Learn how to cook turkey necks with just a few easy steps and a handful of ingredients. This budget-friendly dish is perfect for a satisfying family dinner.
A dish of smothered, tender turkey necks is a hearty and comforting meal. It's made by simmering flavorful turkey necks in a homemade gravy or sauce until they become tender and full of flavor. The necks are usually seasoned with basic spices like salt, pepper, and paprika for extra flavor.
This flavorful turkey neck recipe is often served with side dishes like mashed potatoes or white rice, which soak up the tasty brown gravy. Delicious comfort food that's perfect for a cozy family meal.
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What are turkey necks?
They are long, slender, and bony parts of a bird's neck that are typically removed when the turkey is processed for meat. While they may not have as much meat as other parts of the turkey, they are still flavorful and can be used in many recipes.
The necks can be boiled, slow-cooked, or braised to make tender and flavorful dishes.
These dark meat parts are also often used to make stocks, broths, and gravies because they contain a lot of collagen, which adds richness and depth of flavor to these liquids. Make our Turkey Bone Broth using the necks.
In Southern cooking, smothered turkey necks are a popular dish where they are slow-cooked in a flavorful gravy until they become tender and delicious. They are served with rice or other side dishes.
- Raw turkey necks: You can buy them at the local grocery store, butcher shops, farmers' markets, or online retailers. I had three large pieces of turkey neck, which I cut into smaller pieces, a total of about 2.5 lbs/ 1.2 kg.
- Chicken broth or stock. Alternatively, use beer; it adds a lot of flavor as well.
- Onions: Two large onions, sliced into half-moons.
- Spices: Sweet paprika, fine sea salt, and ground black pepper.
- Vegetable or olive oil for searing.
How to cook fresh turkey necks?
- Season turkey necks: Let them come to room temperature for 20-30 minutes before cooking. Dry them and rub them with oil and spices all over (1).
- Slice onions (2).
- Brown them in a large Dutch oven or another heavy-bottomed pan for about 5 minutes, turning them on all sides (3).
- Simmer: Add chicken stock or broth and simmer on low heat, covered, for 30 minutes (4).
- Flip the meat and add the sliced onions (5). Cook for 20 minutes, occasionally stirring, until the onions are soft and the turkey fork tender and cooked through (6).
- Adjust the taste with salt and pepper.
Different ways of cooking turkey necks
Cook in the instant pot
- Brown the seasoned, raw meat in the heated oil on Sauté mode. Remove the meat from the pot and sauté the sliced onions in another tablespoon of oil. Add broth and scrape the bottom of the pot to deglaze and release the browned bits.
- Return the necks to the pressure cooker, nestle them into the onions, close the pot, and pressure cook for 50 minutes. Allow natural release for 10 minutes.
- For a slightly thicker sauce, remove the necks, switch to the sauté mode, and let the gravy simmer until slightly thickened.
Cook in the slow cooker
- Brown the necks as instructed. Remove them from the pot and brown the onions in another tablespoon of oil. Transfer the onions and the meat pieces to the slow cooker.
- Add broth and cook on low for 8 hours or high for 4 hours.
Cook in the oven
- Brown the necks in the Dutch oven or another oven-safe skillet as instructed. Remove them from the pot and brown the sliced onions in another tablespoon of oil. Add the broth and place the necks in the pot in an even layer.
- Cover tightly and transfer to the preheated oven (320°F/160°C). Cook for 2 – 2 ½ hours until very tender, stirring halfway through.
Thicken the sauce
- Reduce the gravy after cooking the necks in the oven or slow cooker: Remove the necks and keep them warm. If you used the slow cooker, transfer the onion gravy into a Dutch oven or a saucepan.
- If you’ve cooked the dish in the oven (in a Dutch oven), you can place this pot directly onto the stovetop.
- Allow the sauce to reduce on medium-high heat on the stovetop for 10-15 minutes, uncovered, until slightly thicker.
- Sear: Don’t skip this step. Searing in oil helps develop a rich, savory flavor before slow cooking.
- Low and slow: Cooking turkey necks at a low and consistent temperature for an extended period ensures they become tender and juicy.
- Check doneness by testing if the meat easily pulls apart with a fork. The internal temperature measured with an instant-read thermometer (the Amazon link opens in a new tab) should be 165°F/ 74°C.
Cook them slowly in a flavorful liquid, such as broth, for an extended period until they easily pull apart with a fork.
Yes, you can use other parts, like turkey wings or drumsticks, in a similar recipe to achieve tender and flavorful results.
Yes. Thaw them in the refrigerator before cooking for even and safe cooking. Let them come to room temperature before cooking.
We only use salt, pepper, and a bit of paprika; however, you can use more spices. You can include all-purpose seasoning, garlic powder or chopped garlic cloves, onion powder, Creole seasoning, Cajun seasoning, and herbs like thyme, rosemary, or bay leaves. How about using our Rub for Chicken Wings or the Pork Seasoning?
How to store and reheat?
- Refrigerate leftover necks in an airtight container for 3-4 days.
- Freeze in an airtight container for 2-3 months. Defrost in the fridge and reheat well before serving.
- Reheat on the stovetop. Add a splash of broth when reheating and stir, often turning the meat pieces on all sides and ensuring the onions don’t catch at the bottom of the pan.
- Reheat in the microwave: Place the food in a microwave-safe dish, cover it with a microwave-safe lid, and heat in short intervals, checking frequently to prevent overheating.
What to serve with turkey necks?
Our favorite side dish is mashed potatoes with garlic. Otherwise, you can serve them with rice, boiled potatoes, corn potatoes, or pasta.
Vegetable side dish ideas: Buttered Vegetables, sauteed spinach, kale, okra, collard greens, Sweetheart Cabbage, or Roasted Leeks. Coleslaw, White Cabbage Salad, or Green Peas are also great on the side.
More recipes using different parts of the turkey
How to Cook Turkey Necks
- Large, shallow Dutch oven or another heavy-bottomed pot with a lid
- 2.5 lbs turkey necks 1.2 kg
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil divided, or olive oil
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt + more to adjust the taste
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper + more to adjust the taste
- 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
- 1 cup chicken broth 250 ml, Note 1
- 2 large onions about 12.5 oz/ 350 g
- Bring to room temperature: Let turkey necks come to room temperature for 20-30 minutes before cooking. If they are whole, you can ask the butcher to cut them into 2-3 pieces or you can do it yourself if you have a good knife. However, it's not necessary, you can leave them as they are.
- Season: Dry the necks with a paper towel. Rub them with oil, sprinkle the spices all over, and rub them again to coat them thoroughly. 2.5 lbs/ 1.2 kg turkey necks + 1 tablespoon oil + 1 teaspoon sea salt + ½ teaspoon pepper + 1 teaspoon paprika
- Brown the necks: Heat the oil in the pot. Brown the turkey necks all over; it will take about 5 minutes. 1 tablespoon oil
- Simmer: Pour in the broth and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat, place the lid on top, and simmer the turkey necks for 30 minutes. 1 cup/ 250 ml broth
- Onions: In the meantime, halve the onions and cut them into half-rings. 2 large onions
- Simmer again: Flip the turkey necks in the pot and add the onions. Continue cooking for another 20 minutes, occasionally stirring the onions, or until the onions are perfectly soft and the turkey necks tender and cooked through. You should be able to pull the meat apart with a fork easily.
- Adjust the taste with salt and pepper.
- See Notes for preparing the turkey necks in the Instant Pot, Slow Cooker, or oven.
- Cooking liquid: Use beer instead of chicken broth.
- Instant Pot: Brown the turkey necks (in batches) in 1 tablespoon oil on Sauté mode. Remove the pot. Sauté the sliced onions in another tablespoon of oil. Add broth and scrape the pot’s bottom to deglaze it. Return the meat to the pot, nestle it into the onions, close it, and pressure cook for 50 minutes. Allow natural release for 10 minutes. For a slightly thicker sauce, remove the meat, switch the pot to the sauté mode, and let the gravy simmer until slightly thickened.
- Slow cooker: Brown the necks as instructed. Remove them from the pot and brown the onions in another tablespoon of oil. Transfer meat and onions to the slow cooker. Add broth and cook on low for 8 hours or on high for 4 hours. Remove the necks and keep them warm. Transfer the onion gravy to a Dutch oven or a saucepan and let it reduce on the stovetop for 10-15 minutes, uncovered, until slightly thicker.
- Oven: Brown meat Dutch oven as instructed. Remove them from the pot and brown the sliced onions in another tablespoon of oil. Add the broth and place the necks in the pot in an even layer. Cover tightly and transfer to the preheated oven (320°F/160°C). Cook for 2 – 2 ½ hours until you can easily pull the meat apart with a fork, stirring halfway through. Remove the necks and keep them warm. Reduce the sauce on the stovetop for 10-15 minutes, uncovered, until slightly thicker.