What Are Giblets?

Read this before you toss them in the trash.

turkey giblets

Caitlin Bensel; Food Styling: Torie Cox

When you've stuffed or cooked a turkey in years past, were you surprised to find a bag of unidentified poultry parts hanging out in the cavity? What’s in that bag? It’s giblets.

My grandparents loved giblets. They knew the background and benefits of giblets because they could break down poultry on their Midwestern farms. Their goal was to use the entire bird—in cooked meat, gravy-making, and soup stock. 

Today’s cooks buying a grocery store turkey often use giblets in recipes like Overnight Giblet Gravy or Homemade Turkey Stock. But if you're unfamiliar with the offal, it's time to learn.

Here, discover what giblets are and how to use them in recipes.

What Are Giblets?

Giblets are the offal meat of the turkey. Offal is the organ meat of poultry and other animals. In turkeys, giblets are the heart, gizzards, and liver.

In other poultry, like ducks, the offal meat is prized for creating products like foie gras or pâté.

Giblets may seem like a turkey secret, but they don’t have to be unapproachable. In fact, many Southern cooks use giblets for a variety of dishes, especially at Thanksgiving, and offal meats find their way into many classic Southern dishes year-round.

How Do You Pronounce Giblet?

It may help to know how to say giblet when talking about them. When you serve up giblet gravy, you would announce the side by rhyming the word with “niblet.”

How Should You Prepare Giblets? 

To get to the, err, heart of giblets, I went to an expert, Bill Nolan, a sixth season Butterball Turkey Talk-Line supervisor and retired chef who knows all about turkeys and their giblets. The hotline is a valued holiday tradition where cooks call in and get advice on everything from still-frozen turkeys to, you guessed it, giblets.

Preparing or cooking giblets doesn’t have to be intimidating. There’s a variety of methods to use. You can cut them up and simmer with a mix of veggies, garlic, and bacon, or you can flour-dredge and fry them like you might prepare traditional liver.

Chopping and adding them into sauces is another option. Consider using them wherever you might use any other offal like liver or heart to add texture, protein, and rich flavor. 

“When cooking giblets for gravy or stuffing, you can simply roast them in the pan with your turkey or simmer them in water with some celery and onions to make a giblet stock. Then, chop the giblets and use in your gravy or stuffing," Nolan says.

Many people will include the turkey neck with the giblets for more meat and extra flavor.

giblets in saucepan with onions and celery and carrots

Caitlin Bensel; Food Styling: Torie Cox

Should You Take the Giblets Out Before Cooking the Turkey? What Happens if You Forget?

Bill had reassuring advice for cooks that don’t know giblets are in the turkey cavity or forget to remove them before roasting. When you cook your turkey, it is perfectly fine to let the giblet bag cook inside (on purpose or accidentally).

Bill explained how giblets are included and if you have to remove them: “You can if you’d like, but it’s not necessary. The giblets in Butterball turkeys come in an oven-safe paper bag that allows the giblets to be cooked with the turkey, no problem. Forgetting to remove the giblet bag from the turkey prior to cooking is one of the biggest giblet questions we get here at the Butterball Turkey Talk-Line. We always reassure people that the giblet bag is oven-safe and there’s no harm in leaving it in the turkey while it cooks.”

What Do Giblets Taste Like?

Pinpointing the taste of giblets can vary based on how you prepare them. If they’re coated in flour and fried, the taste changes. When eaten alone, they’ll mostly taste like dark poultry meat, a little gamey with a slight metallic taste. 

"Giblets can add complexity and depth to a dish, with an earthy taste," Nolan says.

What’s Included in Giblet Packs Now?

Turkey giblet bags aren't the same as they were decades ago. "Giblets" once described all poultry offal—the feet, wing tips, head, gobbler red cockscomb, and the neck. My grandmothers loved the neck in particular for making soup stock alongside the turkey bones.

Today’s giblet bags are simpler. Nolan says that, “Butterball includes the turkey heart, gizzard, and liver in its giblet bag. In the past, some manufacturers included the lungs and/or kidneys as well."

However, other turkey companies differ, so some packs may be short a part or two. If something is going to be left out, it's most often the gizzard. Some turkeys have no giblets at all.

chopped giblets and turkey neck meat

Caitlin Bensel; Food Styling: Torie Cox

Can You Purchase a Turkey That Doesn’t Have Giblets included?

If you don’t like the idea of giblets being tucked up inside your turkey, you do have options. Bill explained that all Butterball turkeys do have giblets included, except for Ready to Roast line of turkeys.

If a turkey has giblets, that packaging will often clarify that. If it doesn't say either way, you should assume the turkey does have at least some giblets.

Can You Buy Giblets Without a Turkey?

On the inverse, if you make giblet gravy and love it at Thanksgiving. but don’t want to buy a 20-pound bird, you can buy giblets on their own. Ask your butcher or check the offal section of your store’s poultry department. The turkey giblets should be available near the poultry and soup bones.

Are the Giblets Inside Your Turkey From That Specific Turkey?

If you buy your turkey at a farmers’ market or directly from a farm, the answer is most likely yes. At a big box, warehouse, or grocery store, the giblets could actually be from another turkey because of how poultry is processed.

Are There Precautions To Take When Preparing Giblets?

Giblets should be treated like you would approach any raw poultry. Make sure to use a separate cutting board and utensils when prepping them, and wash your hands before touching any other food products or surfaces. Cooking giblets to 165°F is also crucial.

How Should You Store Giblets?

If you don’t use the giblets that come with your turkey, you can store them in the refrigerator in airtight packaging for one or two days. They can also be frozen in airtight packaging. Thaw frozen giblets by putting them in the refrigerator, microwave or under cold water.

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