Gobble Gobble! How to Make Smoked Turkey Necks

Growing up in the South, I was taught at a young age to never waste any part of the animal. This is why at Thanksgiving, smoked turkey necks showed up right alongside the turkey.

This has been a long family tradition that I now incorporate into my own celebration and have passed it down to quite a few friends too. So, discover it all from this great recipe for smoked turkey necks, right down to tips and tricks!

Can You Eat a Turkey Neck?

As you will have surmised from this topic and the fact that you can find a number of Southern recipes, yes you can eat turkey necks. In fact, there are some people who enjoy turkey tails as well!

I understand why you might be a bit hesitant to give this particular part of the bird a try, but I assure you it makes for good eating. Many equate it to eating chicken necks. Not only is it delicious but when cooked properly, you get beautifully tender smoked turkey necks.

Sliced turkey neck with veggies and lemon

Fresh vs. Frozen Turkey Necks

Turkey necks aren't always the easiest thing to find. If you are like most people, the first time you would have really thought of one was when you bought a whole turkey and then discarded the neck.

While they are gaining popularity, you may still be hard-pressed to find fresh ones in your local grocery store or supermarket. Even if you do, they can be more expensive than the frozen ones. Well, there's no need to worry because frozen is just as every good as the fresh. As an added bonus, you can store them for much longer. You should be able to keep the necks for several months at a time.

And in case you are wondering how to cook frozen turkey necks, you will be pleased to learn that there is no difference. Just let the necks thaw completely and they will be all ready to cook.

Smoked Turkey Necks Recipe

Ingredients

  • 4 turkey necks
  • 1/3 cup of olive oil
  • 1/4 cup of Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tbs. of malt vinegar
  • 1 tbs. of brown sugar
  • 2 tsp. of garlic powder
  • 2 tsp. of seasoned salt
  • 1 tsp. of black pepper

Method

Step 1

With the exception of the turkey necks and the olive oil, add all the ingredients to a bowl. Combine until completely mixed. Slowly pour in the oil, whisking the whole time.

Step 2

Place the necks in a shallow pan and pour the marinade over them. Make sure that the turkey necks are completely covered. If you want, you can let the necks marinate for up to 12 hours. Or, you can leave them in the fridge until the smoker is primed.

Step 3

Set the smoker to 275°F.

Once it has warmed up, remove the turkey necks from their marinade and place them on an aluminum pan. Make sure that there is plenty of space between each turkey neck. If the pan is too small, use another one as well.

Step 4

Place the pan in the smoker, open the vents, and smoke for half an hour.

At the fifteen minute mark, close the vents and lower the temperature to 180°F. Let the necks cook for another 30 minutes.

At this point, check the internal temperature of each of the necks. They should all be cooking at the same rate. If you discover that they aren't, rearrange them so that they do.

Step 5

Cook the turkey necks until their internal temperature registers at 170°F. This should take another hour or so to happen.

Remove from the smoker and rest for at least 15 minutes.

Tips for Smoking Turkey Neck

Use a thermometer to ensure that you get a proper reading and know exactly when the necks are done to perfection.

When you prepare turkey necks, you may also want to use woods such as hickory or maple - something to add flavored smoke into the mix. The result is absolutely incredible.

How to Use Cooked Turkey Necks?

Did you know that a lot of dishes required turkey necks to be smoked?

It is actually the reason that I learned to smoke the turkey necks myself. While there are commercially available options, they just don't have the same flavor as the homemadee version.

So, once you have prepared turkey necks this way, then you can use it in a variety of other recipes.

Here is one of my favorite recipes - smoked turkey neck gumbo:

Ingredients

  • 4 turkey necks, smoked
  • 1/2 cup + 2 tbs. of vegetable oil
  • 3/4 cup of flour
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 1 poblano chile, seeded, stemmed, and diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, seeded, scored, and diced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 tbs. of kosher salt
  • 3/4 tsp. of black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. of cayenne pepper
  • 3/4 tsp. of chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp. of paprika
  • 1.5 quarts of turkey or chicken stock
  • 1/2 lb of Andouille sausage, diced

Method

Step 1

Chop the turkey necks into 3-inch segments and set aside. You may need to use a heavy cleaver for this.

Step 2

Pour the oil into a Dutch oven and place over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot - but before it begins to smoke - slowly add in the flour, whisking it in. Reduce the flame to medium heat.

As this mix cooks, make sure to whisk continuously. Feel free to use a spatula or wooden spoon at any point as this may be easier. The mix needs to cook until it is thick and a very dark brown - this can take anywhere from 40 minutes to an hour.

Step 3

20 minutes into cooking the mix, turn the heat down to low. Continue to stir making sure that nothing sticks to the bottom of the pan.

Step 4

Once the mix has darkened to the right color, add in the vegetables and the spices. Don't add the turkey necks, sausage, or stock just yet. Combine.

Step 5

Pour in the stock and let the mix come to a boil, stirring all the while to incorporate all the components. Turn the heat down to low and let it simmer for about half an hour.

Step 6

Add in the turkey necks and cook for an hour. Then, add in the sausage and cook for an half an hour.

Serve with rice.

What to Serve with Smoked Turkey Necks?

If you want to enjoy your turkey necks recipe as is, then you are going to need to know the best accompaniments. Now, the most common side dish served with this type of meat are collard greens.

Grilled meat on white ceramic plate

You can also serve it over mashed potatoes if you are looking for an alternative to rice. Or, you can have it like any other smoked turkey dish and throw in steamed or roasted vegetables into the mix. The choice is yours!

Other Ways to Make Turkey Necks

Personally I like my turkey neck smoked - it just doesn't get any better than this. And, the wonderful recipe hits the spot each and every time.

That being said, there are plenty of ways to prepare this type of meat. Here are some methods you can choose from:

Slow Cooking

This is a great option if you want to whip up a meal with minimal hassle.

Here, all you have to do is to add the turkey necks, veggies such as carrot, onions, and celery to the slow cooker, add in stock and then cook for about an hour and a half. It is as easy as that!

Roasting

For this option, you are going to want to brown the turkey neck first. Then add to a roasting pan along with the veggies and stock. Roast for about an hour and a half.

Is Smoked Turkey Necks Healthy?

I have never really thought of it before, but decided to do some research on the health benefits of turkey necks. I discovered that it is a good source of protein, vitamin B, iron, and various other vitamins and minerals. On top of this, it is quite low in fat as well.

This is a pretty unusual dish, but it is definitely one that you want to learn. Once you do, you will see exactly what's so great about this recipe. Who knows, it may even become the main event at Thanksgiving.

In any case, go ahead and give this dish a try. You will certainly not regret it!

By Kristy J. Norton
I'm Kristy – a chef and connoisseur of all things BBQ! You can find me either in my kitchen (or someone else's) or at a big outdoor barbecue surrounded by friends and family. In both my professional and personal life I’ve picked up more than a few tips and tricks for turning out delicious food. I consider it a privilege to share it with others!
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