Submitted by Sirrobin
A turducken is a chicken inside a duck inside a turkey, with stuffing to fill the gaps in between birds, roasted. If that sounds like a lot of work, you're right. It takes several hours to prepare the birds and many more hours to roast them. Making a turducken isn't a task to be undertaken lightly.
Before preparing a turducken, consider the number of people you intend to feed. Not only will it take a long time, it produces a lot of food. A turducken contained in a 5kg turkey can easily feed a couple of dozen people. If you're only feeding a small group you might want to consider something smaller.
So, I imagine I hear you asking, how does one make a turducken? I'm glad you asked.
First you need a chicken, a duck, a turkey and some very sharp knives:
Part 1: The Birds
- 1 Chicken, whole
- 1 Duck, whole
- 1 Turkey, whole
The sizes will depend a bit on what is available at the time. The photos here show the construction of a turducken using a 1.3kg chicken, a 1.8kg duck and a 5kg turkey. If you're making this for a festive occasion I recommend ordering your birds in advance from a reputable supplier rather than hoping your local supermarket will have what you need the day before Christmas.
To prepare the birds you need to remove all the bones from the chicken and duck and all but the wing and drumstick bones from the turkey.
Start with the chicken. This process is likely to take a while, particularly the first time you try it, and you don't want to be working on the smallest and fiddliest bones when you're tired of all the cutting.
Cut off the wing tips at the second joint. Lie the bird on its breast and make an incision along the length of the spine, cutting down to the bone.
Separate the flesh and skin from the spine on one side with the tip of the knife or a scalpel. (I use and recommend Mundial's 6 inch flexible-bladed boning knife.
A short, narrow blade is good for getting in close for the trickier bits.) Work your way around the rib cage, separating flesh from bone until you reach the breastbone.
Try not to break the skin. When you reach the shoulder and hip joints you will need to dislocate them and cut through the connecting tissue before you continue around.
When both sides are done the meat will only be connected along the sternum. The flesh is quite thin along the breastbone so you will need to be careful.
Lift the ass-end of the spine and rib cage away from the meat and carefully cut it away from the meat.
The carcass should look something like this (the legs and wings are underneath in this photo).
Next we need to remove the bones in the limbs but we still don't want to break the skin. It's best to start with the thighs. The bones are bigger and they make good practice for the fiddlier wing bones.
Grab the top of a thigh from the inside in one hand and cut around the top of the bone to remove the meat. Scrape down and around the bone to remove the meat to the next joint. Cut around the joint and continue to the end. Pull the bone back out like an arm coming out of a jacket-sleeve and cut it away at the end.
Repeat for the other leg and then the wings. You should end up with something that looks a bit like this:
Sort of like a one-piece chicken costume, lacking only a zipper and a mask.
Repeat for the duck.
The turkey is a bit easier. Not only is the skeleton larger but we don't want to get rid of all of it. For cosmetic reasons (and because they're great hand-held snacks) we want to leave the wings and drumsticks. So all you'll need to do is follow the procedure for the rib-cage and spine then remove only the thigh bone of the legs, leaving something that looks like an out-take from the Alien movies:
If you like, you can keep the removed bones to make stock as the base for a gravy.
Part 2: The Stuffing
You can use pretty much any stuffing you like here. I have seen turduckens made with ordinary breadcrumb, sage and onion stuffings. I have seen them made with horribly elaborate concoctions with pate and giblets and all sorts of other exotic ingredients.
I prefer this rice-based stuffing. It is considerably lighter and less dense than a lot of other stuffings and does not have an awfully strong taste of its own, taking on flavours from the birds and the spices instead.
- 1 Red apple - cored and diced
- 1/2 cup Chopped onions
- 1/2 cup Sliced celery
- 1/3 cup Seedless raisins
- 1/2 teaspoon Seasoned salt
- 1/4 teaspoon Dry thyme leaves
- 1/4 teaspoon Ground black pepper
- 2 teaspoon Margarine
- 3 cups Brown rice cooked in apple juice
- 1/3 cup Rice bran
- 1/3 cup Slivered almonds, toasted
- 1/4 cup Apple juice
Cook apple, onions, celery, raisins, seasoned salt, thyme, and pepper in margarine in large skillet until vegetables are tender.
Stir in remaining ingredients.
Part 3: The Spices
This part is optional but recommended.
- 2 tablespoons salt
- 2 tablespoons paprika
- 1 tablespoon black pepper
- 2 teaspoons dried thyme
Mix them all together.
Part 4: The Assembly
Once the birds are all naked and you have your stuffing, stack them with a sprinkling of spice and a layer of stuffing in between each of them.
First the turkey. Lay it out flat, skin-side down and sprinkle about a third of the spice mix over it.
Then cover that with a generous amount of stuffing (exactly how much you need will depend on the sizes of your birds).
Lay the duck on top and repeat with another third of the spice mix and more stuffing then repeat with the chicken and the remainder of the spice and stuffing.
Next, roll the whole mess up by grabbing the sides of the turkey and lifting them up and over the rest of the birds.
A v-shaped roasting rack can be a great help here.
Please resist the urge to resort to cheap internet jokes.
Pull the edges of the turkey together and sew it up. You MUST use cotton thread. Synthetic threads might melt during roasting. This would be bad.
Truss it so that it looks like a whole turkey again (once again - no synthetic string).
Sitting it on a rack in the roasting dish is a essential. This dish produces a lot of dripping and you don't want to deep-fry its lower half.
Put it in a very slow oven (120°C, 250°F) until it is cooked through. This will take many, many hours. How many will depend on the size of your birds and the composition of your stuffing. The only way to be sure it is cooked through is to check that the temperature at the centre is high enough. It is not done until the centre is at 75°C (165°F) You can buy roasting thermometers in a wide range of styles and prices from a simple analogue dial on a spike to elaborate digital devices like mine.
I highly recommend the | Cook-Chill model from HLP Controls (scroll down).
This model allows you to set high and low temperature alarms and includes a standard kitchen timer. It has a probe on a thin but oven-safe 1 metre cable so you can keep an eye on the progress of the turducken without opening the oven.
The last turducken I made took a bit over 5 hours to cook. You should let it sit for about 15 minutes after taking it out of the oven to let the juices redistribute. (Don't worry, it won't get cold. That much meat mass holds a lot of heat.)
While it is sitting you can use the time to make gravy from the pan drippings. When people who don't appreciate how long this has all taken begin to threaten you if they don't get fed, it is time to carve and serve.
Note: Differences between photo contents are due to them being taken over two different turducken builds.