How to Cook Turtle Meat

Add gourmet fare to your menu by learning how to trap turtles and remove and cook turtle meat. Plus, try these recipes for Camp Turtle Soup and Fried Turtle.

| November 20, 2009

The following is an excerpt from Camp Cooking: A Practical Handbook by Fred Bouwman ( Skyhorse Publishing , 2009). The excerpt is from Chapter 2: Shore Lunch.

One way that some fur trappers and other rural people maintain their household cash flow during the summer months is by trapping turtles and selling the meat to fish wholesalers and restaurants. While the yards-long, hoop-and-net turtle traps used by the pros are too much work for the recreational natural eater, taking turtles by unattended hook and line, where legal, is a productive method for adding another gourmet treat to the camp menu.

With sturdy hooks, a serious wire leader, and just about anything made of meat for bait, you’re in business. Study the regulations in your state regarding endangered species, and be sure to follow them. For eating purposes, all turtles taste about the same. The snapping turtle is the trophy, and with specimens ranging up to a foot long (measured across the shell) it’s usually the turtle that gets involved in dinner.

Snapping turtles have that name for a reason. Exercise care when handling them. They are very aggressive and can move much more quickly than you would expect a turtle to move, coming almost off the ground when they strike.

Start preparing your turtle dinner by encouraging him to bite a stick. Then while holding the stick away from the body to stretch the neck, have a companion with a good eye and stout arm lop off the head with a hatchet. Hang the turtle by the tail to bleed it.

There are two ways of removing the edible meat from the turtle. The first is to boil the entire animal, shell and all, and as it begins to cook, remove it from the water, slip the skin from the meat, and separate the top and bottom halves of the shell. This procedure is time-consuming and can be quite a hassle in camp.

8/24/2017 9:16:17 PM

Cooking and eating turtle is no different than eating fish, chicken, beef(cow), or pork(pig). It all requires taking a life so you can live. Even eating carrots, beets, and radishes require the life of the plant as payment for you to live. It is all a part of life. Eat turtles, eat rabbits, eat guinea pig. It is all a part of life. Go for it. There are different species of turtles. Some are plentiful and some are endangered. It's just good to now which is which. I give my support for this web page about eating turtles. Kudos to the author. I am truly thinking of trying turtle and maybe even adding turtles to my urban homestead sometime in the future.

9/10/2015 12:39:58 PM

Alex turtles are not almost extinct. You must live in the city or something because where i live which is in the country turtles are everywhere. So many that they need thinning out because they eat all the fish in the ponds. You see at least one crossing the roads every day when driving somewhere. No turtle are not going extinct they are plenty

6/14/2014 2:32:11 PM

How sad go get life you big phony instead of cooking turtle that is cruel COOK FINGERS INSTEAD

mother earth news fair


Feb. 17-18, 2018
Belton, Texas

More than 150 workshops, great deals from more than 200 exhibitors, off-stage demos, hands-on workshops, and great food!