Where I grew up in south Louisiana, we saw plenty of snapping turtles, but most of us never thought to eat one. Maybe it’s because we were blessed with having so many craw fish around, which were much easier—and less dangerous!—to catch and cook.
Nevertheless, occasionally one of my readers has asked me how to cook a snapping turtle. So, if you happen to find one of these rather nasty looking critters in your fishing net, or have one packed away inside your freezer, here’s a great way to prepare it.
By the way, snapping turtle is actually quite delicious!
Assuming you have a live snapper on your hands, the first step, of course, is to kill it. Don some gloves, grab a sharp knife, and cut off the turtle’s head as quickly and cleanly as possible. There will be blood, of course, which you should allow to run down the drain of your sink until the flow has slowed considerably.
Now drop the turtle’s body, shell and all (except the head, of course) into a big pot of boiling water. Boil for 8 minutes. This is mainly to make cleaning it easier.
Remove the turtle from the pot and allow it to cool sufficiently to be able to handle it. Take your sharp knife and cut away the plastron, or lower shell. Remove the intestines and other organs. Now cut the good stuff, the meat, away from the top shell; be sure to include the legs and tail, which are the best-tasting parts (the skin should come off of these easily after boiling).
You can cook turtle meat, whether from a snapper or some other species, in many different ways. My favorite is this snapping turtle stew:
1. Cut the turtle meat into cubes.
2. Begin browning the meat in a hot frying pan with cooking oil. Add a chopped onion, one or two chopped cloves of garlic and continue cooking until the meat is browned all over.
3. Drain the oil from the frying pan. Remove the meat, onion and garlic and place them in a saucepan (one with a lid). Add 2 cans of tomatoes and 4 sliced or chopped potatoes, some salt and pepper, and enough water to cover everything.
4. Cover the saucepan and cook at a strong simmer for 40 to 50 minutes.