My Big Green Egg has provided the motivation and opportunity to tackle some pretty big barbeque challenges. Some of my favorites include pulled pork, brisket, and smoked salmon. This holiday season, however, a new favorite rose to the top of the list.
Turducken was definitely a “bucket list” barbeque challenge. My life as a Big Green Egger would feel incomplete if I never made a turducken. I had so much fun learning about turducken, making the turducken, and then, of course, eating the turducken!
The turducken is the ultimate in barbecued poultry. It’s a turkey stuffed with a chicken and a duck. You can purchase an assembled turducken – especially if you live in Louisiana or other parts of the South – but in my mind the assembly is part of the experience.
That said, there are limits to what I can and will do. The first step in building a turducken is to debone a whole chicken and a whole duck. If you are truly ambitious you can do this yourself and can find instructions on how to do so on YouTube. I chose to delegate this task to my butcher. You will also need to remove all the bones from the turkey, except for the leg and wing bones. I also had my butcher do this for me.
In addition to your deboned birds, you will need stuffing. Mrs. Esquire put together the stuffing for me. It was made from chicken sausage and various types of breads. One tip I read online – make sure your stuffing is moist. Dry stuffing will impede the transfer of heat between the birds.
Lastly, you’ll need a rub. I used Emeril’s Essence. Once you have your birds, stuffing and rub, you are ready to assemble.
I have to pause here for a quick confession. Despite the fact that I ordered my meat a month in advance, the butcher didn’t have a whole duck. Frustrating! So instead I used duck breasts.
The first step in assembly is to rub down the chicken and duck, and to put some rub on the inside of the turkey. Next, you put a layer of stuffing in the turkey. You can see that the skin on top of the turkey is intact. I was considering cutting the turkey all the way open, but I’m glad I didn’t. That skin was very helpful in keeping the bird together while I stuffed it.
I wanted my duck in the middle. Since my bird is laying breast down, I put the duck in next. After the duck is another layer of stuffing, then it’s time for the chicken. Lastly, you should fill all the crevices with stuffing.
Here’s the bird, fully stuffed.
The next step is to perform a little reconstructive surgery on the turducken. Mrs. Esquire helped me with this step – she’s very handy with a sewing needle. We used cotton string to sew the bird back up and truss the legs.
Lastly, I mixed some Emeril’s Essence with margarine (we had kosher guests). I rubbed the margarine between the skin and the breast, and also over the top of the bird. I allowed the bird to come to room temperature prior to the cook, but also iced down the turkey breasts with bags of ice as it was sitting out. I picked up this tip online – the hope is to keep the breasts a little cooler than the rest of the bird so they won’t cook too fast.
It was quite a bit of prep work, but I truly believe it was worth it. Cooking a turducken is a little complicated, and it helped to know the many layers of my bird as I was monitoring the cooking process.
There’s a wide variety of turducken cooking times and temperatures floating around the internet. I decided on 300 degrees, Big Green Egg set for indirect cooking, with a little cherry wood for smoke. I was guessing I’d have a 5-7 hour cook. A good drip pan is also essential. I used a double-drip pan method (with one drip pan on to the grill and two more below the grill, on the plate setter) in hopes of getting some early drippings for gravy.
It’s go time!
In preparation for this cook I bought myself a thermapen instant-read thermometer. I now have quite the collection of thermometers. Some serve different purposes and some I just don’t like. The thermapen is a top of the line instant-read thermometer. I wanted it for this cook because I needed to quickly check the temperature at various parts of the bird without leaving the lid open too long.
The thermapen worked great, but it told me that my bird was cooking much more quickly than I wanted! The turkey breasts were climbing faster than the interior of the bird (as expected) and were inching close to 160 after three hours. The interior still had a ways to go.
At this point I knew I would have to pull the bird at least two hours before we were ready to eat it. I decided to use the old barbecue trick of putting it in a cooler, wrapped in foil and blankets, to rest. Not ideal but I hoped it would work. After about four hours, the interior was up over 150. Counting on significant temperature rise during the two hours in the cooler, I pulled the bird at that point.
Ready for the cooler! (Oh, by the way, did I mention that I was doing this all in a massive rain storm? Not ideal!)
When I opened the cooler two hours later, a huge gush of steam rushed out. In retrospect, I should have pulled the bird from the cooler about 15-30 minutes before carving it. I didn’t re-check the temperature (too busy!) but I’m sure the breasts were much warmer than I would have liked.
Carving a turucken is tons of fun. Since there are hardly any bones, you can just go at it like a meatloaf. When I sliced into my turducken, I was greeted with this beautiful sight.
The turducken was a huge hit. Even though my temperature got a little higher than I wanted, and even though I had to pull the bird early, it still was moist enough. I would have liked to try it after a more normal resting period. The turkey was, predictably, drier than the other meats. But when you swished the turducken all together on your plate it was pretty darn good. I’ll definitely make turducken again!
As always, thanks for reading!