What is a Turducken?
A turducken is a turkey stuffed with a duck that has been stuffed with a chicken. This three-bird entree is a popular alternative to roasted turkey at the holidays in the United States, especially in the south where it is supposed to have been first created. Turducken first became popular in the 1980s, but the basis for this dish dates back to the times of Kings and Queens. This extravagant entree is mainly consumed in the United States during the winter holiday season. The traditional recipe for turducken is very rich and not so easy on the waistline, but there are a few tips to preparing your turducken that can make it as healthy as possible.
Ingredients and Equipment
Before learning how to cook a turducken, start by purchasing a small chicken, roughly 3 to 4 pounds, a medium-sized duck, roughly 5 to 6 pounds, and a 15 to 20 pound turkey. All three birds must be completely deboned, except for the turkey that can keep its legs and wings for appearance, if desired. it is best to ask you butcher to debone the birds for you.
You will also need some butcher’s twine, a small metal skewer to help bind the birds together, a large roasting pan and quick-read meat thermometer. Seasonings, like salt, pepper and low-sodium poultry seasoning, are optional.
How to Cook a Turducken
The most popular turducken recipes have the skin left on the birds and all three are soaked in a brim of sugar and salt. This is not the healthiest method for cooking, however, as it adds unnecessary sodium and fat to the completed dish.
Duck is naturally a rich meat that is high in fat content. Reduce the fat and calories of this dish by removing the skin of the chicken and duck, and as much of the fatty layer of tissue on the duck as possible. The meat has enough fat to still make this a delicious meal, but by removing what fat we can our hips will thanking us later.
To season the meat, skip the traditional salt bath and opt for a poultry rub instead. Use a poultry seasoning that is low in sodium. Your taste buds won’t really notice the difference, especially with the rich taste of the duck meat. Seasoning both sides of the duck and chicken with the poultry seasoning.
Lay the turkey, skin side down, on a platter or cutting board, and season the inside well. Lay the duck, skin side down, on top of the turkey and then repeat with the chicken.
Carefully bring the turkey back together into its normal shape, and secure the opening with a kitchen skewer. You may need to use more than one skewer depending on the size of the birds. Use butcher’s twine to secure the birds, tucking the legs and wings of the turkey into place.
If desired, spread a layer of your favorite stuffing recipe between each of the birds to help bind them and hold them together when you cut into the finished product. Many turducken enthusiasts use one type of stuffing on the turkey, another on the duck and yet a third recipe on the chicken. Experiment until you find the flavor combination that suits you best. Note that the stuffing will soak up the fats and juices from the birds as they cook, so avoid eating the stuffing for a healthier meal.
Place the turducken on a rack in a roasting pan, breast side up, as you would with a regular turkey. Roast the turducken in the oven at 225 degrees F for 8 to 10 hours, or until the internal temperature of the birds is 165 degrees F. Start checking the temperature after 8 hours.
See page 2 for the rest of the recipe and more turducken cooking tips.
There are many factors that can affect the cooking time for turducken, including whether the birds are stuffed or unstuffed, how loose or firmly you wrapped the birds, whether you use a dark or light metal pan and the size of the birds. Unstuffed birds will generally take less time to cook.
Although most people roast their turducken low and slow to allow for a richer flavor and more tender dish, the USDA recommends higher cooking temperatures for a shorter period of time. If desired, roast your turducken at 325 degrees F for 6 to 8 hours.
Normally, the fat that is rendered from the birds during the roasting process is used to baste the birds. For a healthier turducken, avoid using rendered fat, and use low-sodium store-bought or homemade turkey or chicken stock instead.
Duck is naturally very high in fat and will provide your turducken with lots of flavor. Many recipes will call for butter to be rubbed under the skin of the turkey. This is not necessary since the duck will produce enough fat to keep the birds juicy. Be sure to keep the turducken covered with foil or the lid of the roasting pan until it is nearly done, removing the cover during the last hour of cooking. Be sure to let the turducken, covered with foil, for at least 10 minutes before carving.
Serve your turducken whole, and do the carving tableside for a great presentation. Slice the turducken straight through the center to display all three layers of meat.
Turducken Eating Tips
When sitting down to a turducken meal, you can eat a little healthier and prevent excess calories by choosing to eat the leaner portion of the dish. The duck is the highest in fat and calories, so opt to just taste the cluck and eat a larger portion of the turkey breast. The breast meat of the turkey has not been subjected too much to the fat in the duck, so it is a little leaner on your waist. Also avoid eating stuffing that has been soaked in all the fatty juices of the Turducken, as it is very rich and saturated with fat.
Now that you have learned how to cook a turducken, be sure to try this at your next family gathering.