As if the traditional gluttony of Thanksgiving wasn’t enough already, those food-obsessed Southerners have upped the ante with the creation of the turducken. It brings an all new meaning to “layered flavor” to the table. A turducken consists of a regular turkey that has been de-boned and is stuffed with a boneless duck. If that wasn’t enough, a boneless chicken is stuffed within the cavity of the duck, and the three are cooked together in perfect poultry harmony.
Although other southern states, including Texas, have claimed ownership of the original turducken recipe, Lake Charles, Louisiana is said to be its hometown. Some name famous chef Paul Prudhomme as its creator. His website has the most detailed instructions on how to prepare a turducken feast, complete with sausage and cornbread dressings, or stuffing, recipes. Although his recipes have a Cajun flair, turducken can be prepared to suit any preference.
The turducken has steadily become more accepted as a Thanksgiving Day main course, though many still consider it an oddity, or just plain bizarre. Many traditionalists believe that it violates some unwritten rule about how turkey should be prepared.
Turducken aficionados say that the layering of poultry produces a rich, varied taste due to the mingling of all the juices of the different birds, which baste each other during the cooking. One could say that turducken has inspired a virtual cult following, with many fans opting to have “Turducken Day” either on Thanksgiving or over the following weekend. This is a way to have a more relaxed, causal gathering of friends or family without all the stress and drama of Thanksgiving.
There are several variations on the turducken, including the turduckencorpheail, which adds a Cornish game hen, a pheasant and a quail to a turducken. As long as the birds get progressively smaller and there’s room to spare, people keep trying to get more birds into one. There’s also the chuckey, in which the chicken is stuffed with the duck instead of the other way around. Turduckens can be grilled, braised or barbecued and seasoned to any preference.
Preparing a turducken is by no means an easy task. It requires about eight to nine hours of cooking in a 225° Fahrenheit (107° Celsius) oven, in addition to the time it takes to de-bone the turkey, chicken and duck. The shopping list to make a turducken includes a 16 to 20 pound (7.25-9 kilograms) turkey, a four to five pound (1.8-2.25 kg) duck and a three to four pound (1.36-1.8 kg) chicken.
For the cook who has never de-boned poultry, there are instructions on the Internet and in some general cookbooks. Some specialty butchers may offer the service for an extra charge. After the de-boning is completed, the birds are laid open, spread with stuffing and seasonings, then layered with the next bird, and so on. After the turkey is completely stuffed, it is trussed, or tied up to keep its shape.
Once the turducken has reached an internal temperature of 165°F (74°C), it is ready to remove from the oven. After an hour of cooling, it should be cut in half, then carved cross-wise to reveal the layered cross section. This is where the turducken really shines. For the casual chef, the idea of making turducken is a veritable Everest of culinary feats. If this is the case, turduckens may be purchased pre-assembled online for approximately 65 to 80 US dollars (USD), and they are shipped frozen and ready to cook.