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Leftover Turkey Carcass Stock

Happy Thanksgiving my friends! I’m sure for the past two weeks you’ve been inundated with turkey recipes, but have you thought about what to do with your turkey carcass?  If you don’t make turkey stock once the meat is picked clean from your bird, you’re missing out!  Whether you plan on turkey soup, turkey casserole, turkey risotto or other fun ideas to use up your leftover holiday poultry, the stock is a necessary step.  Even better, it’s easy, and a great way to get more food for the hard earned money you plunked down for that turkey!

The simmering turkey skeleton has been a part of our holiday tradition since before I was born.  My mom was in charge of cooking for the family as a child, so she knows her way around a kitchen.  Each year that pot of gently bubbling water with the mass of bones and cartilege (that looked like they belonged in a garbage pile) held almost as much fascination for me as the bathtub turkey.


The pot’s contents start out looking so disgusting, like the perfect method for making poor Oliver’s gruel.  My mom starts the simmering while we dish up pumpkin pie.   By the time we’ve finished dessert the pot has a coating of sickening gray foam, also known as scum, across the top.  But the scum is a good thing (and really how often can you say that about scum?) because you can scoop it off which rids your stock of the impurities, or basically gross stuff.

Once the scum is gone you can add your herbs and seasonings (adding them sooner means they get scooped away with the scum if they float).  Soon you have a stock pot full of liquid turkey goodness.  Just use some tongs to pull out the main carcass, pour everything else through a fine mesh strainer, and you are all set for the backbone of holiday leftovers.

We love turkey leftovers so much that I make my own Thanksgiving turkey 3 weeks early (as soon as they’re on sale) so that we can get a head start.  I usually get a good 10-12 cups of stock out of one turkey.  That gets me 6 servings of ramen and 6 servings of risotto, or two big pots of my mom’s turkey barley stew.

Whatever I end up making, it helps drive my cost per serving down both with the turkey (because I’m getting 12 more servings of some sort from it) and with the meals I make (because I’m not having to buy canned stock).  Notice I didn’t add any pepper or salt like I do for my vegetable stock.  That’s because depending on how you roast your turkey (especially whether or not you stuff it) you might not need to.  I just taste it once it’s cooked and strained and add it then.

What would you do with turkey stock?

Turkey Stock Recipe

makes 12 cups


1 turkey carcass
12 cups water
2 carrots, cut into chunks
1 onion, sliced into rings
6 whole garlic cloves
1 handful fresh parsley
2 bay leaves
Salt and pepper to taste


Place your turkey carcass in a large pot, breaking the bones into smaller pieces if necessary.  Cover with water and put on the stove on medium heat.  Add carrots, onion, and garlic.

Just before water starts to boil turn the heat down to low.  Use a spoon to scrape off any scum that rises to the surface.  Let simmer (not quite boiling) for one hour, checking periodically to skim off any scum.  Add parsley and bay leaves and simmer for another hour.

Use tongs to remove and discard the carcass.  Strain through a fine mesh strainer.  Season with salt and pepper if desired.  Stock will keep 2 weeks in fridge and months in the freezer.  I suggest freezing in 2-4 cup portions.

Approximate cost/serving: This is weird to calculate, since my turkey cost $17, but we already got 20 servings of meat from it, and lets call two cups of stock a serving, then we could say my one turkey makes 26 servings of some sort.  That means the turkey is 65 cents a serving so my 6 servings of turkey for stock is $3.90 total.  With the other ingredients it comes out to about $4.50 .  At 2 cups a serving and 12 cups total, you get 75 cents a serving.  I think.  It’s past my bed time so I shouldn’t be doing math!

Gluten Free: Yes!

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5 thoughts on “Leftover Turkey Carcass Stock”

  1. That’s so smart. I love using things that would otherwise go to waste to make something fantastic. For some reason I knew to do this with seafood shells, but not with a leftover turkey carcass. How smart.

  2. I made your veggie stock (from an October post) recipe today. It took me 2-3 weeks to save enough vegetable scraps to make a batch. It turned out great! I will be thrilled not to spend money on stock all of the time.

  3. After you remove the bones and stain it, you can put it back on the heat and reduce it until it looks like jello. It will be rich and tasty! But may take some time. Also if you brown the neck before you can add that also!


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