Picture of How to clean a turtle
So, by some method, you have come into the possession of 1 or more legally edible turtles. Congratulations! They are legendarily good eating. Or, if you're into catching, cleaning, and eating turtles, there's a good chance that you might refer to them as good eatin', if that makes any difference.

What do you do with it (them)? Well, that's where this instructable comes into play.

Note: Some of the photos depict some pretty graphic turtle-ness. If you are a card-carrying Sierra Club/PETA member, or just don't want to see some turtle guts pictures right now, then don't look at this instructable.

I'm sick of people leaving comments saying that this is mean. Can you please be concerned about something infinitely more important, like the millions of innocent human beings that die each year?

If you eat meat, especially, realize that the meat you eat was once an animal. The difference between it and these turtles is that (except in the case that someone hunted the animal and gave/sold its meat to you) these turtles, while alive, were free to roam around the lake they lived in and wherever else they chose to go. The animals whose meat you buy in the store were probably kept in ridiculously small pens, fed ridiculously low-quality feed, until they were fat enough to kill profitably.

Caution: Obviously, you'll be dealing with a turtle (quite possibly a mean, old snapper), so be careful around its mouth (esp. if a snapper), and watch the claws. Also, be careful, you're using knives. And scissors, and maybe a bone saw. That bit's up to you.
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I'm trying to turn this turtle shell I found into a ashtray should I bake it to kill any bacteria. Any feedback would be appreciated.
sleeping_gecko (author)  jspencer7239 days ago
While I have never attempted that sort of project, I will give you my thoughts:

If it is a soft-shell turtle (as the turtle in this Instructable was), you might want to think of it as closer to a hide than a shell. In other words, there might be more of a drying process involved.

If it is a hard shell (not a leatherback, etc.), then I would still bake it, for a couple reasons. One reason, as you mentioned, is to kill potential nasty critters that might have taken up residence in the shell. The other is to do a more complete drying of the shell. This would probably make it easier to remove any meat or connective tissue from the shell (once it has dried).

Again, I haven't attempted this--I'm just giving my (untested) thoughts. I do think it would be a cool project, so feel free to post a pic or make an Instructable about it when you finish!

the same reason ppl kill cows.

Indy Dawg2 months ago
This is rediculous. Why do you want to kill a turtle. You are stupid
turtles are yum your just a softy' circle of life atleast i know what im eating.
sleeping_gecko (author)  Indy Dawg2 months ago
The "why" is fairly clear--to eat the turtle's meat. I realize that some people would prefer not to eat meat, and I support anyone's decision to reasonably follow his or her own conscience.

There are, of course, also people who do eat meat but who refuse to kill or process their own meat when an opportunity arises. They opt instead to rely on the oft-unsustainable or at least undependable modern food system. This group makes much, much less sense than either the content meat eaters or the moral vegetarians.

That said, you shouldn't be rude, it violates the Instructables "be nice" comment policy. If you're going to be rude, you definitely should make sure you spell things correctly (ridiculous), punctuate correctly (your second sentence is interrogative--you need a question mark there instead of your period), etc.

In general, the person who makes the first personal insult loses. It undermines your argument. I hope you feel better by the time you read this reply!
sugarlips3652 months ago
This is very informative, I'm looking forward to trying this. :) As far as the pics and butchering of the animals, that is a part of life, I'm sorry if any one gets offended by the fact that I eat meat but, to get meat the animal is raised fed and then killed if you like steaks you understand my point of view. And to indy dawg, you can't rip the meat off while the animal is alive that would just be cruel. The animal has no idea what will happen of when it happens they can't feel a thing. :)
CamiloS4 months ago

first, i have to start with a confession... my girlfriend and i watched a few episodes of 'naked and afraid' on the net. i'm curious about this incident.

looks like the couple caught a turtle and, judging by the clip, didn't carve it the way you suggested. Would it be safe to assume they clipped a bladder or other sac and tainted the meat?

CamiloS CamiloS4 months ago

and, by the way, thanks for posting this information in such a simple and straightforward manner. i really appreciate it.

I had to research and see how you are supposed to kill a turtle for this. My neighbor last night disrupted my sleep (I am sick, atm) by "hammering " right by my window. I found out this morning he was killing pet store bought turtles, I imagine (since catching and disrupting turtles in our area is illegal.) I am debating calling the cops for animal cruelty because the way they killed the turtles, was inhumane (death by smashing)
pkmn5 years ago
(removed by author or community request)
sleeping_gecko (author)  pkmn5 years ago
I just have a couple points I'd like you to consider. "Pig" and "hog" are pretty much interchangeable terms. As my brother discovered at the state fair when he was a child (and my grandfather took the excited child to see the hogs), "They're just big pigs!"

People can develop close relationships with cows just like they can with dogs. Both can be beautiful animals with unique traits (what you might call "personality"). Just because many people never interact with cows that aren't wrapped in plastic at the supermarket does not mean that they aren't real animals.

If you've never seen chickens, it would be easy to assume that they are annoying. All that clucking and crowing. What is a person to do? If you've actually had or tended chickens (at least those of the free range persuasion), you would probably know how amusing they can be to watch. Not to mention how efficiently they can keep down a bug problem around the yard/garden.

Why would people be universally better off eating fish than turtles? If your only reason is that turtles are cute and fish are not, let me be the one to tell you that this is a personal opinion. Many people find fish to be quite adorable, and turtles to be nasty. Put a turtle terrarium in one room, a freshwater aquarium in another. See which stinks first. Turtles won't seem as cute.

If you've never eaten turtle meat, I'm curious to find out why you assume that it would not be as tasty as fish meat.

I made sure to state clearly in the introduction that this was about preparing turtles for eating. If you somehow missed that part, and you didn't understand that the opening picture of turtles+big knives=not a turtle bubble bath, then I probably cannot help you.

I mentioned that different, "typical" American food animals can be cute or friendly. That doesn't mean I wouldn't eat them. I do eat most animals. I've never eaten dog or cat, but that's largely because I've never come across the right restaurant.

And, to answer the question (which you punctuated not as an interrogative statement but as an exclamatory), "HOW DO {I} EAT THOSE TINI {sic} CUTE TURTLES! {sic}

Fried, usually with a knife and fork. Kind of like how I like to eat squirrel.
I have personally cleaned and ate at least 20 snapping turtles in my lifetime and don't plan to stop just because someone else doesn't like it.  Yes, I will kill a turtle just as it killed and ate fish and other animals to live - it's the way man has survived for centuries, killing and eating. I always cut the shell around the head/legs/tail areas with a hatchet but I guess there are other ways.  I like them in a stew and barbequed the best and I'm sure that someone someplace has a way to make patties, etc.  There are 11 different flavors of meat in a snapping turtle, like there are 7 different flavors in a hog.(Bacon, T-loin, ham, etc.)
       I try my best to kill humanely and be as fast and efficient as possible so the animal doesn't suffer regardless as to what kind of animal it is.  I try to get the hides tanned and use everything, no waste. I feel that anything killed for sport alone is wrong, but if you plan to use all the animal then it's not so bad.  What bothers me is when an animal like, say a deer, gets hit and the meat isn't harmed totally and they put the freshly killed animal in the dump when there are so many people around the world hungry - The meat could be used in prisons or jails for one, almost fat free to boot!   
   As for the people that are vegetarians, my hat's off to you, you don't like something that you have never tasted!  That's not the way to make an informed decision, but it's your right.  I like fruits and vegetables, fish, poultry, turtles, mammals, nuts and berries, and I plan to continue eating all of it for as long as I can.  It was put here to eat or use as a medicine, and I try to use everything as I see fit.  If you don't like this instructable because you are a vegetarian, please tell me why you are so interested in looking at it to start with, I don't get it..... 
I just read what you had to say in a comment almost a year ago. I have to say, you put it the way I feel, thanks. I have been fishing on the river lately and have caught a few soft shell turtles on our trot lines. Everyone has told me how good the meat was, but don't know how to clean one. Really not sure if they are legal to keep anyway. If I won't eat it, I won't kill it.
rduncan2, I am not sure if you can eat the soft shell trutles, I have only eaten the hard shell ones with tails that have 'spikes' on them and claws on their feet, they look prehistoric to me. I doubt they have changed much through evolution in the past million years or so anyway though...
Yah you can eat soft shells. The typical turtle soup is either made from a snapping (the ones with spikes) or soft shelled turtle.

ever had it with the combination of hard and soft shelled turtles? just wondering if the taste would be different?

I'd like to try a turtle soup or stew made from a soft shelled turtle sometime by someone that knows how to make one the right way since I don't. I'm game to try any new food.... I have put the hard shelled snapping turtles' meat on a grill and eaten it bar-b-qued - that was delicious!

standfieldbiz8 months ago

I realize that this is an old post, but I was curious as the season for turtle has opened here and well the darn things keep steeling my bait for the fish. Now, I was looking to see what to do with one if it ever decided to join my caught fish. Thank you, now I know. I found your 4 step instructions extremely learnable...when I catch one I will try your methods. Good hunting. :)

dortha.little8 months ago

I know this an old post, however, thank you for it. I have turtles in my pond, they have killed at least one of my ducks maybe 3. My ducks will not go back on the pond. When they go to the pond, they only get on the shallow end and are all in a wad. This will come in handy if I catch any, I have a turtle trap ordered. I think I will use a large plastic garbage can and clean them out for the seven days. However, I think I will look at someone to help me kill and clean!! Thanks again.

indywave1 year ago
Ahhh you killed a turtle. I thought you were going to like wash it or something!!!!
sleeping_gecko (author)  indywave1 year ago

I didn't realize until recently that this was in the "Pets" section. I think that was done automatically. I published this project in 2006, and I don't recall having the option of categories (I certainly can't imagine intentionally publishing it in that category, as it would needlessly offend folks looking for something else). Because I thought there may be some confusion, I put the disclaimer on the intro step.

WVKatCurse5 years ago
Thank you for the instruction. I now know how to clean hunt one. I still need to find how to bring a large one to the surface and keep him there. He is eating my mallards and geese.
sleeping_gecko (author)  WVKatCurse1 year ago

These were caught while a buddy and I were going for catfish in a lake. The line was heavy enough to bring them up most of the time (though we usually had breaks in the line, probably due to larger turtles).

Aside from building turtle traps, I haven't read up on anything aside from using heavier line and bringing them in slowly.

Since your turtle is a nuisance, it might be worth the time/effort/risk to build a trap or two and see if you can catch the bugger. (Normally, I'm not a fan of the turtle traps I've seen, as they leave a turtle sitting there until you get around to checking the trap, which, IMO, isn't too humane. In a nuisance/pest-type situation, though, that becomes a lesser concern, to me at least.)

Buiild a 4' square with large sticks/small logs (about 4" in diameter). Attach old wire fence/chicken wire to one side of square all the way across and staple (fence staples) tightly. Turn it over and drive a 4" nail pointing toward the center (sticking up at about a 45 degree angle) about every 3 to 4 inches, then clip off the heads at an angle so that you have sharp spikes about 2" long all the way around. Make sure it floats, then wire fish heads, chicken necks, etc. to middle of square. Rig up an anchor with about 10' of line and float it in your pond. (If you don't have a boat, attach a second line so you can drag it to shore) The turtles crawl in to get the bait, but can't get back past the spikes, I used this sort of rig and a .22 to get rid of about 20 snappers (largest was over 20 lbs.) from a farm pond 30 years ago. Good luck!
this method works like a charm

I like the category you put this under XD

sleeping_gecko (author)  TheCommander1 year ago

Until I saw your comment, I didn't realize this was in the "Pets" category. When I originally published this project (2006), I don't remember there even being categories for different Instructables projects (though I may be mistaken). I certainly don't think I would've put it in the "Pets" category myself. If they organized things by category at a later date, I could see how this would be auto-sorted into a Pets category.

It also explains most of the comments I seem to get. Every couple months or so, it seems I get a notification of a new comment about how it's wrong/misleading... I always thought they just were ignoring the disclaimer at the beginning...didn't realize it was in the "Pets" section!! :0

How Does Turtle Taste Exactly? I'm Going To Try This! I've Had Gator, Snake, Deer, Coon, Beef, Pork Etc But I've Never Had Turtle...Thanks For The Idea!!
Excellent post and I applaud your stand against the naysayers. I, like you, enjoy the fruits that Mother Nature provides for us. Whether it be animal, vegetable, or mineral. My family and I enjoy hunting, fishing, and picking. A friend of mine once said, "If God didn't want us to eat animals, He wouldn't have made them out of meat". That said, Michigan's turtle season opens next Monday, and I intend to participate. Good fishing!!!!!
I thought you were going to clena teh seaweed off its shell to keep it as a pet then i saw the knives and I thought to myself "like hmm that's a weird way to clean seaweed off a tutrle, OHhhhhh...."
DSR20032 years ago
You monster. How could you do something like
That was really interesting. I didn't even know you could still catch turtles. Pretty cool.
darthbindy3 years ago
poor turtles! =(
but as you said, and i agree, there still meant, and therfore i have no problem with you eating them, but did you kill them quickly?
sleeping_gecko (author)  darthbindy3 years ago
Certainly. They were killed swiftly, by decapitation. Don't get me wrong, I think turtles are adorable, but I also think ducks, goats, cows, etc. are cute, too. I have no problem with eating animals, so long as they are killed humanely and treated with appropriate respect (i.e., not wasted, mocked, etc).
good. =D
aruno3 years ago
Good tutorial, but the title really should be "How to prepare a turtle", so as to attract the correct audience.
klaw33 years ago
Thanks for sharing. I always get the turtle already cut up in the wet market and wonder how they do it.
dcapotosti3 years ago
Wish I had found this before I went fishing. The last few nights I have caught at least 10 soft shelled turtles ranging from the size of a small plate to the size of a manhole. I had heard they were good eating, so I did a search on them and found your instructional. I am ready to go back for another night now. How much meat do you get from each one and can you grill the meat??
afairbanks3 years ago
Can you eat Red-eared sliders? I caught a huge one at work today and was wanting to eat it, but after reading some of your posts I want to make sure that is a species that is edible.
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