How to make a Turducken

How to make a turducken

Never in my life did I think I would know how to make a Turducken, or even eat one for that matter! When I first heard about it 10 years ago, it sounded gross to a much younger me. 3 years ago I started blogging and was always looking for newer harder cooking challenges, but it still wouldn’t have been something I wanted to take on. Even a month ago it was the last thing on my mind when I received an email in the Friendsgiving chain.

I would pitch in for turducken. I think we’ve talked about this since forever and have never done it. Do we build one ourselves, or can you buy them from somewhere?

I can build it was my only reply.

I never imagined how much I would actually enjoy every moment of this process. The pre-party email jokes, sourcing the local birds from farms in the area, de-boning a turkey but leaving the right bones so it still looked like a turkey, taking lots of pics, the excitement from friends when they realized that it wasn’t a joke anymore. But the best moment was cutting through the turducken in front of the crowd to reveal the meat-mass in all it’s glory, and then of course, devouring it!

That being said, this is a long post! If you want to learn something, read through it all, but if you get grossed out by icky pictures of butchering raw poultry, skip down half way to see some pictures of the final product and a bunch of my friends having the feast of a lifetime.

Preparing the Turkey

butchering the turkey

There are no magic words that I can write to teach you how to butcher a chicken or turkey. The only way to learn is to try it! I can however provide some tips. The first step is to cut out the backbone. On TV, they make cutting out the backbone look REALLY EASY. Perhaps cause they mostly do it with chickens and not turkeys? Anyway, this was not as easy as when I have done it with a chicken!

The thigh bones were next. They were actually easier than expected and were a big confidence booster! Just follow the bone with the knife slowly cutting away the flesh. When you make it down to the leg, find the joint, break the joint by bending the leg back, and you should be able to slide your knife right through it.

For the ribs, I just followed them with my knife. Make sure to keep as much breast meat intact as possible. When I got to the breastbone, I slid the knife under being VERY careful not to break through the turkey. This was the most important part, because if you split the breasts, you lose the awesome presentation.

This video is a great primer to watch before you attempt this process!

Brining the meats

Honestly brining was very popular a few years back but it isnt really anyone’s prefered method anymore. Brining can make the turkey very juicy, but the juiciness is coming mostly from water and isnt super flavorful. That being said – the best thing about brining turkey is it increases your margin of error for overcooking or drying out the meat. When you are cooking an epic turducken with lots of different meats, the margin of error is very important so the turkey breasts don’t get dry as the duck finishes cooking in the center.

brining the meats

The turkey is done getting surgery and is now in the brine! I also tossed in the chicken and duck. More info on the chicken and duck in a few paragraphs.

Making the cornbread stuffing

The next day. Time to make a stuffing. I broke up the cornbread and cooked the rest of the ingredients in a skillet with some butter for a few minutes. Sausage, onion, celery, carrot, sage, thyme, and some cranberries. Just toss it all together. Very simplified version, and a bit drier than I normally would do because this is going to be the glue that holds the turducken together. It’s also going to collect any fat and juices that the meats release.

make the sausage cornbread stuffing

The chicken and the duck

I am going to break here to talk for a moment about the duck and chicken. All of the turducken recipes I saw said to leave the skins on the chicken and duck. To me, that is just plain craziness! We all know crispy bird skin is delicious, but soggy fatty bird skin is no fun. Plus if I am going out of my way to get rid of the bones, I want to be able to have nice slices of turducken where everything is edible. Later on when I am doing the dishes I don’t want to see gross chunks of discarded duck skin on everyone’s plate.

The solution to this issue is to just buy boneless skinless pieces of chicken and duck for the inside of the turkey! This solves like 100 of the issues I had with the whole turducken concept. It also would have saved me a lot of time if I had realized it earlier. I ended up just butchering my chicken and duck into thinly sliced boneless skinless breasts, thighs, and legs so I could do it my way. You probably will still have to do a bit of butchering with the duck because it doesn’t often come boneless and skinless.

How to make the turducken

Make sure the stuffing is fully cooled and take the turkey out of the brine. Spread it on to your work surface, laid out flat so the legs are facing you and the skin is down.

building the turducken

Spread on the cornbread stuffing first

steps on how to make a turducken

Then add the chicken in a thin layer.

guide for making a turducken

Then repeat! More stuffing – then the duck layer.

sealing up the turducken

Will it close? Yes, it was actually easy to close because I made sure not to over stuff it. Over stuffing is a problem I often have with almost any stuffed anything that I cook. This was a really important meal so I played it cautious.

use butchers twine to tie up the turducken

My roommate Sal helped hold this together while I sewed it shut with some twine.

stuffed with goodness!

Flip it over so it’s rightside up and take a moment to be proud of the work you did.

Baking the Turducken

Pop it into a roasting pan, tie up the legs, and brush it with some oil and salt and pepper. Put it in the oven at 500, immediately turning it down to 350. This method gives the skin a jumpstart to drying out and crisping up! BONUS STEP- render the duck skin and use the fat to brush on the turkey skin!

The perfectly cooked turducken

Beauty! I expected this to take close to 6 hours, but it was done in 3 and a half to 4. I’m guessing the lack of bones caused my discrepancy. As it cooks, rotate the turducken and adjust the temps as needed if the skin looks like it isn’t browning or might burn! You can also brush it with a little oil if needed at any given time.

Cutting the Turducken

slicing the turducken

It rested about an hour (mainly cause we weren’t ready to eat yet). This was the moment of truth. I wish we got a picture of the 20 people standing over my shoulder right now!

turducken cross section

At this point, I was laughing to myself because I could see the amazingness, but no one else could yet. I had worked so hard and it came out perfectly! I knew with this group of people, everyone would be enthusiastic and excited.

turducken in all its glory

This came out just as I had hoped, if not better. I let it register about 5 degrees higher than I normally would have. I was a little nervous with all the stuffing and different meats! Because of this, it ended up being ever so slightly drier than I would have liked. But the flavor was amazing with every bite and there was tons of turducken gravy to slop over everything.

Turducken Gravy?

I didn’t include a recipe for this, but I made a concentrated stock with the bones I removed from the turkey and duck and used this method to create a gravy. I also poured the drippings from the roasted turkey into the gravy in the end. You shouldn’t rely on drippings alone to make a gravy! Do it ahead with the bones and then add the drippings to boost the flavor! This recipe thankfully gives you bones to work with.

beautiful homemade turducken

The stuffing soaked up a lot of the juices that would have dripped out of the bird, so the moisture was still there.

the turducken all sliced up

Unless you have one with some weird meat glue in it, it’s going to fall apart a bit as you cut it, but that is OK.

everybody is feasting

That’s a lot of people!

a drumstick for the chef

I stole a drumstick since I cooked the thing. Even though there was no duck or chicken in this piece, it still had the turducken essence.

Go forth and make a turducken!

I included a recipe below, but keep in mind this isnt a project for beginners! For those of you that came here for tips and tricks, I hope that my pictures and words could be a help in your quest for turducken enlightenment. I made this in my early days of cooking so I think you could tackle it if you are prepared for what is in store!

I just want to say thanks to everyone who came to the party, and especially who brought sides! It was a lot of fun and I am forever grateful you pushed me to creating this epic turducken. A night I will never forget!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! See ya next week!

If you are looking for fun Thanksgiving flavored meals, some of which you can make with leftovers, check out my Thanksgiving burrito, eggs benedict, mac and cheese, or these stuffing flavored tater tots!


An amazing Thanksgiving turducken with layers of cornbread stuffing made from scratch with an approachable guide.
Prep Time2 hours
Cook Time4 hours
rest time1 day
Total Time1 day 5 hours
Servings: 20
Calories: 600kcal


  • 16 pound turkey
  • 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 boneless skinless chicken thighs
  • 2 boneless skinless duck breasts
  • 2 boneless skinless duck legs (you probably need to remove the skin and bones yourself)


  • 1 gallon water
  • 2 quarts store bought chicken broth
  • 2.5 cups salt


  • 1 pound sausage
  • 1/2 stick butter
  • 3 ribs celery
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 carrot
  • 5 sage leaves
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme
  • 2 packages store bought cornbread
  • 1 cup cranberries


Prepare the turkey

  • We need to remove some but not all of the turkey bones. The bones must be removed in this order- backbone, thigh bones, rib cage. Check the photos above for a visual guide.
  • Removing the backbone is the easiest part. Flip the turkey so the breast side is down. The backbone is now front and center. This is easiest with a pair of strong kitchen shears. You can just cut the bone right out!
  • The thigh bones are the hardest step. You need to remove these without disturbing the skin or the drumsticks. Just find the bones and follow then with your knife gently until they are free and can be removed.
  • Finally the ribcage. Again, run the knife along the ribcage edges to clear the breast meat from the ribs. Mostly this is easy, but the point where the breasts meet at the top and center of the turkey is only connected by skin, and if you pierce the skin here the presentation will be ruined.

Brine the meats

  • Warm up one quart of the broth and stir in the salt. Bring to a simmer until the salt is dissolved. Remove from heat and pour this mixture into a large pot with the cold water and remaining chicken stock. Allow to cool fully.
  • In a bag or whatever vessel you have that can fit in the fridge, add the butchered turkey, along with the chicken and duck pieces and pour the brine over them. Make sure everything is covered. Put into the fridge overnight.

Make the stuffing

  • Cook the sausage in a frying pan to brown, then add in the butter, celery, onion, and carrot. Cook for 5 minutes to soften the veggies. Add in the herbs and cook 2 minutes, then remove from heat.
  • Cut up the cornbread into cubes, but it will basically crumble as you mix it. Add the sausage mixture to a bowl with as much of the cornbread as you need to make it a good ratio. Store bought cornbreads are different sizes.

Build the turducken

  • Take all the meats out of the brine and pat them dry.
  • lay the turkey out on the work surface in front of you and spread a thin layer of stuffing over it.
  • Top with the chicken pieces, breasts in the center and thighs on the outside.
  • More stuffing, then the duck is next.
  • Finish it with a little more stuffing, then fold up your turkey like a burrito with the meats and stuffings inside. You probably need a friend to help with this step! Use some kitchen twine to tie the turducken shut.

Bake the Turducken

  • Preheat oven to 500
  • Flip the turducken so the breast side is up. Place it into a roasting pan and tie the legs together to help seal the filling in, and expose the legs to the oven air so they will brown nicely. Pat everything dry with paper towels and allow to air dry as the oven heats up.
  • Brush the skin with some high heat oil like peanut oil and season with salt and pepper.
  • Get the turducken into the oven and close the door. Turn the oven to 350.
  • After an hour and a half, check on the turducken and rotate if needed. Adjust heat if needed depending on how brown the skin is looking.
  • Cook until an internal temp is 150. You will need to check in a bunch of different places, and make sure the thermometer is hitting the center of a piece of meat.
  • Allow to rest about 30 minutes before slicing. Skim off the excess fat from the drippings and add them to your gravy. (I put a link to the gravy recipe in the post)


Calories: 600kcal | Carbohydrates: 2g | Protein: 100g | Fat: 19g | Saturated Fat: 6g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 3g | Monounsaturated Fat: 7g | Trans Fat: 0.2g | Cholesterol: 323mg | Sodium: 15163mg | Potassium: 1095mg | Fiber: 0.4g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 762IU | Vitamin C: 3mg | Calcium: 71mg | Iron: 5mg


  1. This looks amazing, despite the intense raw Poultry pics. I’m sad I couldn’t make it. Duck is the best. The Turkey Skin looks nice and crispy and golden…
    I want some of this right now…
    Happy Thanksgiving!

  2. O-M-G! That’s amazing, although I don’t think I’ll ever have the culinary skills to pull this one off I’m still working on getting my turkey right. It does look like the tastiest/funnest (not a word) meal!

  3. So exactly how do you get an invite to one of these???
    I gotta say you consistently cook the meals that I love to replicate. Hands down the best food blog on the net! Thanks for all the help, support and ideas of the past few years. My friends I’m sure send their thanks as well.
    Happy T-Day to you and yours!

  4. Okay, I feel like I’m betraying my vegetarian-ness by saying this, but there’s got to be a way to utilize the duck fat. Like putting it under the turkey breast skin, or frying it up into the stuffing. I’ve never eaten duck fat, but from the way it’s second only to bacon popping up in weird places on menus recently, it must be worth eating.
    Okay, back to my tofurky.

  5. Hi there, my husband and I are making a turducken today and have found that after 4 hours in the oven at 225 degrees there are no drippings. Did we do something wrong? Please help. Thanks!

  6. Oh no you didn’t!! I second Mike…how do you get an invite to something like this? Apparently, actually knowing you, being funemployed and within driving distance still isn’t enough! Boo.

  7. I have tried duck before and it was greasy and did not like it. How does it do in this mess of meat and stuffing? Is it the dominate taste? This looks fun I may consider it for Christmas.

  8. i love how you explained everything so well. i can’t wait to make this for thanksgiving this year. the pictures made it even better. thanks for posting this recipe. 🙂

  9. Thank you for your excellent blog post.
    I relied on it when making my own turducken this year – especially your tip for using breast meat for the inside.
    Happy New Year to you
    Gill Cox

  10. Being a rookie doctor means I couldn’t make any holidays last year so I have having Thanksgiving dinner this weekend… And I’m making turducken. This post provided some great tips- much appreciated! Thanks, wish me luck.

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