Turtles are considered a delicacy in many cultures, and their meat is a versatile addition to any diet. Snapping turtles, common and easy to catch, are a top choice among trappers, novice and professional. Before you head into turtle cooking, though, you’ll first have to butcher the creature.

Things You'll Need

Chop off the turtle’s head. Pay close attention to the snapping turtle’s jaws as you do so. Snappers are aggressive, and can easily mistake your finger for food. Hold the shell of the animal with one hand and press down at the base of the neck with your knife to remove the head from the body. Even after the head is removed from the body, neurons will continue to fire, so continue to exercise caution with both the body and head of the turtle as they will both continue to move for hours after death.

Dip the entire carcass, shell and all, into boiling water. Submerge the turtle carcass for a minimum of five minutes in the boiling water before removing. Now you can easily scrape off the top layer of skin from the animal when the time comes.

Turn the turtle carcass onto its back, and insert the point of the blade in the groove between the top and the bottom shell, between the turtle’s legs. This is the weakest point of the turtle’s shell. Move the knife around the edge of the shell until you have removed enough connective tissue to separate the bottom shell from the top shell. The turtle’s limbs, tail and neck are all connected to the top shell.

The usable meat from the turtle is found in the arms, legs, tail and loins. With the top shell and bottom shell separated, you can now more easily access the limbs of the turtle. Trim the meat by removing any remaining skin, and all fat. Remove the fat from the turtle using a paring knife or other small blade. Roll back any remaining skin on the turtle’s limbs, and place the knife flat against the fat, and push against the surface to remove.

A final portion of meat on the turtle is contained within the loins, which are pockets of meat enclosed within cartilage on the upper shell of the turtle. Cut away the cartilage using scissors or shears, and them remove the meat using the paring knife.


  • Turtles continue to twitch and move long after their death. Don’t be alarmed.

References and Resources

The Iowa Sportsman.com