Have you ever wondered what you should do with the long, curved neck that’s included whenever you buy a whole turkey? As it turns out, generations of cooks have already known the answer.
We’re here to help you make the most out of the whole turkey, not just the breasts and drumsticks—and discover a new delicacy in the process. Even chefs who are familiar with the process should take a look at our ultimate smoked turkey neck recipe.
About Turkey Necks
Even if you’ve never cooked turkey necks before, you’ve probably noticed that they have plenty of meat on them. In fact, you don’t have to wait until next Thanksgiving to obtain one. Most butcher shops will have plenty of meaty turkey necks on hand. If they don’t, you can ask them to place a special order for you.
Like the rest of the dark meat, turkey necks are rich and succulent. When they’ve been cooked properly, they’re fall-off-the bone tender—the ideal comfort food for a chilly day.
You’ll find that the majority of recipes for turkey necks call for the meat to be smoked beforehand. While it’s possible to buy smoked turkey necks commercially, we prefer to take care of that step ourselves. That way, we can control the amount of smoke flavor that we get. It also helps us to ensure that the meat is of the highest possible quality.
Methods of Preparation
Before we get to the recipe, we’ll go over all the other methods that you can use to prepare turkey necks.
The process isn’t complicated, but you should take a little bit of extra care to ensure that the meat is well cooked. If it doesn’t have a chance to cook long enough, the turkey will turn out tough and stringy.
Before you begin, make sure the turkey necks have been properly cleaned and prepared for cooking. Watch this video tutorial for more advice on how to do this.
To roast turkey necks, you’ll first need to brown them in a hot cast iron skillet. Once they’re browned all over, add a cup of hot water or turkey stock to the pan. Mix in a handful of diced carrots, onions, and celery. Transfer the pan to the oven and roast at 325 degrees for about 1-1/2 hours.
For this method, you can skip the browning step. Just add the turkey necks, stock, and vegetables to the slow cooker and use the “high” setting. Let cook for 3-4 hours, or until the meat is tender and falling off the bone.
Smoked Turkey Neck Recipe
4 turkey necks, cleaned
For the marinade:
- 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
- 2 tablespoons malt vinegar
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons garlic powder
- 2 teaspoons Lawry’s Seasoned Salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1. Make the marinade. In a medium nonreactive bowl, whisk together the Worcestershire sauce, vinegar, brown sugar, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Slowly whisk in the olive oil until the mixture is well blended.
2. Place the cleaned turkey necks in a shallow glass roasting pan and cover with the marinade. Refrigerate until the smoker has reached the proper temperature.
Tip: If time allows, leave the turkey necks in the marinade overnight. The extra time will allow the mixture to fully permeate the meat, contributing to a more intense flavor.
3. Set the smoker to 275 degrees Fahrenheit. If you’re using a pellet smoker, choose a sweet wood like apple or maple to complement the richness of the dark meat.
4. Remove the necks from the marinade and pat them dry with paper towels. Transfer to an aluminum roasting pan, arranging them so that they’re a suitable distance from one another. Be careful not to crowd the necks, or the smoke flavor won’t be evenly distributed.
5. Open the vents and smoke the turkey necks for about 30 minutes.
6. Close the vents about halfway and lower the temperature to 180 degrees Fahrenheit.
7. After another 30 minutes, check the internal temperature of the necks to make sure they’re cooking at the same rate. Rotate their positions, if necessary, and close the smoker again to finish cooking.
8. Let the necks cook for another hour or so, or until their internal temperature reaches 170 degrees Fahrenheit.
9. Remove the turkey necks from the smoker and let rest for 10-15 minutes.
Once the turkey necks are finished smoking, you can either enjoy them as is, or add them to a second recipe. We would recommend moving on to the steps we’ve outlined below, but the choice is yours.
Southern-Style Smothered Smoked Turkey Necks
Stewed collard greens are the traditional side dish here, but feel free to substitute whatever fresh green vegetable you have on hand. If you end up with any leftovers, this recipe makes an excellent filling for a turkey pot pie.
- Meat from 1 recipe cooked smoked turkey necks (above), pulled off the bone
- 2 large onions, chopped
- 3 stalks celery, chopped
- 5 cloves garlic, chopped
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 3 cups turkey stock (you can substitute chicken stock in a pinch)
- 3 tablespoons flour
- 3 cups chicken or turkey broth
1. Melt the butter over medium heat.
2. Add the onions and celery and cook until softened, about 10 minutes.
3. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
4. Add the flour and cook for about 1 minute more. Slowly whisk in the broth until the mixture is well blended.
5. Bring the mixture to a simmer. Continue to cook, whisking thoroughly, until the broth thickens.
6. Add the turkey and return the mixture to a gentle simmer. Cook, uncovered, until the flavors have had a chance to meld, about 30 minutes.
7. Serve at once over mashed potatoes or steamed rice.
Turkey necks are meaty, flavorful, and easy to prepare. If you’re craving smoked turkey but don’t want to deal with the entire bird, necks provide an excellent compromise.
Best of luck, and happy grilling!