Do you know the secrets of turducken?
November 17, 2005 3:35 PM   Subscribe

As an American living Down Under, I'm planning to introduce our Aussie friends to true American excess this Thanksgiving with a turducken. I've read a bunch of online recipes but I've never made one before, so I'm looking for tips and tricks from those who have. Do you know the secrets of turducken?

I don't plan on boning the birds myself. Is this going to be a problem? I've got a great butcher in Sydney who's offered to do it for free, so I'm hoping that taking in a print-out of the recipe will be enough for him to go off. Also, which stuffings do people recommend? I've seen sausage stuffing mentioned on numerous recipes but with a couple friends who don't eat pork (Jewish and pseudo-vego), I'd like to avoid it if possible... unless it's actually the key to the whole enterprise, in which case they can get stuffed. So to speak. In terms of time management, we're moving Thanksgiving to Saturday - since it's not a holiday here, of course - so the plan is to make the stuffings early next week; pick the birds up Friday night and assemble the beast; and get up at the crack of dawn Saturday to put it in the oven. Does that sound feasible? Can we make the stuffing ahead of time and freeze it, or is it best to do everything in one go? Should we plan on several hours to assemble the thing, or is it a case of having everything prepared and it taking no time at all? Will two sets of hands be enough, or should we get a third person over to help? And how long does this need to cook, anyway? The recipes I've read have estimates ranging from ten hours to fifteen. I don't want my guests sitting around for ages because the main course isn't ready...

Sorry for so many questions... I just don't want to spend $60 on meat and several hours of time only to have it turn out badly at the end!
posted by web-goddess to Food & Drink (24 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Just to illustrate the cooking time confusion, chef Paul Prudhomme (widely credited with inventing the dish) gives a roasting time of eight hours for the bird to reach 165F inside. But this practically identical recipe says 13-15 hours. WTF?
posted by web-goddess at 3:42 PM on November 17, 2005

Best answer: I debone the birds myself - no problem, just time. There's a trick to deboning it and having it stay in one piece, small sharp knives are your friend here as is some familiarity with avian anatomy.

The sausage stuffing helps protect the inner layers some, but is not essential - I think that the spirit of the turducken is to have one magical animal with three (or more) different kinds of meat (if you really want excess, you can stuff the turducken inside a suckling pig, or add an inner core of pigeon or quail).

I'm not sure that bread/non-solid meat stuffing in the center is a good idea (you're already facing the outside-most layer drying out and stuffing will take a while to cook - unless you stick a really large spoon in the middle to help conduct heat to the center of the thing). It may also make putting the thing togather more difficult (this will depend on how skillfully the innermost bird was deboned).

Depending on whether you chose the right sized birds, putting it together isn't too hard. If you're handy, you can probably do it in a quarter of an hour. If you're not-so-handy or want to get cheaky with stuffed drumsticks and wings, give yourself a full hour.

I did it myself, but an extra set of hands would be nice. Funner, too.

As for cooking times - I've had poor luck with the low-temp, slow roast method. Stick a large metal (!!) spoon in the middle with part of it sticking out - I'll let you decide which end of the bird to have it come out of. This will help conduct heat to the inside of the bird (keep in mind that you'll want to be able to pull it out when the bird's done). Lok (or Look!, I can never remember the "brand name" as I buy off-brand versions) bags (clear plastic bags intended for roasting) can help lock some of the moisture in (open the bag and expose the bird during the last hour-1/2 hour or so to brown the skin). As for cook times, about an hour per every 4 pounds at 325' F. A meat thermometer is your friend, here.


The best darned gravy is one you make yourself. ~3 tblspoons of butter (less if you have limited drippings, more if you have a lot). Heat over medium temp. Slowly shift white flour into it while stirring until you get a roux. Keep adding flour until you get a thick enough consistency that it will now begin to brown. SLOWLY add in the drippings, stirring constantly until you get the consistency you want. To be on the safe side, get some turkey boullion (Knorr makes great boullion) or chicken broth in case you run out of drippings. Optionally, you can add a little white wine into the gravy.
posted by PurplePorpoise at 3:54 PM on November 17, 2005

I'd go with Prudhomme's recommendation of 8 + an hour of rest... he did invent/popularize the thing. There seems to be a modern tendency to overcook meat to get it closer to the magic of 165, which I imagine is where the 13-15 comes from. Also remember that it will likely continue to heat up after you've taken it out of the oven. I overheard a few southern folks drunkenly discussing improvements to the turducken of their youth(?) the other day. One of them claimed that pork/ham/bacon, presumably in the middle, made the whole thing "really come together." I'm assuming that it was something that their Mama builted from scratch, so all bets may be off if you're not ordering a pre-built "bird."

Tangentially related

<disclaimer>I've been a vegetarian--who can cook--for the last 15 years or so</disclaimer>
posted by togdon at 3:56 PM on November 17, 2005

This is a great write up (with recipes) of the whole process, done by The Black Table.
posted by cali at 4:09 PM on November 17, 2005

This was just made on Food TV's Paula's Home Cooking (among other incredibly delicious looking dishes). Recipe here. It says to roast for a total of three hours fifteen minutes, which is such a far cry from 8 or 15 I'm wondering if that's a misprint.
posted by schoolgirl report at 4:23 PM on November 17, 2005

Best answer: See also. Not specific, but kind of fun.
posted by Specklet at 4:26 PM on November 17, 2005

Response by poster: Holy crap, schoolgirl report. That recipe has you roast it at 500F! No wonder it only takes three hours. I can't help but imagine the poor turkey layer would be dry and charred though.
posted by web-goddess at 4:29 PM on November 17, 2005

Response by poster: Oh, wait. You turn it down after fifteen minutes. Still, you're starting the thing off a lot hotter than the other recipes I've seen.
posted by web-goddess at 4:31 PM on November 17, 2005

Can I be honest with you? The turducken is criminally overrated. It's whole pizzaz is in the presentation, not the taste. The duck tends to make the other two meats oily. I've eaten turducken dozens of times, and it is never, ever, ever as good as you think it would be.

I realize this isn't what you asked, but turduckens to me seem like a lot of damn work for a project that is doomed from the beginning. It's three good things squashed together into something bland.

But if you insist, get a butcher to bone it for you. That's the part of the project that requires the most time, patience, and skill.
posted by ColdChef at 4:31 PM on November 17, 2005

Not directly related, but don't forget pumpkin pie! An American co-worker offered me some a couple of years back and I've never forgotten it (or been able to find it since).

It's the kind of thing most Australians would wrinkle their noses at - pumpkin here is for roasting and soup AND NOTHING ELSE BY GOD, but they don't know what they're missing.
posted by Ritchie at 5:58 PM on November 17, 2005

You guys don't eat pumpkin pie?

posted by fishfucker at 7:18 PM on November 17, 2005

I just find myself curious about the vegetarian bona fides of someone who would eat turkey, duck and chicken, but balk at sausage meat.
posted by zadcat at 7:47 PM on November 17, 2005

Our recipe must have been different than Cold Chef's. We tried The Black Table's recipe mentioned above and it turned out great. One thing that seems important though is basting. We ended up with spare duck bits and rendered some of the duck fat to baste with. The magical alchemy of lots of yummy duck fat transformed our turducken into a luscious meat rainbow.
posted by catdog at 8:24 PM on November 17, 2005

turducken isn't nearly gross enough for me. I reflect on what all I have to be thankful for over a hot spit of whole stuffed camel.
posted by mcsweetie at 9:36 PM on November 17, 2005

I did Thanksgiving in Oz for the first time last year, and believe me, turkey by itself is a big enough deal for us down under. I think turducken would be more likely to squick Aussies out than impress them like a single, golden bird that takes up the entire table. I did Alton Brown's recipe (brined the whole turkey in a 5-gallon beer fermenter in a spare fridge), and it turned out great.

Serve it with candied yams (with marshmallows), obscene amounts of mashed potato with gravy, green beans with almonds, cornbread, cranberry sauce, three non-apple pies - pecan, pumpkin and cherry - and plenty of Kool-Aid. Aussies tend not to eat any of the above, (well, beans and potatoes aside) and certainly not all at once in gargantuan American portions.

No Thanksgiving this year (travelling), but I'm already starting to think about deep-fried turkey for next year!
posted by obiwanwasabi at 10:09 PM on November 17, 2005

Response by poster: Richie - Pumpkin pie is definitely gonna be a part of the festivities. I've made them from scratch here before but it's just not authentic American unless it comes from a can. USA Foods in Melbourne is perfect for that kind of thing. (And not to mention Stove Top, if you're into that soft of thing...)

I've done the full-on Thanksgiving Dinner for the Aussies a couple times, but really it's just too damn hot here at the end of November to do much cooking. This year I'm telling the guests to each bring a dish so that way nobody gets stuck over a stove all day.
posted by web-goddess at 10:20 PM on November 17, 2005

Sweet potato pie just like pumpkin but better.
posted by hortense at 11:46 PM on November 17, 2005

Have you thought of using a non-pork sausage for the sausage stuffing? Seems like a pretty simple solution to me... turkey sausage is quiet yummy. :)
posted by antifuse at 1:22 AM on November 18, 2005

i don't know the secret ... i've never tried it ... but this page has instructions for safety

you should not put the stuffing in the turkey when you're cooking it

it's my experience that cooking a regular turkey requires a lot of attention to get it just right ... turducken sounds even harder
posted by pyramid termite at 7:37 AM on November 18, 2005

Response by poster: You *have* to put the stuffing in the turducken before cooking it. Otherwise it's just a deflated pile of meat! But thanks for the safety page. We're definitely planning to go with the "higher temperature for a shorter time" route.
posted by web-goddess at 1:51 PM on November 18, 2005

We did a Turducken for American Thanksgiving in my Canadian household last year, and are planning another one this year. If you're good with a knife in the kitchen (like my roommate!) then deboning it yourself is not a problem. When we were at the poultry shop i noticed little frozen cornish hens that were about the size of a softball. We took one of those, thawed and deboned it, and placed it in the core of the turducken. Our other variation was to use a different style stuffing between each layer. The whole thing took longer to cook than we expected but turned out great. Give me a minute and I'll post a few photos of the process.
posted by thecjm at 7:00 AM on November 19, 2005

I've made them in the past, and they always turn out well, but I've also tried ordering them. There are a bunch of gourmet suppliers you can order pre-stuffed and de-boned turduckens from. They get shipped with freezer packs and precise cooking times and aren't that expensive. They always turn out perfectly, better than ones I try to do from scratch.
posted by TunnelArmr at 3:03 PM on November 22, 2005

Best answer: FOLLOW-UP: Thanks to everyone for their advice! Our turducken turned out amazing. I can see ColdChef's point about the taste being a bit underwhelming, but to be honest the whole point was about unveiling it before our guests and hearing them gasp as my husband cut down through the middle. It was so impressive-looking and everyone loved it! I took a ton of photos documenting the process if anyone's interested. Our final cooking time was about seven hours at 350°F (though we may have overcooked it a tiny bit; you could probably do it even quicker).
posted by web-goddess at 12:35 AM on November 27, 2005

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