Dressing a Turtle


Although there are more than 50 species of fresh water turtle, only about half a dozen of the species are caught for market in important quantities. Practically all kinds are edible, however, and the main reason for the nonuse of turtles for food is a lack of knowledge of how to dress them.

The first step in dressing is the removal of the head. This can be easily accomplished in the case of a snapper by causing it to snap at a stick. It grasps the stick with a tenacious hold and the head can be readily pulled forward. Other species can be made to protrude their heads by applying pressure with the foot to the back or upper part of the shell. Make sure the head is well stretched out, so it can be cut off with ease.

After removing the head, the Fish and Wildlife Service describes the dressing of a turtle as follows:
  • Run a sharp knife around the edges of the skin where it joins the shell.
  • Pull back the skin over the legs to the feet which are then disjointed.
  • The lower part of the shell or plastron is then removed by cutting through the bridges which join the upper and lower shells, cutting close to the lower part of the shell.
  • With snappers and soft-shells, in which the bridges are rather soft and cartilaginous, this can be done with a sharp knife.
  • With the terrapin, the bridge may be cut with a hatchet or saw.
  • Having cut the bridges, the plastron or under shell may be readily removed by inserting a sharp knife just under it and lifting it off.
  • This done, the entrails may be extracted with verv little trouble, and the four quarters easily taken out from the carapace or upper shell.
  • If one wishes to save the tenderloin in the upper part or 'ceiling' of the carapace, the ribs may be cut with a hatchet.
This may appear to be a lengthy and complicated process, but it is simpler than killing, plucking and drawing a chicken.

Another Way How to Clean a Snapping Turtle

  1. Put live turtle in a 55 gal. drum for 7 days, to allow it to empty it's system, it helps with the smell. Keep fresh water in the drum. Scoop out the feces with a net.
  2. Using channel locks, hold him tight by the mouth with neck stretched out. Cut off his head.
  3. Hang him upside down to bleed out for about 30 minutes.
  4. Put him on his back, cut claws and feet off.
  5. Cut skin around shell top and bottom, cut and pull skin away from shell on the front legs until skin is removed.
  6. On the soft shell belly outside edge of shell, cut through soft shell contact points and remove.
  7. Remove guts and innards.
  8. Remove front legs, may need to twist to break the joint.
  9. Cut and peel skin from back legs and neck.
  10. Remove back legs and neck, again twisting to break joints.
  11. Leave meat on bone, but try to remove as much fat as possible.
  12. Wash with cold water, repeat until clean.
  13. Freeze submerged in water.


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