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What to Do with Leftover Turkey, Bones and All

What to Do with Leftover Turkey, Bones and All

For those of us living in the United States, this Thursday will be Thanksgiving or National Turkey Day. According to the Department of Agriculture, 45 million turkeys will be cooked and eaten this week alone in the country. Assuming a conservative average of 15 pounds per turkey, I figure that there will be some leftovers from that 675 million pounds of bird meat!

Here’s the healthiest and tastiest option for the leftovers: turn them into soup, starting by making your own homemade stock. If you don’t live in the United States or aren’t cooking a turkey this week, no worries: I make stock all year long, using 2 or 3 rotisserie chicken carcasses. I stick the first carcass in the freezer while it waits for a peer to come along.

But before I give you my stock recipe, since I know that most find it a huge hassle, here are 7 reasons why making your own stock is worthwhile:

  1. You’ll save money – making stock at home costs next to nothing.
  2. You’ll make an environmentally-friendly decision, because you’ll save cans and other containers from going to waste.
  3. It’s healthier, because your recipe will not be overloaded with salt and preservatives.
  4. It’s tastier, because you can give it the flavors and intensity of your choosing.
  5. You’ll fill the house with heart-warming odors for several hours.
  6. You’ll be proud of yourself for all the reasons above.
  7. If you have a significant other, he or she will find you very sexy for it as well!  😉

OK, so now that you like the idea, let’s look at how to proceed. I promise it’s not nearly as complex as most think:

  1. Put the carcass into a large pot. Following FDA guidelines not to leave the meat and stuffing long on the carcass, I always start my Thanksgiving cleanup with a row of containers including the large pot beside the turkey so I can easily take the meat off the bone and sort into light meat, dark meat, stuffing, skin, bone (into the pot), and trash. No need to be particularly careful when you debone it. The extra meat will give your stock a lot of flavor. The pot can sit in your refrigerator overnight if you’d rather watch football or visit with your guests than start your broth on Thanksgiving Day.
  2. When you’re all set to cook them, cover the bones with water.
  3. Add a full Spanish onion (or more if you like), a few large carrots, and a few branches of celery (keep the leaves on), chopped into medium-sized chunks.  You can also add a tomato to give your stock extra color.
  4.  Add 4-5 garlic cloves, cut in half.
  5. Throw in a handful of peppercorns.
  6. Spice to taste, maybe with rosemary and lemon, or thyme and cumin, and probably a little salt. I also like to add a few hot peppers to the mix for a little extra punch.
  7. Bring your concoction to a medium boil, and let it go for about 20 minutes. If you see some white scum come up to the surface, remove it with a large spoon.
  8. Reduce the heat to low, and leave your pot boil very slowly for another 2.5 hours or even longer. You’ll see a lot of water evaporate, but that’s normal. That’s what will make your stock so tasty.
  9. Using a strainer, remove all the solids from the remaining liquid.
  10. Place in the refrigerator overnight. Next day use a spoon to remove the top thick coat that rose to the surface. That’s the extra fat that you probably don’t want in your diet. Leaving a little residue is fine and will give your end result a lot of flavor, but I’d still recommend removing most of it.

Eat the soup with some of the leftover turkey cut up into it, or use it as the base for another soup of your choosing. You might throw in some of the other leftovers from the Thanksgiving meal — chopped up potatoes or squash or beans — but probably not the cranberry sauce.

I wish you all the best with it. I hope the adventure is as much fun as it is rewarding, and that this creates a new tradition in your after-Thanksgiving party.

Before I go, let me say a BIG thank you for being here and letting me share in your journey towards a better, healthier you! 😉

MJ Shaar – in 20 seconds


MJ is one of the most sought-after experts blending positive psychology and health promotion. She spent over 15 years coaching, teaching, speaking, researching and testing smart health habits. Marie-Josée Shaar received her undergrad at McGill University in Organizational Behavior, followed by a Master of Applied Positive Psychology at University of Pennsylvania. She's certified as a Wellness Culture Coach, a Personal Trainer, and a Nutrition and Wellness Consultant.

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