Tag Archives: turducken

Turducken Day 0: butchery (warning: this post is very bloody)

15 Aug

I’m only… almost three months late with this post.  Whoops!  Honestly, deboning the turducken birds is hands down my favorite part of Memorial Day Birthanksgiving.  It takes about two hours to do the chicken, duck, and turkey, but with more practice I think it’ll only be an hour and a half next year.

This post is not a definitive guide to carving a turducken, but it might be helpful as an aide.

Be warned, this post is very graphic.  If you’re a meat-eater, I highly suggest deboning a bird sometime- it gives you slightly more appreciation for the meat, and you hopefully will waste less of the bird (I guess meat manufacturers probably turn the leftovers into sausage or something) with your chef’s treats.  I would love to do some actual butchery someday.  If you are not a meat-eater, and/or are squeamish, you may want to skip this post.  

Okay to refresh where we’re at: we have three birds.  The duck is frozen but will thaw quickly in the cooler filled with cool water, refreshed every few hours, and the chicken is fresh.  The turkey will take a LONG TIME to thaw.  Remember this.

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Basically I’m trying to make this part of the post longer so the squeamish can click away before seeing lots of cutting of flesh.

The overall goal of the turducken: remove all the bones from all the birds, except for the wing tips (just cut those off) and the turkey drumsticks.  This allows us to roll up the birds together for the end.

I found this series of youtube videos the most helpful.  There are lots of videos out there to debone birds but I liked the music in these and they are short and have good captions.  I have a very poor attention span when it comes to online videos, so these sped up versions of the actual deboning are perfect.  To be honest I didn’t watch the turkey one because I saw the chicken and duck ones.

Here’s the overall strategy as I see it:

  1. Cut down the spine of the bird.  Loosen the meat off the rib cage.  Pop the leg to cut through the cartiledge.
  2. Pull out the entire rib cage (you have to do more precise cutting here to get along the breast without cutting the skin).
  3. Remove the thigh bone!  It’s so much fun to pop out!  For duck and turkey, remove the knee bone that’s missing in chickens.
  4. Cut off the wingtips, deglove the drumsticks (this part is hilarious).  You have to carefully cut the cartilidge here- bone is way hard to cut and the tendons are so much easier!
  5. You’re done with that part!  Now scrape and dig to remove the wishbone.
  6. Honestly there’s probably more bones that I’m forgetting.  It’s the same idea: scrape and dig, scrape and dig, cut through all the tendons you can find, pop the joints.

OK let’s think about the old vice president and get our gore on!

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Every time I do this I have to remember which was is the spine and which way is the front of the chicken.  Picture on the left shows you where the breast is.  Don’t have that side up.  You want the wing tips facing down, like in the picture on the right.  Then you do step 1: straight cut down the spine of the bird.  I generally do two parallel cuts, one on either side of the spine, and then enlarge those cuts to reveal the rib cage inside.

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The first picture shows you what it looks like when you scrape along the rib cage after that initial slice on one side.  Note the ball joint in the bloody lower right corner: you have to separate that while you do your first scraping.  You can see that I use a small paring knife for all of the carving because it’s more precise.  The second picture shows what happens when you do that scraping to both sides.

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Sorry for the blur in this series.  These two pictures are me pulling the entire rib cage/carcass out of the bird.  This happens right after the last two pictures: you cut all along the rib cage, and boom the whole thing just pops out.  Throw your carcass in your stock pot, and turn back to the task at hand.

The duck and turkey have identical first steps to the chicken (what we’ve just done).  I’m lacking pictures for the rest of the steps because I got sick of constantly having to stop, wash my hands, take a picture, put away my camera, and get back to it.  But really, after you’ve done these first steps, your instincts will be honed and you’ll just start hacking away at steps 3-6.  Then you’ll have the beauty below.


2013-05-31_19-13-35_548I think, but I’m not sure, that this photo is the chicken.  It could also be the duck.  Note that you should cut off as much of the excess duck fat as you can (there’s a lot in the neck area)- it’s really not that tasty inside the turducken and is much better as crackling or rendered for duck fat.



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These two are just photos of step 1-2 again, but with another bird.

Yeup, you waited three months for this post.  I forgot that it was ridiculously difficult to butcher while taking photos.  Here are pictures of me from last year, deboning and then holding the turkey:

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And the final product:








Turducken Day 6, also, answer to Cantor set problem

12 Jun

Honestly we didn’t have that many leftovers: I packed up a bunch with my friends who came over to eat the turducken.

The best thing I made with the leftovers was turducken tacos, mostly because the fatty meat was a wonderful complement to the chipotle yogurt sauce inspired by Mark Bittman’s fish taco recipe.

Turducken tacos:

Leftover turducken, in heated flour tortillas, with lettuce, chopped radishes, cheddar cheese, and chipotle yogurt sauce.  Serve with a wedge of lime.



2 c full-fat plain yogurt

2 minced garlic cloves

3 chopped up chipotle peppers in adobo sauce

Leave in a fridge for at least ten minutes: it just gets better the longer it sits.

Also, I made matzoh ball soup with the turducken broth leftover.  It was also quite tasty, though salty (must dilute the broth)

Don't DILLy-dally, eat it while it's hot!

Don’t DILLy-dally, eat it while it’s hot!

Finally, the answer to the Cantor set question from that other post:

This answer is straight from an exercise in Bruckner, Bruckner, and Thomson‘s book Real Analysis (exercise 1.1.3).

First, think about the number 0.5637.  In grade school we say this is five-tenths plus six-one-hundredths plus three one-thousandths plus seven ten-thousandths.  We can write this as a sum as $\latex \frac{5}{10}+\frac{6}{10^{-2}}+\frac{3}{10^{-4}}+\frac{7}{10^{-5}}$.  Switching to fancy math notation, we can write any number as a sum: \sum_{n=1}^{\infty} \frac{a_n}{10^{-n}}.  Here, \sum_{n=1}^k means that you take whatever’s after the sigma symbol, and start at n=1 and add.  So in our example, we have 0.5637 = \sum_{k=1}^4 a_k 10^{-k}, where $a_1=5, a_2=6, a_3=3, a_4=7$.

This decimal expansion is relevant.  I said earlier that the Cantor set has something to do with ternary expansions.  So in our decimal expansions, we let $a_k = 0,1, \ldots, 9$.  For a ternary expansion, we can only let $a_k = 0,1,2$.  And for our Cantor set, it’s all the numbers in [0,1] that don’t include the digit 1 in their ternary expansion.

Let’s use another set to get to our answer.  Let D = \{ x\in [0,1]: x=\sum_1^{\infty} \frac{j_n}{3^n}, j_n=0,1\}, that is, D is the points in the interval [0,1] with no 2 in their ternary expansion.

Pick any point y\in [0,1] and its ternary expansion \sum_1^{\infty} \frac{y_n}{3^n}.  We’re going to find numbers a,b\in D so that a+b=y, which will prove that D+D=[0,1].  If y_n = 2, let a_n=b_n=1.  If y_n=1, let a_n=1, b_n=0.  If y_n=0, let a_n=b_n=0.  This way we’ve defined sequences a_n,b_n, and if we let a= \sum_1^{\infty}\frac{a_n}{3^n}, b=\sum_1^{\infty}\frac{b_n}{3^n}, we’ve defined a,b\in D so that a+b=y, as desired.

This doesn’t quite finish our problem!  We wanted to show that C+C = [0,2].  But notice that $D=\frac{C}{2}$, that is, if some number x is in C, x/2 is in D, and if y is in D, then 2y is in C.  So if D+D=[0,1], then C+C = [0,2], and we’re done!

Turducken day 2: Assembly, Baking, Carving, Devouring

3 Jun

Butchery will be another post.  Yesterday was the actual eating day.  This post is about what I did yesterday- finishing up the stuffing with that delicious duck-chicken stock, sewing together a turducken, and eating the results!

On Friday night after boiling the duck and chicken carcasses for three or four hours with a bay leaf, some carrot, and an onion, I let the pot cool, discarded the bones, and threw the remaining liquid in the fridge.  By morning a solid half-inch of fat had congealed on top of the resulting gelatin.  I scooped and threw out the fat (I maybe could/should have saved it but I had so much duck fat from the crackling the night before already), and measured out two cups of the leftover stuff:

If someone steals this I will be so angry and there 'll be GEL TO PAY.

If someone steals this I will be so angry and there ‘ll be GEL TO PAY.

Nuked for thirty seconds, then mixed with my pre-made stuffing (sausage, apples, walnuts, onion, celery, carrot, stuffing mix) in order to put on the birds!

I laid out my turkey flat, then covered the entire thing with a thin layer of stuffing.  TIP: next time, I think I’ll cut off the fillet-looking pieces of turkey breast and put them inside the chicken.  As it was, we had a huge layer of turkey on the outside, and I think putting it in the middle would help differentiate the birds.

This guy was born and bread to become a turducken.

This guy was born and bread to become a turducken.

Next, we took out the chicken and duck which had been brining overnight. (Based on my computer’s web history, boyfriend used this recipe from allrecipes to make the brine).  TIP: you should try to brine all of the birds.  Because of our unfortunate Jewel incident I couldn’t brine the turkey as it was thawing overnight (we moved it to fridge for overnight and thawed in a cooler in the morning, and I still ended up having it frozen in the middle as I carved).  Rinsed those suckers off, then layered them on top of the turkey with more stuffing.

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Regardless of if they were female or male, all three birds are now great layers

Regardless of if they were female or male, all three birds are now great layers

Last year we used the internet and barbecue skewers to put our turkey together.  BIGGEST TIP IN THIS POST: don’t use skewers, use butcher’s twine (in the utensils area of the grocery store) and turkey lacers and a small, sharp knife.  I had my roommate take photos of the process because my hands were covered in poultry (you guys my hands got so dry these two days because I had to keep stopping, washing my hands, taking a picture, and going back again), but we were super in the way so there’s just a hint of what we did.

Three birds in four hands is worth... how many birds in the bush?

Three birds in four hands is worth… how many birds in the bush?

Basically we folded the sides shut so the turkey looked like a turkey, then cut small holes in the skin/meat near the edges of the turkey and used a turkey lacer as a needle with the butcher twine as thread.  Then we threaded the turkey shut like shoelaces in a shoe.

I really can't WhINE too much about this picture: I think it looks really cool even if you can't see what we're doing.

I really can’t WhINE too much about this picture: I think it looks really cool even if you can’t see what we’re doing.

Once it’s shut, it looks just like a distended turkey!  The chicken and duck are a secret!  I love assembling the turducken.  And it’s much easier to manipulate when it’s sewn shut rather than skewered: last year we needed three people to move it, and this year just two of us did so easily- even one could probably put it in a roasting pan.

Rock a bye baby, in the roasting pan, when the wind blows,  the oven will warm, and when the timer beeps, the rack will be hot, and baking will be baby roasting pan and all

Rock a bye baby, in the roasting pan,
when the wind blows, the oven will warm,
and when the timer beeps, the rack will be hot,
and baking will be baby
roasting pan and all

BE VERY CAREFUL with that baby taking it in and out of the oven.


I actually have no photos of the carving or devouring stages.  Carving just happened in chunks, and we had about 25 people come eat.  We probably ate about 3/4 of the turducken.  One thing we did do was put the turducken on a rack to let it dry, and we wish we had roasted it in a proper roasting pan so it wouldn’t boil in its own juices.  I used those juices to make gravy: melt two tablespoons of fat/butter, add in two or three tablespoons of flour and whisk until smooth, then pour in two or three cups of stock (I skimmed off LOTS of fat before this step).  Bring it to a boil and let it boil for a few minutes, whisking every now and again, until its thickened.  Delicious.

We didn’t baste the birds because brining will keep them moist, but we should’ve because we didn’t brine the turkey.  It was a little dry, but nothing gravy couldn’t fix.  On the whole it was a delicious and wonderful Thanksgiving!  Friends brought sweet potatoes, brussels sprouts, dressing, garlic soup, broccoli salad, asian noodle salad, banana bread, and cake!


Turducken day 1: getting a turkey at the last minute, chef’s treats, and brine

1 Jun

I owe lots of math posts.  I know.  But it’s my birthday (well, it was on Wednesday) so give me some leeway.  My boyfriend got me flowers for it!

Finally a different kind of flour on this blog!

Finally a different kind of flour on this blog!

Thanksgiving is by far my favorite holiday, and so I have it for my birthday every year (as in I did it last year and am doing it this year).  Last year I’d never had turducken before but after that experience I decided I’ll do it every year (until I’m sick of it).

If you’re planning on making a turducken for June 1st or Thanksgiving, make sure you plan ahead.  Or do what I did.  Or buy a premade turducken but where’s the fun in that?  The next paragraph is complaining you can skip it I’ll probably edit/shorten it later when I’m not as mad.

I called the store last Sunday around 10 a.m. to order a turkey and duck.  They asked me to call back the next day so the manager could talk to me.  So I called on Monday around 4:20 p.m., and he asked me to call back on Wednesday between 7 and 4 to talk to the manager, and that he’d leave a note for the manager anyway.  At this point I’m in high worry mode and should’ve switched stores, but this is my local grocery store that I shop at every week and I have some cognitive dissonance-type loyalty to it.  I call back on Wednesday and talk to the manager, who tells me he wasn’t in yesterday (Tuesday) before continuing our conversation.  He says he’ll have the birds ready for Friday, and I say I’ll pick up in the evening around 5.

At 5 p.m. on Friday THE DAY BEFORE THE TURDUCKEN he calls me to tell me he didn’t get EITHER the duck or the turkey.  I am FLIPPING OUT but also have to focus on problem solving and I don’t yell at him.  He suggests I call one other Jewel.  I call that one.  This guy is much more apologetic on behalf of Jewel and suggests another Jewel as well as two other stores.  I call the other Jewel, and that guy brainstorms with two other people in the store before concluding they can’t help me.  Chicago’s sky has been looking ominous the whole day so I start biking like crazy to get home before the thunderstorm, and then I stop at this magical store I’ve never been to on the way.



I just want to give Mariano’s a big hug.  They had fresh chicken and frozen turkey, goose, duck, and cornish hens.  I spent a good amount of time munching on their FREE SAMPLES (my favorite thing in grocery stores) and wondering if I should switch my Turducken to a Gooduckhen instead.  We don’t own cars so I was waiting for my boyfriend to come with his bike while I was sipping some acai berry liquor

Anyways, he took the 20 pounds of turkey in his backpack and I took the 5 pound chicken and 6 pound duck in mine and we headed home.  Immediately popped the frozen turkey and duck into a cooler filled with cool water.  Lots of sites will tell you that you can speed thaw with a sink or bucket but you have to change the cool water every half hour.  If you don’t peek at your cooler you should be OK for a few hours (we changed every two or three).  Bacteria is no joke.

I wonder if they do this in Bath, England

I wonder if they do this in Bath, England


The birds.

I’ll do another post about butchering.  This is about all the yummy tidbits on the way!

Basically it’s not worth all the hassle of deboning chicken wings, and unless you really care about those scraps of meat, the same goes for duck wings.  That means you get chef’s treats!  I was in the middle of doing a lot of other stuff so I just slathered the wings in barbecue sauce and threw them into a 375 oven for awhile.  Maybe 45 minutes?  Until they were done and yummy.

Wings are trying to fly away in the background

Wings are trying to fly away in the background

Meanwhile I threw the carcasses into a big stock pot with some bay leaves, a carrot remnant from the stuffing, and half an onion.  That just simmered for several hours while I was doing other things.  In particular, there was too much stuffing for the bowl I stored it in overnight, so we got a mini-casserole of sausage-apple stuffing as our second course:

There's not much, but this really is stuffing

There’s not much, but this really is stuffing

We munched on some avocados for a third course, sprinkled with lime and salt, which was a nice transition into our next course: Vietnamese chicken salad.

This photo makes me want to cuke

This photo makes me want to cuke

I used tongs to pull off all the meat from the bones that were simmering (neck, wing tips, ribcage, etc.), which basically melted off.  Then mixed in some cucumbers, thought about shredding in fresh mint and then realized I had none but if you do this add fresh mint and cabbage, and dressed it with lime juice-fish sauce-sugar-water dressing.  Topped off with fresh pepper.  This is delicious, reminds me of my mom, and is super easy and light.

He’d actually taken me to Elizabeth for birthday dinner, so this was like home-Elizabeth with only five courses instead of nine.  Dessert was duck skin crackling with maple syrup.

When butchering a duck you get LOTS of excess skin/fat.  So I decided to render the fat for later use, and this had the happy effect of making crackling!  Cut your duck skin into about one inch pieces (it shrinks when frying) and fry it until light golden brown.  BE CAREFUL THIS SPATTERS A TON

Shielding myself from the spatter

Shielding myself from the spatter

But it is delicious!  I dusted some of them with flour to get a little more crackle, and topped them with maple syrup for dessert.  So tasty!

So that was my chef’s treats from day 1 of making the turducken.  I highly recommend taking two days: butcher all the birds and brine them the night before, and then stuff and roast on day 2.  Today is day 2 and there’ll be more posts.  Meanwhile, I’ll leave you with a picture of the birds floating in brine that my boyfriend made; I have no idea what’s in it:


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