September 19, 2006

Turkey Giblets

In the process of working on Take Control of Thanksgiving Dinner, I mentioned the items you’ll have to remove from the inside of your fresh or frozen turkey: the neck and the giblets (heart, gizzard, and liver). These parts aren’t usually eaten, but they can be used to make an excellent gravy. I wanted to make the point that I recommend leaving out the liver, which might add undesirable flavors to the gravy, but in order to explain to the uninitiated which one of these weird tissue masses was the liver, I had to give a verbal description of the size, shape, and color of each item that constitutes the giblets. Upon reading my description, the publisher felt that a picture would serve better, and I agreed, so I snapped a shot of the neck and giblets sitting on my cutting board the next time I roasted a turkey.

Now granted, if you’re not used to mucking around with animal insides, this sort of thing might strike you as kind of gross. But I was unprepared for the strong “yuck” reaction I got from my editor and publisher. Although they were both seasoned cooks and had dealt with these things personally numerous times, they thought the picture was somehow just too graphic and unappetizing to include in the book. My view was that if you’re going to see it and touch it in real life, it shouldn’t be a big deal to see a picture—but I was overruled, and we had a drawing made instead.

Turkey gibletsHowever, I did include a link to this post, wherein I’m pleased to present the full-size, not-for-the-queasy photo of the giblets (click the thumbnail to see the larger image). That’s the neck on the left, of course; on the right, from top to bottom, are the heart, gizzard, and liver. Obviously, the exact appearance (and size) of these items will depend on what sort of turkey you buy and how it’s butchered. But this should give you a pretty good idea of what you’re looking for. Whatever else you do, be sure to check both cavities (the large one at the tail end and the small one at the neck end) for these items—often found in plastic bags—and remove them before cooking the turkey!

114 Responses to “Turkey Giblets”

  1. Joe Kissell said:

    As always, you’re welcome!

    @Cyph That’s a fantastic idea. I’d be very interested to know if anyone has suggestions for other hard-to-find pieces of information like that (whether cooking-related or not). I’ll start making a list!

  2. Angie said:

    Just wanted to add another ‘thank-you’. I’ve read several recipes for gravy that say to leave out the liver when you simmer the giblets, but none told me which on the liver is! So thanks! Hope the gravy turns out okay…

  3. Joe Kissell said:

    @Angie Ah, it’s that time of year again, isn’t it? :-) I’m glad I could help.

  4. Bev said:

    Wow I am amazed that anyone wouldn’t know their chicken or turkey organs! As kids we always ate the liver, heart and the gizzard when Mom fried a cutup whole fryer. In fact we used to argue as to who would get them. They are delicious!

  5. Heather said:

    Yet another thank you for sharing this picture. We’ve used the giblets for various things before, but I’d never separated the liver and thus couldn’t identify it! It’s a shame it didn’t make it in the book, but I’m glad you posted it here. Very helpful.

  6. Carla said:

    Wow! This has been an eyeopener for me. I assumed this was common knowledge, but if people grow up without helping out in the kitchen, they could miss out on basic stuff. Let your kids help and learn.

  7. Erin said:

    Thank you so much for this picture! I am doing my very first turkey this year and had no idea which part was which! I had my daughter and son in the kitchen with me and we decided we had to know! Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

  8. Libby said:

    Awesome! Consider myself a knowledgeable cook, but haven’t been able to identify the things in the plastic package for years. Finally!

  9. Katy said:

    I SO appreciated the picture of the giblets. I’ve been using them for years in my stuffing (chopped finely), as did my mother, and they add a great flavor. I can never remember how long to boil them or which one needs less time.

  10. wk said:

    Yum! The Giblets are my favorite part. Truth be told I only eat the heart and the liver, but my family has ALWAYS cooked the giblets. And chopped them up for the stuffing, using the broth we boiled them in (simmer is a better word, you don’t really want bubbles) for the gravy as well. The neck was always my grandfather’s favorite part.

    My boyfriend, however, won’t touch the things. He doesn’t like the texture.

  11. non-cook-er said:

    Yes, THANK YOU for the pictures. I didnt know what I was doing either. That is perfect!!

  12. Daniele said:

    Wow, three years later and we are still thanking you for your post and pics. This is my 1st turkey and I had no clue what they were or where to find the “giblets”. I guess now I need to look up how to make giblet gravy! Lol!

  13. Laine said:

    Joe, you are a practical genius – and I disagree with your publishers: The photo is concise, clear, and not at all gross. The only thing I wish you had mentioned was whether the Butterball giblets were in a plastic or paper bag, or loose; I’m planning to cook my Butterball turkey from frozen, so I won’t be able to remove them till about 4 hours into the cooking time. It would help to know which way Butterball packages them.

    Every year, I make giblet gravy the same way described in the first comment, except that after dinner, I throw out the cooked giblets and grouse about having to clean the pan they cooked in. It’s a tradition.

  14. Joe Kissell said:

    @Laine I haven’t bought a Butterball turkey in a number of years, and I’m afraid I don’t recall exactly how Butterball packages the giblets. But when you find out, please let us know!

  15. Phyl said:

    Never mind the people who think you went too far with the picture. It is just what novice cooks and seniors who need reminders, like me, need.THANKS!

  16. Diana said:

    Thanks for this info – but how long do you boil the giblets before they are done? Thanks!

  17. Joe Kissell said:

    @Diana I’ve never boiled giblets. They’re typically cut up and sautéed to make gravy.

  18. Melanie said:

    THANK YOU for the pics and descriptions. Like others have said – every year I go through the same thing = what is considered giblets, whats a gizzard, what is what?!?! I am bookmarking this for future reference!

  19. Carter said:

    Yep, I’m another satisfied surfer wondering just what each one is…thanks so much for keeping this info year after year. Figured out my turkey is heartless..boo hoo.

  20. Staci said:

    thank you!!! i had found the neck but couldn’t find the rest of the pieces. you totally saved me!!

  21. Ruth said:

    I’ve been able to identify all the parts, but wonder…what else can be done with giblets/gizzard besides chop in up in gravy. Any ideas?

  22. Wanda said:

    The picture was great for newbe’s. Having cooked turkeys for 54 years of my married life, I always cook the liver, chop, dice the giblets and fry also, then add to stuffing. Add additional chicken liver too and this is the only way my family likes liver which they don’t recognize in the stuffing as such. It is cooked before adding to bread stuffing. Also add cooked sausage. They prefer this to the turkey.

  23. Sandy said:

    Still finding that photo useful! Doing a practice run for Christmas dinner and wasn’t sure which tasty tidbit was actually the liver LOL! Thanks a million this was harder to find an answer to than you’d think.

  24. thomas higgs said:

    hi my name is thomas and i was just woundering is it safe to cook the turkey with the gibblit bag still inside of the turkey. i am paranoid to eat my turkey now >.< can i please get a reply

  25. Joe Kissell said:

    @thomas It’s safe, sure (as long as you check to see that the turkey has reached the appropriate temperature – at least 160° F – inside) but just not a very good idea!

  26. June said:

    Well done on the photo. I think it’s beautiful and helpful. While I don’t usually eat organs (don’t like the iron/metallic taste all that much), except for the neck in stock and the liver in chopped liver (lots of onions and schmaltz), I’ve never understood our squeemishness about them. Your photo spurred me to go learn what a gizzard was (2nd stomach).

  27. Phil said:

    Is there anything you can do with the liver as it is like frying it up?

  28. C Miller said:

    Thank you so much for this information!

  29. Jennifer said:

    Very useful info! Thanks so much for posting.

  30. Paige said:

    My father told me to use the innards from the turkey to make stock for the stuffing/gravy. He told me however not to use the heart as it will leave a bitter taste to the stock. When I asked him what the heart looked ike he said I would know – lol Thanks to your picture I now know! :-) He also told me I could take the meat off the neck bone to put in the stuffing as well.

    Happy cooking everyone!

  31. Christy said:

    4 years later and this article is still coming in handy. Thanks for the picture – it helped a ton!

  32. Heather said:

    Yes, Thank you! This picture helped me out today too!

  33. Brandi Monks said:

    Pictures are more than a thousand words!!!!! If ya can’t take it, than get out of the Kitchen :) Happy Turkey Day

  34. Jennifer said:

    This was very helpful thanks! Happy thanksgiving!

  35. Marita said:

    So helpful! thanks!

  36. Kathy said:

    Ditto to the thanks! Not sure what I’m going to do with the parts, but was more curious than anything. Maybe I’ll attempt the gravy this year.

  37. LisaH said:

    Thank you for the picture!

  38. Bonnie said:

    Every year I wonder which of these things is the liver. Bless you for the photo.

  39. Carole Thomas said:

    THANK you so much for detailing out the organs. just made a wonderful giblet gravy (without the giblets). I boiled the neck and giblets in chicken stock with a few carrots, onions and celery.

  40. MysterySolved said:

    Mystery Solved…

    We used to put everything but the neck in the blender and then turn it into “mushroom gravy” (mushrooms not included). My aunt was a vegetarian and she would practically guzzle it down. We knew what it was, she knew what it was — but, you know…

    WHAT!?

  41. ray said:

    I put the giblets in the pan with the turkey and some broth…. any harm in cooking them together?

  42. Dea said:

    I want to add my thanks. I am new to cooking whole birds regularly, and I wanted to add the giblets to my stock. I’ve just been throwing away everything bu the neck because I hadn’t a clue what part was the liver. I can now make even richer stocks.

    Again, thank you!

  43. CindyB said:

    I grew up eating the giblets from Chickens. If properly cooked, they are absolutely delicious. As I got older and spent more time in the kitchen, I discover something wonderful…Turkeys. They have the same giblets as chicken only many times larger. Yay! If you haven’t eaten giblets try them. Think of it as an adventure like the Travel Channels Bizzare Foods.

    The best way I have found to cook them is to put them in the brine with the turkey. Then when you cook your turkey, just toss them in the bottom of the roasting pan. After 4ish hours of cooking, they are very tender and incredibly tasty. I usually buy extra chicken giblets to add in as turkey giblets are hard to find.

  44. CaryD said:

    I use the giblets in my stuffing. I boil the neck, heart and gizzard for about an hour with whatevery seasonings I’m putting in/on the turkey. I toss the liver in for the last 15 minutes. (The heart never makes it to the dressing, that’s my treat for doing all the cooking.) I save the neck for the gravy, and then I dice up the rest and mix it in with the bread dressing.

    If people would look back a generation or two, they would see that their whole family would have eaten the giblets.

  45. CaryD said:

    P.S. I don’t stuff my bird, but if I have any extra gizzards, I’ll throw them inside & let them roast with the bird. They’re a great snack for the 20 minutes that the turkey needs to rest.

  46. Tricia said:

    THANK YOU for this information. (And for the picture.) My gravy turned out beautifully! Thanks again and Happy Thanksgiving!

  47. Nancy said:

    GOD BLESS YOU for that photo! Maybe this year I’ll get it right.

  48. Ashley said:

    Mmmm- mm! The neck and innards make the gravy even that much more delish. I boil everything in a pot of water. I don’t add any seasonings to it. Then after it’s all boiled, I drain the water and start chopping up the innards and pulling the meat from the neck bones. I use the turkey drippings (after allowing the fat to come to the top and skimmed off), flour, water and the meet to make a yummy yummy gravy. My dad swears by it, he wont touch any other type of gravy. He likes the little pieces of meat when pouring the gravy over everything else.

  49. Heidi said:

    The giblet photo with the description is genius. Goodbye liver! My husband is a Dr. And couldn’t tell the difference. He said he is not a veterinarian.

  50. Ellie said:

    I’m yet another person who only found out about checking the second cavity after ending up here. You’d think instructions would say ‘cavities’ rather than ‘cavity’, but none of the others I looked at did. Thank you so much for the information, as well as the reference photo.