Food history: turducken

A chicken stuffed inside a duck stuffed inside a turkey. What could be more festive?

Let’s find out where the turducken came from.

The history of stuffing birds inside one another has been around for so long it is difficult to pinpoint the exact origin of the turducken, but here is what we do know:

One of the most famous bird-inside-bird dishes that undoubtedly influenced the turducken was the Roti Sans Pareil of France, circa 1807.

Several of these birds are now considered to be endangered: a bustard stuffed with a turkey stuffed with a goose stuffed with a pheasant stuffed with a chicken stuffed with a duck stuffed with a guinea fowl stuffed with a teal stuffed with a woodcock stuffed with a partridge stuffed with a plover stuffed with a lapwing stuffed with a quail stuffed with a thrush stuffed with a lark stuffed with an Ortolan bunting (which has it’s own bizarre story, by the way) stuffed with a garden warbler.

Um. Wow.

The turducken seems so measly and small by comparison.

Another notable bird-in-bird meal from 1832 consisted of a dove inside a quail inside a guinea hen inside a duck inside a capon (a castrated rooster). There’s also a dish from Greenland of defeathered seagulls stuffed into a seal carcass.

Additionally, there is a fictional turducken-like feast that showed up in an ancient Roman novel, the Satyricon. In this book, apparently there is a roast boor filled with roasted thrushes, doves, and sausages.

The turducken itself, though, officially showed up in our country as recently as the mid 1980s.

Supposedly, in 1985 (the year I also hail from) a local farmer walked into Herbert’s Specialty Meats in Maurice, Louisiana, with a chicken, duck, and turkey. He asked for the animals to be prepared inside one another, and the meat maker obliged. 

In 1987, the turducken showed up in The Prudhomme Family Cookbook. Chef Paul Prudhomme takes credit for the creation of the bird meal, which he allegedly came up with while in a lodge in Wyoming. Legally, Prudhomme is the official inventor of the turducken, since he has acquired the patent for it.

Herbert’s is still known for the turducken as well, though, turning out some 3,300 turduckens a year. Reportedly, Herbert and Prudhomme engage in a friendly rivalry over who really invented the recipe.

In 1997, turducken popularity took a leap thanks to NFL commentator John Madden. Madden ate a turducken on air, sans cutlery, during a Thanksgiving Bowl game in New Orleans.

Somewhere along the line someone thought, you know, three birds is just not enough, but we don’t need another bird – let’s throw a pig in there. Now if you’re feeling really amibitious, you can attempt the pigturducken, wherein the pig is essentially eating the other three animals.

Since we are upon the day of thanks already, it is probably too late to switch to a turducken this year. But, if you want to get ahead on next year’s ultimate dinner. . .

When I worked for the Farmers Market in Menands I featured an easy version of the turducken in the market newsletter, made from the breasts and flat cuts of the meat only – no deboning! (Or paying a hefty fee/pissing off your butcher to do it.)

If you want the real thing, I found a great recipe here, with the deboning process and additional details broken down here.