How to Make Turkey Tails: A Guide to Cooking This Delicious Cut of Meat

Smoked turkey tails are so indulgent they’re like the pork belly of the bird. Here’s everything you know about how to smoke them.

Turkey tails, also known as the pope’s nose, are a flavorful and versatile cut of meat that can be enjoyed in various ways. While not as common as other parts of the turkey, they offer a unique and delicious dining experience. This guide will delve into the world of turkey tails, exploring different cooking methods and providing tips to help you prepare this delectable dish.

Understanding Turkey Tails

Before diving into the recipes, let’s first understand what turkey tails are and why they are worth trying. Turkey tails are the tailbone of the turkey, a small, bony piece with attached meat. They are often discarded during processing but hold a special place in Southern cuisine, where they are prized for their rich flavor and versatility.

Cooking Methods for Turkey Tails

Turkey tails can be cooked in various ways, each offering a distinct flavor and texture. Here are some popular methods:

1 Boiling: This is a simple and straightforward method that allows the flavors of the turkey tail to shine through, Simply simmer the tails in water with your desired seasonings until tender,

2 Roasting: Roasting is another excellent way to cook turkey tails, resulting in a crispy exterior and juicy interior Season the tails with your favorite spices and roast them in the oven until golden brown.

3. Frying: For a crispy and flavorful treat, try frying the turkey tails. Dredge them in flour, egg, and breadcrumbs before frying them in hot oil until golden brown.

4. Pressure Cooking: Pressure cooking is a quick and efficient way to cook turkey tails, resulting in tender and flavorful meat. Season the tails and cook them in a pressure cooker with your desired liquid until done.

5 Smoking: Smoking turkey tails infuses them with a smoky flavor and adds a unique depth to their taste. Smoke the tails over low heat for several hours until they reach your desired level of doneness

Recipe Inspiration: Turkey Tail Stir Fry

Now that you have a grasp of the different cooking methods, let’s explore a specific recipe: Turkey Tail Stir Fry. This flavorful and easy-to-make dish is a great way to enjoy turkey tails and showcase their versatility.


  • 4-5 turkey tails
  • 2 medium-sized carrots, thinly sliced
  • 2-3 stalks of celery, cut into 1/4-inch slices
  • 3/4 cup sliced mushrooms (button or abalone)
  • 3/4 cup thinly sliced wood ears
  • 1 tablespoon finely minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon finely minced ginger
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon finely minced parsley
  • 2 tablespoons oyster sauce
  • 1 tablespoon tapioca or corn starch
  • 1-1/2 cups broth
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Sugar to taste
  • 3 tablespoons cooking oil
  • Sesame seed oil


  1. Simmer the turkey tails for about an hour. Drain and cool. Cut the meat into 1/2-inch slices.
  2. Place the turkey tail slices on an oven rack about an inch apart and season with salt and pepper. Place a container underneath to catch the fat. Grill in the oven until well-browned. If necessary, turn over to brown the other side.
  3. While the turkey tails brown, prepare the stir fry. Heat the cooking oil in a wok. Saute the garlic and ginger until fragrant.
  4. Add the sliced onion, carrot, celery, and mushrooms. Stir fry for a few minutes. Season with salt, pepper, and a little sugar.
  5. Disperse the starch in the broth. Stir in the oyster sauce and about half a teaspoon of sesame seed oil.
  6. Drain the turkey tail slices on several layers of absorbent kitchen paper. Add to the cooked vegetables. Toss a few times. Serve at once.

Additional Resources and Tips

For further inspiration and guidance on cooking turkey tails, check out these valuable resources:

  • Where to Buy Turkey Tails: Finding turkey tails can be a bit of a challenge, but they are often available at specialty butchers, Southern grocery stores, and online retailers.
  • Smoked Turkey Tails: Smoked turkey tails offer a unique flavor profile and can be enjoyed on their own or incorporated into various dishes.
  • Turkey Tail Recipes: Explore a wide variety of recipes featuring turkey tails, from soups and stews to stir-fries and casseroles.

Tips for Cooking Turkey Tails:

  • Seasoning: Don’t be afraid to experiment with different seasonings to find your perfect flavor profile.
  • Cooking Time: The cooking time for turkey tails will vary depending on the method used. Be sure to check the internal temperature to ensure they are cooked through.
  • Serving Suggestions: Turkey tails can be served as a main course, appetizer, or side dish. Pair them with your favorite vegetables, rice, or mashed potatoes.

Turkey tails are a delicious and versatile cut of meat that deserves a place on your dinner table. With their rich flavor and adaptability, they offer a unique culinary experience that is sure to please. Whether you choose to boil, roast, fry, pressure cook, or smoke them, there’s a cooking method for everyone to enjoy. So, next time you’re looking for something different, give turkey tails a try and discover their culinary charm.

How long to smoke them

After the first hour, you’ll see the fat start to rise to the surface and glisten.

By hour two, they really start to develop the dreamy mahogany color.

Then, about 30 minutes later, they should be perfect.

how to make turkey tails

how to make turkey tails

how to make turkey tails

I take them to 205-210 degrees because, although they can be eaten at 165 degrees internally, it’s important to render the fat as much as possible.

Technically, you could take them off the grill and eat them this way, but I prefer to glaze them to give the skin an extra layer.

Place a small pot over the charcoal and add honey, soy sauce, dijon mustard and garlic. You can also add a couple dashes of hot sauce if you like.

how to make turkey tails

Let this boil and thicken and then brush it all over the tails. Remove the pot from the grill, close the lid, and let the glaze set for about 10 minutes.

how to make turkey tails

How to prepare turkey tails

Let’s take a closer look at the turkey tail. It’s kind of an odd looking piece of meat.

The first thing that stands out are the pieces sticking out of the sides. These are the feather shafts. Although they are usually completely removed, occasionally a piece or two may still have some inside.

how to make turkey tails

The simplest method to get rid of these is to grab a tiny piece of paper towel, grip it, and pull. They’ll pop right out.

Fortunately, the glands that are attached to turkey tails are removed during processing before they are delivered to your grocery store.

Be sure to request that the local farmer remove the turkey tail if you are purchasing them. It can cause the meat to have a tainted taste.

how to make turkey tails

Although this is optional, I chose to give the turkey tails a brief marinade in vinegar, water, garlic, and turkey rub because I wasn’t familiar with their flavor.

This is a tip I learned from my husband’s grandpa. He always used this marinade with chicken wings, and they were awesome.

Place them in a zip-top bag and keep them refrigerated for about an hour. You can go a little longer, but I wouldn’t go past 4 hours. Otherwise, the meat will start to get chewy.

This is a great time to light the grill.

how to make turkey tails

After they’re marinated, remove them from the bag and pat them dry with paper towels.

how to make turkey tails

The meat has been seasoned on the inside – thanks to the marinade. Now, it’s time to season the outside.

My turkey rub recipe works great for these, as does my Chicken Rub from Spiceology. Feel free to use your favorite poultry blend or just some simple salt, pepper and garlic.

how to make turkey tails

Turkey tails – and what to do with them.


How do you prepare turkey tails to eat?

Preheat oven to 350 ° F. Place the Smoked Turkey Tails in a large roasting pan. Stir the Garlic Powder, Onion Powder and Thyme into the sauce, and pour it over the Turkey Tails. Cover Pot with Lid or Aluminum Foil and let cook for 2 1/2 hours.

How do you prepare turkey tails for consumption?

Turkey tail mushrooms are tough and woody in texture, so they are not typically eaten whole. Instead, they are commonly used to make medicinal teas, tinctures, or extracts. To do this, you can dry the mushrooms, pulverize them into a powder, and then steep the powder in hot water to make a tea.

Are turkey tails good eating?

Though turkey tail is edible, the texture can be described as tough and leathery. For this reason, wild-harvested turkey tail is usually dried, ground into a powder, and consumed as tea. It can also be added to soups or blended into smoothies.

Are smoked turkey tails fully cooked?

2Are the smoked turkey products fully cooked? Yes, however we recommend you heat them to an internal temperature of 165 degrees before consuming. 3Are the smoked pork products (shanks, hocks, neck bones) fully cooked? No, the smoked pork products are NOT fully cooked.

How to make turkey tails?

To make turkey tails, you need a food processor, a grinder, a meat thermometer, and some kitchen tools such as spatulas, mixing bowls, measuring cups, whisks, knives, etc. If you do not already have these things at home, you should purchase them. Prep time: 1 hour 15 min Cook Time: 2 hours 30 min Serving: 5 people Cooking Difficulty: Easy

How to cook turkey tails in oven?

Preheat your oven to 400°F and spray a baking dish with cooking oil. Rinse the turkey tails with water, and dry them with paper towels. Combine the remaining ingredients in a mixing bowl. Add the turkey tails into the bowl and coat them with the mixture. Transfer the tails onto the prepared baking dish. Bake for 60-65 minutes.

How do you cook a turkey tail on a grill?

Grill: Prepare an indirect heat zone between 250 and 275 degrees Fahrenheit. Take the tails out of the marinade and pat them dry with a paper towel after an hour. Apply around 1 tablespoon of turkey rub on the entire body. Smoke the turkey tails, skin side up, for about 2 1/2 hours over indirect heat.

How long do you marinate turkey tails?

Place the turkey tails in the bowl of marinade for 45 minutes, stirring once after 20 minutes. Drain the turkey tails and the onions through a colander for 10 minutes. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Line the baking sheet with the foil and place the wire rack over the sheet. Spray the rack with nonstick spray.

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