Turkey Stock from a Turkey Carcass

What exactly DO I do with a turkey carcass?

This was a question I asked for years, right before I surreptiously dumped the whole greasy mess into the trash and hoped that I wouldn’t be kicked out of the League of Responsible Dutch Women. Fortunately, my very NOT-Dutch father-in-law came to my rescue with this easy method of dealing with a turkey carcass and coming out waaaayyyyyy ahead.

I’m posting this now because this takes a very little bit of preparation and is so worth doing.

First of all, I start with a big, heavy, deep stock pot on the counter right next to the turkey as it’s being carved up for dinner. Into the stock pot goes:

  • giblets (which I can’t stand to deal with any other way)
  • bones
  • skin
  • meat scraps
  • neck
  • basically everything–even those things that you can’t eat (like the bones)
  • enough water to cover the carcass

Before I even sit down for a holiday dinner, that stock pot is on the back burner, starting to simmer. After dinner, if there are dribs and drabs of gravy that don’t get saved as leftovers or if there are leftover drippings from the pan, all that goes into the stockpot.

I bring the pot up to a boil and then turn it down as low as I can. I keep the pot covered, the burner on, and enough water in it to keep the carcass covered. I let this pot simmer overnight on the stove for 18-24 hours total. I don’t want the pot of stuff to cool down but I also don’t want it to boil. I want a steady simmer. This, of course, extends that holiday turkey smell in your kitchen for another day too!

Then I take a colander, line it with cheesecloth (leaving the ends of the cheesecloth hanging over both sides), and place the colander over a large bowl. Then I pour the contents of the stock pot into and through the colander. The cheesecloth in the colander catches all the chunks and lets the liquid (stock) flow through into the bowl.

After all the juice has drained through, I gather up the edges of the cheesecloth and…..DUMP the whole thing in the trash! The large bowl is full of the richest, yummiest stock that I then freeze in small containers and use for soups and potpies.

If you use the cheap cheesecloth you can buy in the baking aisle of the grocery store, you probably need to have at least two layers in the colander. I have, on occasion, used unbleached muslin to strain. Then I washed the muslin afterwards.

This might sound like it’s a lot of work because it takes about 24 hours, but it really isn’t. It takes a long time, but requires very little effort. I can’t begin to tell you how much better this homemade stock is than anything you can buy in a can.


27 thoughts on “Turkey Stock from a Turkey Carcass

  1. Barb,
    Hey there friend! I’ve been gleaning valuable cooking and baking tips from you! Thank you for all your hard work here! I do have a question though…do you really leave this cooking all night long? You don’t worry leaving the stove on? Just wondering, this sounds like a wonderful idea that I would love to try this year…just a little nervous though.
    Take care!
    Christy B

    • Hi,
      Just a questions with regard to turkey soup. Ive never made if before and bought three large turkey legs for the base. Soup cooked up for about 90 minutes or so…went to take the legs out and they have an awful odor I didnt smell when I took them out of the wrapper. Kind of like fish. Have these gone bad or is that what they smell like after being boiled. Thanks !

      • Oh dear. I hate to have to break this to you, but turkey (any part of it) should never smell like fish. Ever. It sounds like the legs may have been spoiled when you bought them. I strongly urge you to dump the soup and start over. I hate to waste food, but spoiled meat is nothing to mess with.

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  3. Christy! We were just talking about you guys tonight! I’m so glad to see your comment!

    Yes, to answer your question, I leave it cooking all night. I make sure that there is nothing else on the stove or near the stove or over the stove. I leave it very, very low. I’ve never had a problem. I’m guessing that you could accomplish the same thing by leaving it in a very low oven overnight….if leaving the oven on all night would feel more comfortable to you.

    You will LOVE the stock you end up with. It’s just incredible and you’ll never want to cook with anything else!


  4. I left a different comment, but must not have posted it properly…here it is again:

    I guess leaving the stove on wouldn’t be much different than leaving the oven on or the crock pot? I would need to make sure the kitties were put in the basement for the night though…that might be a bit too tempting for them!

    We were headed down that way Thanksgiving week for football playoffs, but then some really BIG, really MEAN team from NC came up here a whoooped up on us and now we are staying home!! (I’m not too upset about it-I was really ready for FB season to be over! lol)

    Are you all headed our way anytime soon?
    Take care!~
    Christy B

  5. I would LOVE to head your way…I’m trying to figure out when that could be. Schedules get so much more complicated with bigger kids! Any chance you’ll head thisaway? We’d love to have you come visit!

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  9. I make it even easier. I put the carcass and all the additions you mentioned into a 12 quart Nesco oven. To make it even better, I add chunks of onions, carrots, and celery which is easy to do. I also add the skins of the onions which adds much more flavor and color. I cook this at a very low simmer overnight, covered. In the morning I use a Chinese skimmer to pick up some of the cooked carcass stuff. I pick the turkey off the bones (it’s easy to do if you do it a little at a time.) Then I get rid of what is remaining in the skimmer. And because you do it in small amounts, it goes fast. You lose lots of meat if you dump all of it in the garbage. One year I got about 2 lb. of turkey from the carcass. It can be used in all kinds of ways, casseroles, sandwiches, etc. The flavor is still good because of the way it was cooked.

    • Hi Pame,

      I make my turkey stock exactly as you do. The veggies really do add flavor. There are so many uses for this stock, well worth the effort. Once you start making and using homemade stock, you can’t go back to canned stock, unless it is really a culinary emergency! It is the secret of good cooks everywhere.

  10. I know I’m a little late, but hey, Thanksgiving is coming again. 🙂 After thanksgiving, grandma lets me take the bones and such from the turkey to make my broth. I break open the bones exposing the marrow as much as possible. Then I boil them in water for a while. sometimes simmering the rest of the day. Then that night I strain it all out, as you said, getting rid of the bones and cartilage. While it’s still hot I pour the broth into sterilized canning jars. There was so much natural gelatin from the marrow that it gelled up perfectly. This made for great soups after that! Sometimes when it was cold I’d simply warm some up and just drink it, like one would chicken broth. Just a little salt was all it needed. When people speak of gelatin being good for you, this is the kind they mean! Not that sugary junk in the store.

    • How long do you keep it around in the sterilized canning jars? I did a great stock with turkey feet and canned it. I have 4 jars left in the fridge, but have no idea whether it is going to kill us if we eat it. Does it last weeks, months, years? Am I wasting fridge space, should it be in the pantry? I am definitely not what one would call Domestic, though I am trying to figure it out, at least on the surface.


      • Hi Jen,
        I’d recommend leaving it in the fridge. It probably will last a long time there. I would not put it on the shelf in the cupboard unless you pressure-canned it. (I don’t know what the current USDA guidelines for canning meat stock is, but I’m sure they’re out there.) I freeze my stock usually and that lasts the longest. Of course if you freeze glass canning jars, they’ll probably crack. My best recommendation is to pour the stock into ziplock bags and stick it in the freezer. When you do that, you should be able to smell if the stock is still okay.

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  15. love this site…i use a pressure cooker to make the soup. i throw the bones, wing tips, legs, skin, left over gravey, onions (Unpeeled), celery, carrots and any spice i think of….there is a smell i don’t like unless i put a lot of spices in the soup….also, after cooking and draining the bones and stuff, i throw in any diced meat that is left over..when cooled it goes in serving size ziplock bags and into the freezer…this has to be one of the cheapest meals around. if i don’t feel like making the soup after the meal, i just bag the carcass and the rest of the stuff and throw it in the freezer til i have time or inclination to cook

    • I wouldn’t go more than 4 or 5 days at the most of refrigerator time. You can, however, break the carcass into smaller pieces and put it all into a large plastic bag and freeze it until you have more time to deal with it. If this is your turkey from Christmas day, you should try to cook or freeze it today or tomorrow. If this is still from Thanksgiving, throw it out in the trash!

  16. Thank you so much for this…

    I Googled “turkey carcass” today and came here. (I’ve often made homemade vegetable or chicken stock but wasn’t sure how to do turkey stock. Thank you for telling me!) I’ve got that carcass simmering right now!


  17. I boil my turkey bones for 48 hours in a crock pot. most of the bones get very soft. Next I let it cool some and put it in the refrigerator.Then I take out the bones and stockI put this in the blender with all the juice to make a creamy stock. Next I put it back in the crockpot and add all the veggies and herbs to simmer
    about 2 hours. It is a long processes but It is a calcium rich favorful soup.

    • Marie, are you saying that you blend up the softened bones and add that back into the liquid? I’ve never heard of that but it would certainly give you a lot of calcium.

      • Yes I blend all the very soft bones and the broth(about 10-20 cups of broth) that it was boiling in . Almost all are so soft you can crush them with your fingers. It blends into a thick soupy smooth sauce that taste great and full of calcium. I do not add the other veggie and spices till the bone process is complete and blended into a soupy paste sauce. It becomes a very rich soup.
        I looked for a recipe with this process. There was none. I think that maybe it was done centuries ago but who had blender then.

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