In the two years previous (1998-1999), an X-treme BBQ, held outside regardless of the weather on Super Bowl Sunday, has proved to be wildly popular among graduate students in the Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences Department at the University of Colorado at Boulder. The highlights of X-treme BBQ I included lots of steak, and cooking bacon-wrapped steak, chicken, pork, and whatever else we could get our hands on. At X-treme BBQ II, Chris Boozer smoked a turkey inside a BBQ grill.
For X-treme BBQ III, it was realized that the event had to be taken up another notch. It was decided by the members of the BBQ Executive committee to commit to creating a turducken, a Frankensteinian creature few people had heard of, and no one had any experience creating.
Despite this, the committee decided to meet the challenge head-on. Invites went out by email and via an invitation website for the January 30, 2000 event. About 40 people showed up to witness the first successful (and salmonella-free!) Colorado Turducken, which turned out to be delicious. The third annual Super Bowl Sunday X-treme BBQ was an unqualified success
Since the turducken would be a memorable objet de fete, why not turn it into an objet d'art as well? Ideas ran the gamut from sticking a couple of trout out of the sides, to creating an arachnid appearance with snow crab legs. In the end, we opted for something simple:
The finished turducken was dressed with a vest of spare ribs, a bacon bow tie, and a bacon belt with a working eggplant belt buckle.
What is a Turducken?
A turducken consists of a chicken inside a duck inside a turkey. Here is Paul Prudhomme's recipe. We actually based our recipe on Prudhomme's original (and unillustrated) recipe that differs from this current version in some minor ways.
The turducken was a hefty beast indeed. We didn't have a bathroom scale to weigh it (and probably wouldn't want to even if we did), but we estimate the final concoction to be above 30 lbs. before cooking. The bone-on weights for the three fowls were 30 lbs. for the turkey, 8 lbs. for the duck, and 4 lbs. for the chicken.
Although the feast would be on Sunday, planning was begun more than a week before, with the first step in the process (preparing stock) done four days before, on Wednesday. More than half a dozen people were involved in the various stages of the recipe. The birds were deboned and assembled into the massive amalgam over a five hour period on Saturday. The completed turducken went into the oven, set to 190 F (88 C), at 9pm Saturday night, and was taken out on noon on Sunday. Because of a delay in preparing the gravy, the ceremonial First Slice did not occur until about 2:15pm.
Other Foods (Mostly Meat):
We exhorted our guests not to bring anything else to cook if they were meat-eaters, but to provide side dishes (like vegetables!) to share. Unfortunately the single non-turducken related side that appeared that day was a forlorn looking bean/corn dish that sat alone and unwanted for much of the afternoon. It appeared that the meat eaters were present in force and they weren't to be satisfied by anything less than cooked animal flesh.
Luckily we also prepared back-up steak and spare ribs, in addition to the mighty turducken. The appetizer meat, divvied up into large chunks, kept the crowd at bay while the main course was waited on.
Turducken/BBQ Executive Committee:
- Ka Chun Yu, Barbecue Executive Officer
- Chris Boozer, Master Chef and Administrator
- Jason Tumlinson, Chief Cooking Officer and MC
- Aaron Lewis, Miscellaneous Meat Detail
- Kamran Sahami, Turkey Chief, Festooner, and Official Photographer
- Amanda Sickafoose, Auxiliary Chef
- Matt Beasley, Auxiliary Chef
- Beth White, Gravy Director
- Erin Chylinski, Kitchen Supervisor
- Marc Derosa, Good Will Grand Pooh Bah
For those who are strong-of-heart and have ironclad stomachs to boot, proceed onward to the Illustrated Turducken Recipe!
Step 1: Starting With Paul Prudhomme's Recipe
Since the stuffing making is rather ho-hum, we've used the original recipe (for the most part) with few comments and pictures. Most of the pictures involve the (de-)boning of the birds, and the assemblage of the whole turducken, since those are processes that people are most unfamiliar with.
Introduction (Part II)
Budget your time carefully! The turducken takes 12-13 hours to cook, and you must let it cool for at least 1 hour before carving. First make sure the temperature of your oven can be accurately determined. If you're not sure, just purchase an oven thermometer instead of relying on the oven's automatic temperature control. (Alternatively you can get your oven professionally adjusted so that it is accurate. Note that oven temperature controls can drift over time.) Since the turducken is cooked at a very low temperature, you can leave it in several hours longer than suggested. Depending on its final mass, the turducken can remain hot for hours afterwards.
We believe an improper oven temperature was probably the downfall of the Austin Chronicle's turducken attempt. They cooked for 12+ hours without it really being done. We recommend checking your oven temperature with an oven thermometer to determine where it should be set for it to hold a steady 190 F (88 C) temperature. Remember that many ovens don't even have a mark on the dial for temperatures below 200 F (93 C). At such low temperatures, an oven mis-set by as little as 10 F (6 C) means the difference between cooking the turducken and warming it. (Many ovens can be off by as much as 30-40 F [17-22 C] !)
Although we didn't have an oven thermometer handy, we did have thermocouple which could be hooked up on the outside so the oven temperature could be monitored without opening the oven door.
There was a good chance our turducken was at the proper doneness temperature at 12 hours, since the bird was a nice golden brown at that point. However since we didn't have a meat thermometer handy for another 3 hours, we didn't take it out until the 15 hour mark. By then, the internal temperature was a rock solid 185F (85C), enough to kill any lurking bacteria. Leaving it in for that long didn't make it any less juicy.
Get lots of friends or family to help make the dressings (stuffings). When the dressings are finished, refrigerate them so they will be cold when you apply them to the meat. When boning the meat, be sure to reserve the bones and necks for stock. You can bone and prepare the turducken the day before cooking, and keep it refrigerated until you are ready to put it in the oven. The gravy can be made after you've pulled the turducken out of the oven.
Getting lots of friends and family is the right idea. Shopping for all the ingredients turned out to be a chore in itself. Note that a 25 lb. turkey will take about a week to defrost in the refrigerator.
Also note that the original Prudhomme recipe was confusing about what came first. The dressing recipes require stock. So unless you have extra giblets lying around, you must have the turkey defrosted so you can harvest parts for stock before you do anything else! Otherwise you could save the turkey, duck, and chicken bones for future stock, but not for stock to be used in the turducken recipe.
The dressings (stuffings) for the turducken are as follows: 7 cups of andouille dressing, 4 cups cornbread dressing, 3 cups oyster dressing. Additional dressing can be served at the table, so it's useful to make more than the above amounts.
We had a 30 lb. turkey, about a 20% increase over the recommended size. We increased our other two birds accordingly to 8 lbs. for the duck, and 4 lbs. for the chicken. To cover the extra area, we made twice as much dressing for the turkey and the duck, but kept the chicken dressing the same.
Start de-boning the turkey, which is easier to work with because of its size. Afterwards proceed with the duck and chicken.
Here's one place where we don't agree with Paul. We recommend cutting your teeth (so to speak) by de-boning the chicken and the duck first. They are certainly smaller than the turkey, but you can be less forgiving on yourself for mistakes since they are buried inside the finished turducken. You don't want to make any mistakes at all on the turkey (which will be on the cosmetically important outside), especially when cutting the breast bone away from the skin. One wrong turn of the knife and you will have an unsightly hole, which if you don't patch up, could dry out the turducken.
Step 2: Main Ingredients
# 2 servings Cornbread stuffing (recipe link)
# 4 servings Chestnut-Shitake Mushroom stuffing (recipe link)
# 1 (20- to 25-pound) turkey
# 1 (4- to 5-pound) domestic duckling
# 1 (3- to 3-1/2-pound) chicken
# 5 servings Sweet Potato Eggplant Gravy (recipe link)
# 1 3-inch needle with a curved tip
# Thread to sew up the turducken
# 1 hammer
# 1 (15 x 11-inch) baking pan, at least 2-1/2 inches deep
# 1 pan, big enough to hold the 15 x 11-inch pan with a gap in-between
We had a 30 lb. turkey (bought for $5 at a post-Thanksgiving special--remember that turkeys can be kept in the freezer for up to a year!) so we scaled up the duck to 8 lbs., and the chicken to 4 lbs.
We multiplied the proportions in the andouille sausage and cornbread dressings by two. Because of some reticence in our group about eating oysters, we substituted a chestnut & shitake mushroom dressing that follows pretty much the same recipe as Prudhomme's original oyster dressing concoction.
Since we wanted to give ourselves plenty of time since we had never done this before, the cornbread was made three days before the turducken was to be eaten; the three dressings were made two days before; the fowl were deboned and the turducken was constructed a day before (taking a total of 5 hours).
It's nice to refrigerate the cooked dressings for at least a better part of a day, so they won't be all runny when you apply them to the turducken.
Step 3: Boning Tips
1. The turkey will be completely boned except for the tip end of each leg, and the first two joints of each wing. The duck and chicken will be completely boned. Each bird will be effectively one large piece of meat.
2. Except for the initial cuts, avoid slicing through the turkey skin, Not only are slits unsightly, they can grow bigger during cooking and dry out your turducken.
3. Give yourself plenty of time to de-bone the fowl. You want to end up with as much meat as possible in the final end-products.
4. De-bone one side, left or right, of each bird before proceeding to the other side.
5. Use mainly the tip of a very sharp knife. Keep the knife close to the bone to minimize injuries (god forbid!) and to ensure you end up with maximum meat in the boned birds.
Step 4: Basic Game Stock
Use this recipe to make 4 gallons of stock.
* 5 gallons cold water (or enough cold water to cover the ingredients for stock)
* 6 medium onions (quartered, leave peals on)
* 1 stalk celery (separate into ribs)
* 1 large head garlic (unpeeled, halve crosswise to expose meat)
* 1-1/2 to 2 pounds bones and necks from the turkey, duck and chicken
Place all of the ingredients into a big stockpot. Turn your burner on high until you reach a boil, and then turn it down to get a low simmer. Simmer for 4-8 hours (the longer the better), while adding additional water as needed. You want to end up with about 4 gallons of liquid in the end. Strain the stock to remove solids, then cool and refrigerate.
Even if you do not have much time, making a using a stock that has been simmered for 20-30 minutes is still preferable to using plain water.
Step 5: Cornbread
We doubled the ingredients in this recipe since we planned to make twice as much cornbread dressing.
This recipe makes 6 cups of cornbread:
* 1 and 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 2/3 cup cornmeal
* 1 and 1/3 cups milk
* 2/3 cup sugar
* 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
* 1/2 cup corn flour
* 1 small egg, beaten
* 5 teaspoons baking powder
Set the oven to 350 F (177 C).
Mix the flour, cornmeal, sugar, corn flour, baking powder and salt together in one bowl, while making sure that any lumps are broken apart. In a second large bowl, mix the milk, butter and egg. Blend this into the first bowl, while making sure everything is well mixed and all lumps are gone. Avoid overbeating.
Place the mix into a greased 8 x 8-inch baking pan and bake for 55 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from the oven immediately and let it cool.
Step 6: Andouille Sausage Stuffing
The following recipe makes 5 cups of stuffing.
* 4 tablespoons margarine
* 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
* 4 cups onions, chopped
* 2 tablespoons sweet paprika
* 2 cups chopped celery
* 2 tablespoons minced garlic
* 2 cups green bell peppers, chopped
* 1 and 1/4 pounds andouille smoked sausage
* 2 cups turkey, duck or chicken stock
* 1 and 1/2 cups very fine dry bread crumbs
Set the oven to 425 F (218 C).
Place the margarine in a large skillet on high heat. When the margarine is melted, toss in half of the onions (2 cups), celery (1 cup), and bell peppers (1 cup). Saute for 10-12 minutes or until the onions are dark brown. Add the andouille sausage and cook for about 5 minutes, or until the meat is browned. Add the remaining onions, celery, and bell peppers; also toss in the butter, paprika, garlic, while stirring the whole time. Lower the heat to medium and stir while cooking for about 3 minutes. Pour in the stock and allow to simmer. Continue simmering for about 10 minutes, or until the water evaporates. Stir in the bread crumbs.
Pour the stuffing into an un-greased 8 x 8-inch baking dish. Bake for about 45 minutes, or until it is browned on top. Occasionally stir and scrap the bottom of the pan every 15 minutes.
Step 7: Cornbread Stuffing
The following original recipe makes about 8 cups.
# 2 tablespoons Chef Paul Prudhomme's Poultry Magic
# 3/4-pound turkey/duck/chicken giblets
# 1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter
# 4 tablespoons margarine
# 1 cup turkey, duck and/or chicken stock (instructions here)
# 3/4-cup finely chopped onions
# 1 tablespoon Chef Paul Prudhomme's Magic Pepper Sauce
# 3/4-cup finely chopped green bell peppers
# 1/2-cup finely chopped celery
# 5 cups finely crumbled cornbread (instructions here)
# 1 tablespoon mined garlic
# 2 bay leaves
# 1 (13-ounce) can evaporated milk (1-2/3 cups)
# 3 eggs (beatened)
Boil the turkey, duck, and/or chicken giblets until tender. Then chop up finely, or grind.
Set your oven to 350 F (177 C).
Melt the butter and margarine in a large frying pan over high heat. Then add the onions, bell peppers, celery, garlic and bay leaves and saute for 2 minutes. Add the Poultry Magic and cook for about 5 minutes, or until the vegetables are soft. Add the giblets, stock and Magic Pepper Sauce, and cook for another 5 minutes while constantly stirring. Take the skillet off the burner and add the cornbread, milk and eggs. After stirring some more, Spoon dressing into a greased 13 x 9-inch baking pan.
Put the stuffing into the oven and bake for 35-40 minutes, or until it is browned on top.
Step 8: Chestnut-Shitake Mushroom Stuffing
- About 12 chestnuts
- 2 ounces shitake mushrooms, sliced into thin Â½ inch long strips
- 1 cup cold water
- 6 ounces (1 and 1/2 sticks) margarine
- 1 and 1/2 cups onions, chopped
- 1 cup celery, chopped
- 1 cup green bell peppers, chopped
- 1 teaspoon garlic,minced
- 1 cup very fine dry bread crumbs
- 2 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
- 1/2 cup green onions, chopped
- 1/2 cup parsley, finely minced
Set the oven for 350 F (177 C).
Melt 4 tablespoons of the margarine in a large skillet over high heat. When margarine is almost melted, add the frissade (sliced) mushrooms, and saute for about 1 minute. Remove mushroom with a slotted spoon, leaving as much of the margarine in the pan as possible, and reserve to the side.
Add 3/4 cup of the onions, 1/2 cup each of the celery and bell peppers. Saute over high heat until onions are dark brown but not burned, about 8 minutes, stirring frequently.
When onions are browned, stir 2 teaspoons of the seasoning mix and the garlic into the skillet. Reduce heat to medium and continue cooking for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the remaining 3/4 cup onions, 1/2 cup celery, 1/2 cup bell peppers and 1 stick margarine, and 1/4 cup of the green onions, 1/4 cup of the parsley, and the bay leaves. Stir until margarine is melted.
Continue cooking about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the remaining seasoning mix and enough bread crumbs to make a moist but not runny dressing. Stir in chestnuts and mushrooms and cook for another minute. Remove from heat. Spoon dressing into an un-greased baking pan and bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven, discard bay leaves and stir in the butter and the remaining 1/4 cup each green onions and parsley.
Transfer to a bowl and refrigerate.
Step 9: Boning the Turkey (Part I)
You will want a large flat surface, big enough to place the entire turkey breast down. The first cut will be along the entire length of the spine. You will start from the neck end, and use the tip of the knife to puncture through the skin and meat. Follow as close to the bone as you can, while carefully cutting the skin and meat away from the bones. At the neck end, feel for the shoulder blade, and then cut through the meat to expose it. If you can't find it, cut through small portions of the meat until you can locate the shoulder blade. Cut away the meat, before finally severing the bone at the joint so you can remove the blade.
Step 10: Boning the Turkey (Part II)
To free the thighbone from the rest of the skeleton, cut through the ball-and-socket joint. Once you have done this, the bird can be opened up some more, letting you see what you have left to do. You can continue cutting and teasing the meat away until you get to the breastbone at the center-front part of the bird. Now very delicately -- remember the skin is thin here! -- cut the skin away from the breastbone without puncturing the skin.
Step 11: Boning the Turkey (Part III)
Now we remove the thighbone and leg bone from each side -- again be very careful to avoid puncturing the skin! Use your hammer to break the leg bone completely from about 2 inches from the tip of the leg. Feel the ends of the bone with your hands to make sure you have a clean break. You will leave the tip of the bone in, but remove the leg bone and thighbone in one piece. Again using the tip of the knife, cut and tease the meat away from around the thighbone.
Now while holding the thighbone with one hand, cut the meat away from around the leg-thigh joint. Do not cut through the leg-thigh joint. Scrape the meat away from the leg bone with the knife, and remove the leg-thigh bone. Use your hands to remove as many pin bones from the leg meat.
Now push the tip of the leg bone back into the meat so that the skin is on the outside again. Place the de-boned turkey on a large sheet pan. If you have already de-boned the chicken and duck, you can immediately begin construction of the turducken. Otherwise place the turkey in the refrigerator while you work on the other two birds.
Save the bones and neck for the stock.
Step 12: Boning the Duck
To remove the wings, cut off the first two joints of the wing (and reserve for the stock). Now cut and tease the meat from around the drumstick, and remove this bone.
Again be careful when cutting to avoid piercing the skin. When you reach the thigh, follow the thigh-leg bone with the knife to free the bone as one whole unit.
Cut off the excess skin and fat from the neck. Trim the skin and again save it for the gravy; you can toss out the fat. Refrigerate the duck and skin pieces if you still have the chicken and/or turkey to de-bone.
Step 13: Boning the Chicken
Step 14: Assembling the Turducken (Part I)
Step 15: Assembling the Turducken (Part II)
Finally finish it off with the chicken and repeat the previous steps. At each stage, you'll need less seasoning and smaller amounts of dressing.
Step 16: Assembling the Turducken (Part III)
Make the stitches about 1 inch apart. And when you are done with one side of the turducken, turn it over and close up the openings on the other side. Tie the legs together, and place the whole thing breast side up in a large pan. Tuck in the turkey wings along the bottom as well. Make a final seasoning run on the exposed skin of the turkey.
Now find an even larger pan, at least 2-1/2 inches deep, and place the first pan in that. This second pan will catch any drippings that overflow the first pan while the turducken cooks.
Our turducken is so large that it took two people to gently nestle the turducken into its new home for the next 12+ hours. The oven wasn't deep enough to have the turducken axis pointed outwards. We had to take the turducken out and turn it 90 degrees after the last photo below was taken. Even then, there was only a couple inches clearance on each side. Until they make consumer ovens much bigger, we have obviously hit a technological barrier in the road to assembling even larger turduckens.
Step 17: Cooking the Turducken and Making the Gravy
By 7am the next morning, turducken smells pervaded the entire house. The skin of the turkey had turned a golden brown. The baster had to be used to remove juices every half an hour, resulting in over 1-1/2 gallons worth of drippings that sat in the fridge.
The turducken was finally tested with a meat thermometer which showed a healthy 185 F (85 C). It was pulled out of the oven shortly after 12 noon on Sunday.
Since the turducken needed to cool for at least an hour, it had to be carefully transfered out of its cooking pan, and onto cutting boards. This is tricky since there is no internal skeleton holding it up. We had to use multiple spatulas and flat kitchen gear to transplant it from the pan.
While it was cooling, we made the gravy using the pan drippings and the duck skin. We more or less followed the original Prudhomme recipe for the gravy. (Note that this differs slightly from the current Prudhomme recipe.) We ended up using 8-10 cups of dry ingredients and 16 cups of stock, and after 40 minutes of simmering, boiled it down to 4-5 cups of gravy.
# 4 teaspoons Chef Paul Prudhomme's Meat Magic
# 3 bay leaves
# 1/2 cup drippings from turducken, plus the reserved duck skin
# 8 cups turkey, duck or chicken stock (recipe follows)
# 1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
# 4 cups peeled and chopped eggplant
# 1 cup peeled sweet potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch dice
# 1 and 1/2 cups chopped onions
# 3 tablespoons grand Marnier
# 1 cup peeled and finely chopped sweet potatoes
# 1/2 cup finely chopped green onions
# 1 teaspoon minced garlic
Place the drippings and duck skin in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 3 cups of the eggplant and saute until eggplant starts to get soft, translucent and brown, about 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the onions and remaining 1 cup eggplant; cook until the onions start to brown, about 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the finely chopped sweet potatoes; continue cooking and stirring for 4 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the bay leaves, 3 teaspoons of the Meat Magic and stir well, scraping pan bottom as needed.
Next, stir 1 cup of the stock into the vegetables and cook 2 minutes, then add another 1 cup stock; cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in 1/4 cup of the sugar and cook 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add another 1 cup stock and cook 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the remaining 1/4 cup sugar and 1 cup more stock; cook 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, then add another 1 cup stock and cook 10 minutes more, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to low and simmer 13 minutes. Stir in another 1 cup stock and simmer 3 minutes more. Remove from heat and strain well, forcing as much liquid as possible through the strainer.
Place the strained gravy in a 2-quart saucepan. Add the diced sweet potatoes and 1 cup stock; bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat and simmer 3 minutes, skimming off any froth from the surface. Stir in the grand Marnier and continue simmering 7 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the green onions, the remaining teaspoon of Meat Magic and 1 cup more stock. Bring gravy to a boil and simmer until it reduces to about 3 cups, about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Makes about 3 cups.
Step 18: Decorating the Turducken ... Waiting for the Gravy
Step 19: The First Slice
Step 20: End of the Turducken
Step 21: Other Turducken Links
- Paul Prudhomme's Turducken Recipe; his original recipe can be found here:
o Culinary Cafe
- Wikipedia Turducken
- Lynn Garry Salmon's Turducken page
- Ken Laster's Turducken Page with some nice pictures
- Boof's Turducken Page!, which includes the definition of engastration: the stuffing of one bird inside another
- Night of the Turducken, an alternate slightly simpler recipe from the Austin Chronicle
- A Holiday Hybrid, an article from the Augusta Chronicle
- Turducken FAQ from Louisiana Cajun Crawfish