If you're among the blushing cooks who have forgotten to remove the infamous giblet bag before roasting the turkey, take heart. You're unlikely to make the same mortifying mistake twice — especially once you become accustomed to what those flavorful organs can do to add a depth of flavor to the sides and toppings at your turkey dinner.
"Giblets" refers to a turkey's gizzard, heart and liver, although you may also find the bird's neck in the giblets bag. You won't have to look far to find giblets. Turkeys are traditionally sold with the giblets placed inside a plastic bag in the bird's abdominal or neck cavity. If you stick a clean or gloved hand inside the turkey, you will find the bag. If the bag seems on the skimpy side — and there's time to run to the store — buy extra chicken livers for gravies and stuffings.
Cooking Turkey Giblets for Stock
A basic gravy, as well as some traditional stuffings, starts with the giblet stock. Most cooks set aside the liver for another use, or add it during the final stages of cooking, because otherwise it tends to make for a bitter broth and gravy.
Depending on your recipe or family tradition, either simmer the rest of the giblets in water with aromatics for about 45 minutes, or saute the giblets in oil first, then add water and flavorings and simmer them for about 45 minutes. Aromatic possibilities include carrots, parsley, celery, onions, thyme, bay leaves and peppercorns. Once strained, the broth can be used in right away, or refrigerated for a few days.
Giblets Make Good Gravy!
Once you have your strained your broth and your turkey comes out of the oven to rest, it's time to make giblet gravy. After moving the turkey to a carving platter, you'll find the roasting pan is a treasure trove of flavored cooking juices. Strain the fat from these drippings, and then combine the drippings, giblet broth and a roux you've made by sauteing equal parts butter and flour. When you're cooking for a crowd, you might have to stretch the drippings with some store-bought or made-ahead chicken or turkey broth. If you wish, add some chopped, cooked giblets to the gravy.
Giblet stock and the giblets themselves also serve as key ingredients in traditional stuffings. Reserve the giblets after you strain the broth — in this case, add the liver toward the end of the broth's cooking time so that it cooks through. After chopping the cooked giblets, pulse them briefly in a food processor with a few handfuls of parsley and celery, as well as 1 pound of sauteed sausage meat. After carefully folding this giblet-sausage mixture into a bag of prepared stuffing mix, moisten the blend with the giblet stock, and cook the stuffing for about an hour in a 350-degree Fahrenheit oven.
Turkey Giblets for Dogs
Giblets are strongly flavored, which is why they're so useful in gravy and stuffing, but some people find them — especially the liver — to be too strong-tasting and just discard them instead of using them. That's a perfectly valid personal choice, but if you have a pooch in the house you might think about turning them into a treat for Fido instead.
A lot of the seasonings that make Thanksgiving delicious, like onions and garlic, are toxic to dogs. Instead of cooking the giblets with the bird, simmer them separately in a small amount of plain water for 10 to 20 minutes until they're cooked through. Let them cool completely before you offer them to your pup. Giblets are big enough to present a choking hazard, so it's also a good idea to mince them or chop them coarsely in your food processor. The neck isn't safe for dogs if it's cooked, but they'll love it as a raw treat.