[Sca-cooks] Turducken Hints

Johnna Holloway johnnae at mac.com
Sun Jun 24 18:15:10 PDT 2012

Earlier this month we were discussing Turduckens again.
Just by chance I came across a write-up of one of the BBQ Pitmasters where the show
had them prepare and bbq one.

I thought the hints given here about making sure the skin is off the smaller birds made sense, just in case
some SCA cookery contest in the future presents someone with the raw beds and instructs the contestants
to prepare and cook one.


>From a write up titled "Week 5 Recap: Iowa Supermen, Contest Jumps the Rails with Turducken, and There's No Crying in BBQ!"
I'll say. This fifth and last week of prelims was a real test of patience for all four teams as BBQ Pitmasters officially jumped the  rails with the three oddest choices of ingredients yet, ingredients many of the cooks had never worked with before. On the plus side, we got to see some talented cooks, ahem, really wing it.

This week the "Classic Meat Challenge" was turducken. Classic? Everyone who has ever cooked turducken from scratch, please raise your hand. Nobody? OK, everyone who has bought a prefab turducken and cooked it, hands in the air. Not many. OK, how about the hands of the folks who've tasted turducken? Yeah, that's what I thought. Ever seen it in a BBQ joint? Me neither. How many have never heard of it? Well you're not alone, several of the cooks on Pitmasters had never cooked or even tasted turducken either, and one of them looked like she never heard of it.

So what the heck is turducken? Let this week's runner up, Dan Hixon of 3 Eyz BBQ of Owings Mills, MD, describe it: "You've got a turkey, you shove a duck in there, and just for good measure you shove a chicken in there, too." Tur(key)-duck-(chic)ken. Get it? Or is it Turd-(y)uck-(outta our)ken.

The turkey still has its drumstick and wing bones in, but all the others have been removed, and the duck and chicken are totally boneless. This birdzilla from Cajun Country is usually filled with a stuffing, and, when cooked, it is sliced like a giant meatloaf.

The concept of a bird inside a bird as been around at least since the Roman Empire, but the turducken is an American original probably created in Louisiana in the 1980s and popularized by football analyst John Madden who awarded one to the winning team on his Thanksgiving broadcast.

The invention of the the monstrosity is credited to either Chef Paul Prudhomme of New Orleans, or Hebert's Specialty Meats in nearby Maurice, LA. Culinary Historian John T. Edge has said "It strikes me as a dish invented by men in a hunt camp, men who have a snootful."

If you want one, you usually order it from them frozen on the internet. Nobody but nobody makes turducken from scratch. Still, TLC made these barbecue champions do just that. At least TLC was kind enough to give them boneless birds so they did not have to slice off their fingers trying to hollow them out. This may be a fine task for the trained professional chefs on Food Network's Chopped competition, but these folks rarely stray from ribs, pulled pork, brisket, and chicken. As I have stated emphatically in weeks past, with $100,000 on the line, challenging them to move outside their comfort zone is a good idea, especially for the appetizer or side dish. But the "Classic Meat Challenge"? Sheesh.

To make this silly concoction palatable, you have to remove the duck and chicken skins or they just turn to fatty limp rubber bands. It appeared that many of the cooks didn't figure this out as you could see the judges pulling strands of elastic from their plates.

The next big challenge with turducken is keeping the turkey from turning to leather. This is one large mass of meat and stuffing, up to 15 pounds or more, and by the time the center is cooked properly and safely, the outer layers are as dry as charcoal. The solution is to cook it low and slow. One cook cleverly grilled the duck a bit before putting it into the turkey. Another injected the turkey with butter. Another brined it. Another used only the breasts and made smaller loaves. Good thinking, all.

Even if you manage to keep the turkey portion moist, the real crime is what happens to the duck breasts. Duck breasts are red meat and are best cooked rare, like a steak. When buried in this dodo bird, the meat turns gray and tasteless.

The next challenge with turducken is to make a stuffing that doesn't taste and feel like plaster. The Cajun solution is a cornbread and andouille sausage stuffing that is not too wet when it goes in because there is a lot of fat rendering.

The final hurdle is the gravy, a necessity to add moisture back to the meat, especially the turkey. There is a lot of fat in the pan and degreasing it is not easy. The stuffing usually gets into the pan too, making the gravy cloudy. Aaarrrrrgghhh!


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