Deep in the Louisiana bayou, the Cajuns tell the tale of a mad scientist who defied nature to create a hybrid beast, from a chicken, a duck, and a turkey! Herr Doktor Thomas von Turkeystein suceeded with his tasty abomination, the turducken, and I have discovered his secret notes which I will share with you.
Resist the urge to buy the birds already deboned, unless you can also get the butcher to provide you the bones and gizzards. They will be put to good use to make stock for the dressing and best gravy you’ve ever had! Poultry that is already deboned for you can cost almost twice as much as whole. Since you are buying three birds, save your money. It isn’t hard to debone your own birds, with the right cutlery. Don’t worry though, you shouldn’t have to buy a new blade for this. A sharpener might be a good idea, though.
The secret to this is preparation and time. Buy the birds frozen at least a week in advance. Each one will need time to thaw, and you’ll want to take your time deboning them. Once deboned, they can stay refrigerated for a day or two before you are ready to cook. Do not assemble everything until you are ready to cook, in order to prevent contaminating the dressing. For other food safety tips regarding assembling your turducken, visit this USDA fact sheet.
16 to 25 lb turkey
5 to 6 lb duck
3 to 4 lb chicken
Cajun seasoning and/or seasoned salt
6 cups of stuffing (see below)
the bones, giblets, and scraps of meat from all three birds
3 oz carrots, cubed
3 oz celery, cubed
3 oz onion, chopped
1 Tbsp seasoned salt
1/4 tsp whole black peppercorns
1 bay leaf
To Make Gravy
2 cups stock
4 Tbsp cornstarch or flour
salt and pepper to taste
- boning knife or a paring knife; almost any sharp 6-to-8 inch-bladed knife will work
- Kitchen shears / chicken scissors, optional
- cutting board (wash between birds)
- paper towels
- butcher/poutry trussing twine and needle, or poultry skewers
- instant-read thermometer
- shallow roasting pan 2 to 2 1/2 inches deep
- turkey roaster rack that fits in your pan
- aluminum foil
- turkey baster
Thaw your birds
To thaw frozen poultry safely takes time and room in your refrigerator. Adjust racks if you must, and set your unopened poultry breast-side up in your refrigerator. Each bird will need to thaw at least 6 hours for every pound. Yes, that means an average-sized 16 pound turkey will take FOUR DAYS to thaw.
This also means you will not be thawing your birds at the same time. The turkey needs to start thawing before your duck which is followed by your chicken.
- 16 to 25 lb turkey – fridge thaw 4-6 days
- 5 to 6 lb duck – fridge thaw for about 36 hours
- 3 to 4 lb chicken- fridge thaw for about 24 hours
Your thawed poultry can stay in your fridge up to two more days before cooking. Poultry thawed in your fridge can be refrozen safely for use later.
Cold water thawing works faster but you have to change the water about every 30 minutes. Poultry thawed in cold water should be cooked immediately; it should not be refrozen. It’s easier and safer to fridge thaw. For more information about safe thawing, visit the USDA website.
Debone the birds
Unless you are already skilled at deboning your poultry, you will likely want to start with your chicken and duck as a sort of practice for the turkey. The reason this will help is that with the chicken and duck you will be removing all of the bones. (It is personal preference if you want to take the skin off, too. It won’t get crispy inside, but it will flavor the meat and stuffing and help everything cook together.) When you get to the turkey, you will be leaving the drumsticks and wings on, so that once it is stuffed, it will look like a regular turkey.
Remember to save all of the bones and giblet packets. We will be making stock from these bits. Waste not, want not!
Now, when it comes to deboning, I could write out every technique and name of each bone, but if you have never done this before, those words will mean nothing, and even photos won’t really help. So, I am linking to two excellent videos that you should watch (maybe more than once) before breaking out your cutlery. This will boost your confidence and you’ll wonder why you ever paid extra for boneless meat before now.
After deboning each bird, wrap the meat in plastic wrap or save in large plastic bags and put them back in the fridge. Wash your hands, cutting board, and knife in warm, soapy water. Then move on to the next bird.
Make the stock and stuffing
While the three birds refrigerate, make the stock using this recipe from the Morbid Meal archives.
When the stock is done, use some of it for your stuffing. The cool thing about turducken is that you can use three different stuffings if you like. If your family has those arguments about who makes the best, you can use them all!
Here are some recipes to choose from if you don’t already have a family recipe. Pick the one you like and use it, or make three different ones.
Whichever you choose, you don’t need a lot — only about 2 cups per layer, for a total of 6 cups — this is so you won’t overstuff. Any extra can be baked in a casserole seperately.
When it comes to putting everything together, you do not want the stuffing to be cold, as it may not reach the correct temperature inside. So, either assemble with warm, freshly cooked stuffing, or reheat the stuffing to at least room temperature before layering it in.
- Wash down your countertop and cutting board with warm, soapy water and dry completely with paper towels.
- Remove the deboned turkey from the fridge and rinse it completely with water. Dry it completely with paper towels.
- Lay down the turkey meat, skin-side down and season it with cajun seasoning and/or seasoned salt, to your taste.
- Layer onto the meat about 2 cups of stuffing. Tuck some into various nooks and pockets.
- Remove the deboned duck from the fridge and rinse it completely with water. Dry it completely with paper towels.
- Lay the duck skin-side down, as centered onto the turkey as you can. and season it.
- Lay down another layer of stuffing.
- Remove the deboned chicken from the fridge and rinse it completely with water. Dry it completely with paper towels.
- Lay the chicken skin-side down, as centered onto the duck as you can. and season it.
- Lay down the last layer of stuffing.
- Thread twine through a large needle and stich the two sides of the turkey together. (You might need a second person to help hold it together while you sew, or vice-versa.) Sew together the open “back” of the turkey as well as what would be the head and tail cavities. Here’s another excellent video that can help.
- Turn the turducken over so that the stitches are on the bottom and the breast meat is on top. Truss the turkey by tying the wings and legs down. This is primarily for presentation, but it also does help with even cooking.
- Preheat your oven to 325°F. Remove any oven racks that will be in your way. You will want to use a rack between the middle and bottom rungs to make sure there is enough room for air flow all around your monstrosity.
- Lay your turkey roaster rack inside your pan. Lubricate the rack with some butter or oil.
- Place the turducken on roaster rack in the pan, stiched-side down, and cover just the breast meat with foil. This will ensure it cooks evenly with the thighs and drumsticks.
- If you have stock leftover, and there is room under your bird, pour some stock into your pan, with clearance under the bird. This stock will provide a steamy cook for your turduckem keeping it moist, but it will also collect all of the dripping from the meat. You can baste with this later, and then it all gets used in the gravy!
- Cook at 325°F for 4 hours.
- After four hours, take the foil cover off, and check the internal temperature. You are looking for 165°F. At this point it might be around 100°F, and will need probably another 2 hours, depending on its size.
- Check the temperature again and if it is below 165°F, baste again and let it go for another 30 minutes. Repeat until you hit 165°F.
- Remove the bird from the oven and allow to rest for 30 minutes.
- Once cooled, remove the trussing, but leave the bottom stitches. (just be careful not to cut/serve them.)
- Use the drippings and stock from the pan, pour into a saucepan and make gravy! Use about 2 tablespoons of flour or cornstarch for each cup of liquid you have from the pan.
Commercial turduckens are not cheap, especially if you are not local to a butcher who makes them, because they have to be shipped and that adds to the cost. Another factor is the duck. You can find chickens year round, and sales on turkeys around Thanksgiving, but duck? Truth is, your local butcher can likely get one. Some stores sell them frozen. If you have an ethnic/oriental market near you, they will have then frozen, and maybe even fresh. If all you can find of duck is breast meat, then choose a larger chicken and layer as turkey/chicken/duck-breast.
When it came to choose a stuffing, while I really wanted to try all three in one bird, I just didn’t have the stamina or fridge space (or money). So, instead I opted for the “dirty rice” stuffing for two reasons. 1. A cajun dish deserves a cajun stuffing. 2. Dirty rice is completely gluten-free.
Now, if you make the mighty monstrosity and think you are ready for a real challenge, check out this video where some guys made…Pigcowturduckenlingdouille! (Andouille sausage, linguica sausage, chicken, duck, turkey, beef short ribs, inside a whole pig!)
When Christmas comes around, you could try your hand at a traditional Yorkshire Christmas Pie. This grand dish was layers of increasingly large fowl (imagine quail, game hen, chicken, duck, turkey, and goose) baked in a standing pie crust.
Or if you want to try something really olde school, how about acockentrice, which is the combining of a suckling pig and a chicken (a capon to be precise). Maybe von Turkeystein wasn’t so crazy after all!