John Madden always talked about his favorite Thanksgiving Day meal – the Turducken. This Frankenstein bird is amazing, full of flavor and juice! But, the construction of one is a massive process, and not for one that is easily accomplished if you are not good at preparing poultry.
The overall recipe will take well over 9 hours to cook at 225 degrees F, so you will have a multi-day preparation. You can’t just get up on Thanksgiving day morning and start this bad bird! You need to make cornbread, and turn it into cornbread stuffing! And you need to make sausage stuffing! Never mind the whole process of the Turducken!!
- 15 to 20 lb whole turkey. If frozen, you will need to thaw it a few days early
- 4 to 5 lb whole duck
- 4 to 5 lb whole chicken
- Cotton string or butcher’s twine
- Cheese cloth
Ingredients for Dry Rub:
- 2 tbsp salt
- 2 tbsp paprika
- 1 tbsp black pepper
- 2 tsp dried thyme
- 2 tbsp basil
- 2 tbsp oregano
Ingredients for Sausage Stuffing:
- 1 stick of butter
- 2 large Vidalia or yellow onions to make 3 cups
- 8 stalks of celery to make 1 ½ cups
- 2 lbs spicy Italian sausage
- 3 tbsp paprika
- 1 whole bunch garlic
- 3 cups of turkey or chicken stock
- 3 cups of toasted bread crumbs (Italian) (more may be needed if mixture is too wet)
Ingredients for Cornbread Stuffing:
- 1 cornbread (see https://www.greginks.com/food/cornbread-recipe/)
- 2 tbsp butter
- 3 stalks of celery to make ½ cup (chopped)
- 1 small Vidalia or yellow onion
- 2 eggs
- 2 cups of turkey or chicken stock
- 2 tbsp dried sage
The Turducken Workplan:
- T-2 days till Thanksgiving Dinner: Prepare the Cornbread (See my Cornbread recipe for a simple but good one! It takes about an hour). Also – brine your turkey!!
- T-1 days till Thanksgiving Dinner: Prepare the Cornbread stuffing (30 minutes), the Dry Rub, the Sausage Stuffing (1 hour), Prepare the Birds (3 hours), and Assemble the Turducken (1 hour)
- T-10 hours till Thanksgiving Dinner: Cook the Turducken (9 to 10 hours, we hope!)
Prepare the Cornbread Stuffing (30 minutes):
- Assuming you cooked your cornbread the day before, it should be nice and cool and dry at this point.
- Crumble the cornbread – ½ inch chunks should be good
- Sauté celery and onion in butter until soft and slightly caramelized
- In a large bowl, combine celery, onions, 3 cups of crumbled cornbread, eggs (beaten), turkey or chicken stock, sage, salt and pepper to taste. Mix
- Check the consistency. If it is too wet, add more cornbread crumble. If it is too dry, add more butter and turkey or chicken stock.
- Set aside for later assembly
Prepare the Dry Rub:
- Assemble the spices. Mix.
- Set aside for later assembly
Prepare the Sausage Stuffing (1 hour):
- Melt the butter in a large skillet
- Add 3 cups of onions and 1 ½ cups of celery (chopped reasonably small, but not minced)
- Sauté the onion and celery mix until the onions are completely caramelized (but not burnt)
- Add the 2 lbs of sausage and cook till browned, stirring often
- Add paprika and minced garlic and cook for an additional 3 minutes over medium heat, stirring often
- Add 3 cups of chicken or turkey stock and bring up to a simmer
- Cook until water evaporates and the oil rises to the top (10 to 15 minutes)
- Stir in 2 to 3 cups of toasted bread crumbs and mix well
- Add more bread crumbs if it is still too moist
- Set aside for later assembly
Prepare the Birds (1 hour per bird, 3 hours total):
- Do not crack open any beer during this step – you need your witts about you and need to watch the knife!
- Start with the Turkey
- Rinse the Turkey. Remove any gizzards, necks, bones, giblets, etc. Set aside for later for gravy.
- Put the turkey breast side down on a clean flat surface
- Cut thru the skin along the spine.
- With the tip of a sharp knife, starting from the neck, separate the meat from the rib cage on one side.
- At the neck end, cut the meat away to show the shoulder blade, and cut meat away from and around the bone. When you can, cut the bone at the joint to remove the shoulder blade.
- Keep the wing but keep any meat from the body attached – you are just trying to remove the bone and cartilage from the rib cage.
- Separate the meat from the frame, down toward the thighbone.
- Repeat the whole procedure on the other side of the bird
- TAKE YOUR TIME – the goal here is to remove the bones and cartilage from the center cage, but leave a “skin and meat body” left that resembles a turkey
- Any carcass and bones that you remove save for gravy!
- You should end up with a very flat, boneless, piece of turkey with skin intact in one large piece, including legs and wings
- Wrap with plastic wrap and put in the fridge so it does not spoil or dry out while you move on to the duck.
- Repeat the entire process, line for line, for the duck with the following modifications:
- Cut away the wings and legs. Leave the meat attached but remove any bones. You don’t need to be as clean with this bird.
- The goal with these next two birds is to remove the chest and spine bones, and leave the wing and leg meat without bone. We want a “meat cake”.
- Make sure you trim excess skin and fat from the birds where it is appropriate. Ducks are very fatty and will get greasy when it cooks. If you save the skin and fat that was excess, it will make a great gravy along with the bones.
- Repeat the entire process for the chicken
- Proceed to have a few beers – you have earned them!
Assemble the Turducken (1 hour):
- Open a beer. Take a sip. Now comes the fun part.
- Spread the turkey, skin down, on a flat surface. Expose as much meat as possible
- Rub the Dry Rub evenly on the meat of the turkey
- Spread sausage stuffing over the turkey, approximately ½ to ¾ inch thick
- Drink some more beer. You should be proud of how this first layer looks.
- Place the duck, skin down, on top of the stuffing. Keep the “neck up” on both birds so it lines up
- Rub the Dry Rub evenly on the meat of the duck
- Spread cornbread stuffing over the duck, approximately ½ inch thick
- Drink some even more beer. Madden is smiling somewhere!
- Place the chicken, skin down, on top of the stuffing. Keep the “neck up” on all three birds so it lines up
- Rub the Dry Rub evenly on the meat of the chicken
- Spread the remaining sausage and cornbread stuffing’s on the chicken
- Talk a buddy into checking out what you did. Have a few sips of beer and toast to the feast!
- With your partner, and carefully lift each side of the layered birds, folding together, like you are going to stitch up the Frankenstein, uh, I mean Turducken, back together. Cause that is the next step!
- While your partner holds the bird together, sew the opening down the back of the turkey together with the cotton or butchers twine. It doesn’t matter too much if it is perfect, but work as best as you can. If there are major gaps, use a cheese cloth (or other kitchen cloth for cooking) to cover the spots for when we “flip the bird” (coming soon).
- The Turducken has no skeleton, so you must tie the lets together, and truss up the bird (use cotton or butchers twine to pull the legs and wings to the sides of the body, holding them in place, so that they do not split apart while cooking).
- Tie 4 or 5 pieces of cotton or butchers twine around the bird width-wise, to act as a bit of a skeleton
- GENTLY, turn the bird over and place in the roasting pan so it is positioned breast side up and looks somewhat “normal”.
- Tie the legs together just above the tips as a last step.
- Finish off your six pack, if you haven’t already. You are well on your way to Turducken Heaven!
Cook the Turducken (9 to 10 hours, we hope!):
- Heat oven to 225 degrees F
- You need to have a good oven with good temperature control. This is key! Use additional baking temperature gauges inside the oven if you have to.
- Add a meat thermometer inside the bird (with remote wire) to monitor the internal temperature
- Place the bird in the oven and bake until a meat thermometer in the bird reads 165 degrees (fingers crossed about 12-14 hours)
- RELY ON THE TEMPERATURE NOT THE TIME!
- You don’t have to baste the bird, but you do need to pull out the drippings. There will be a lot! Save the drippings for gravy!
- To serve, cut the bird right down the middle (width-wise). Slice it like a cake.
- Eat, Drink, and be Merry!