtle is turtle, and it is what it is. You have to try it to know it.
We're not going to cover how to butcher turtle, because it's not usual in our posts. It's also pretty gnarly. If you really want to know, email us or look for step-by-step photos and instructions in our upcoming book, which will be published in 2015 by F+W Media, Inc. (title to be determined). Or, you can also go to Youtube. You'll basically end up with meat from the four legs, tail, neck and if the turtle is large enough, there will be meat in the pockets under its upper shell. To improve its taste and smell, purge the live turtle by placing it in a large container, like a steel drum before butchering. Cover the turtle with water, but not so much that it can't stretch its neck to breath. Change out this water every few days to keep it clean and remove any feces for a week. This will allow the turtle to empty out its system before you go to butcher it. Don't worry about starving the turtle. Turtles have slow metabolisms and can go for a long time between meals. Once butchered, you can brine it or simply soak the meat overnight in water and salt to clean out any off tastes and to also flavor the meat.
Our friend Kim Rutten taught us the basics for this recipe, and it's an easy, fool-proof way to get fall-off-the-bone meat each and every time. Kim's recipe was more of a steam, and ours is more of a braise with herbs and spices added. To make Kim's recipe, dredge turtle pieces in flour. You should not need much salt if the turtle was soaked in salt water beforehand. Brown pieces in oil and place them in an oven bag. Add a splash of water, seal up the bag according to package directions and bake at 250 degrees F for 3 hours.
We hope you get the chance to try turtle!
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cooking Time: 3 hours and 30 minutes
- 3 pounds of turtle meat on the bone, cleaned and cut into smaller pieces
- all-purpose flour for dredging
- kosher salt, to taste
- vegetable oil, for frying
- 1/3 cup of dry white wine
- 2 sprigs of rosemary
- 2 sprigs of thyme
- 2 slices of lemon
- fresh Italian parsley, chopped
- large oven bag
1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees F.
Rinse turtle pieces under cold water. Dry with paper towels, then lightly sprinkle salt over the pieces. You should not need to add too much salt if you have already brined or soaked the turtle meat.
2. Lightly dredge pieces in flour. Shake off any excess flour.
3. Heat up about half an inch of oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Once hot, fry turtle pieces (in batches) until browned on both sides. No need to cook all the way through. Drain on paper towels.
4. Place browned turtle pieces in a large oven bag, or two if you have smaller ones. Pour in wine and add the rosemary, thyme and lemon slices. Divide ingredients evenly if using more than 1 oven bag.
Close up the bag according to package directions. Place in a a pot or baking dish to keep bags upright and for any leaks, and bake in the oven for 3 hours at 250 degrees F.
5. Check if turtle is tender, then remove from oven bag. Discard the spent lemon, rosemary and thyme. Garnish with fresh chopped parsley and serve.