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Joe Brown Explains Kentucky Turkeys from the Field to the Fork


Editor’s Note: Joe Brown of Breckinridge County in north central Kentucky, on the Ohio River, has been hunting turkeys for 24 years. When we called to interview Joe, he was in his backyard frying turkey breasts. 

The turkey breasts that I was frying when you called were from last year’s gobbler taken by my daughter Taylor Jo. In mid-March, 2017, I attended the Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife Field to Fork event. This program was started last year before deer season and was designed to help get new hunters involved in one of the hunting sports that they might only have heard about or have never been involved in before. The state asked a group of turkey hunters to present different aspects of the sport of turkey hunting to people who didn’t know anything about turkey hunting, and who were spending their time on cell phones and watching TV. One of the purposes of the program was to get new people into the sport of turkey hunting and taking and eating wild turkey gobblers. I’ll be teaching what I'm doing right now – how to field dress a turkey, and then how to cook a turkey. This time I’ll be teaching the fork portion of the Field to Fork seminar (how to cook and eat the turkey). I'll be teaching students a quick way to fry turkey nuggets. 

How to Prepare Turkey Nuggets:

  • First, breast out your turkey. Once you get the two fillets off the breast, cut any of the membrane or tendons off each fillet, so the meat is not chewy or tough. I cut those turkey breasts into pieces about the size of McDonald’s chicken nuggets. The internet has quite a few recipes for marinade, but the two I like the best are dill pickle juice mixed with buttermilk, or jalapeno juice mixed with buttermilk. I cover the turkey nuggets with one of the two marinades and put them in the refrigerator for about 24 hours to give the nuggets a good flavor and tenderize them. I usually prepare the marinade and the nuggets the evening before I plan to cook them. But if you don’t have that much time, your nuggets still will have a pretty good flavoring, if you only leave them in the marinade for about an hour. The pickle juice recipe adds just a little pickle flavoring to the meat. The jalapeno juice seems to make the nuggets taste like jalapenos without the hot taste of the jalapenos.
  • Use a flour mixture. - I put a lot of seasoning in my flour to give great flavor to the turkey breast. I put this recipe in the memory of my cell phone. That way, I have it with me at all times. Whether I'm deep frying turkey breasts at home, at the hunting camp or at events like Field to Fork, I always have my recipe with me. 

Since one wild turkey breast equals two fillets, I put 2 cups of flour, 2 tablespoons of salt, 1 tablespoon of pepper, 1 tablespoon of granulated garlic, 1 tablespoon of granulated onions, 1 teaspoon of white pepper, 2 tablespoons of red sage and 1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper. The more cayenne pepper you use, the hotter the turkey nuggets will taste. But I just want to taste a little bit of that pepper - not a whole lot. If I'm cooking turkey breasts for people I don’t know, I may not put any cayenne pepper in the flour and just use dill pickle juice, jalapeno juice or buttermilk in the mixture. I mix all the ingredients into the flour. I heat peanut oil to 175 degrees to flash cook the turkey nuggets. Next I drop the turkey nuggets into the oil and cook them between 40 seconds and one minute. Then I pull them out of the oil. If your overcook the nuggets, they’ll be tough. Be sure not to cut your turkey breasts any bigger than a McDonald’s chicken nugget. If you do, they’ll either be tough or not thoroughly cooked. 

Some people dip the nuggets in ranch dressing, honey mustard or hot mustard sauce, but I don’t. I like to eat my turkey nuggets just like they come out of the oil. My children always like some type of dipping sauce. This recipe and cooking instructions is what I’ll be using at the Field to the Fork event. When I cook the turkey breasts, I’ll let the students have one or two nuggets to taste. 

For more information about turkey hunting, check out John E. Phillips’ Kindle and print book, “Mossy Oak Pros Talk Turkey Tactics,” at and You also can download a free Kindle app that enables you to read the book on your iPad, computer or SmartPhone. For a free copy of John E. Phillips’ “The Turkey Gobbler Getter Manual,” go to to download.

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