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Sous Vide turduckloin and a Christmas dinner

During christmas of 2010, I made a sous vide beef wellington with duck fat mashed potatoes for my family, a year later, I had the ridiculous and ambitious idea of cooking a christmas feast for a bunch of friends. I have had it in my mind to make a sous vide version of the turducken for quite some time, but I never got around to doing it, Christmas seemed to be a perfect excuse to cook it, seeing as to how I would need an army to finish the beast. But because I have a strong inability to follow recipes word for word- I often try to add in some component that will make it a little more challenging, I eventually settled on stuffing a beef tenderloin in a chicken in a duck in a turkey, oh, and of course, there would have to be bacon in there somewhere.

First try with meat glue. No bueno

String fixes everything, trust me, Im an engineer 

Figuring out the turduckenloin was a lot more complex than I thought. I wanted to cook as many components using sous vide as possible. After thinking long and hard about it, doing mini experiments- including one with meat glue, my final plan would be- starting from the inside out, I would sous vide the beef medium rare, sear it, and then freeze it. After which I would sew(meat glue just wasn’t strong enough) the chicken around the tenderloin, sous vide the chicken to about 62C, freeze the chicken/tenderloin, then sew it into the duck, sous vide the duck to 60C, then immediately wrap it in a crisp bacon wave and sew the duck/chicken/tenderloin into a turkey, before finally roasting it in an oven. This would mean that the oven only needs to cook the turkey, not the duck layer onwards, making sure that most components would remain moist and evenly cooked. If course, this was only the plan I had for the dish, there would be many issues I did not and could not forsee.

 Baconga Veneta Fall/Winter 2011

I’m on PETA’s most wanted list

Since I had made the offer to cook for everyone, I needed other dishes for the feast as well. About a month before Christmas, I decided on four: The turduckenloin, sous vide beef shortrib tacos(with grilled corn salsa), macaroni and cheese topped with pulled pork, and brownies. This was going to be quite a huge task, on top of that, I am in no way ‘organized’ in the kitchen, which is somewhat embarrassing considering that I am an engineer and people have this impression that I am very methodological(sorry to disappoint). I often have 4-5 different things running around in my head at the same time and I knew that I would be restricted by equipment- I have one oven that barely fit the turkey I bought, and the container I use to Sous Vide can only hold the size of a duck, figuring out how I would put out 4 warm dishes at the same time was going to be a challenge.  Hence, for the first time since starting cooking, I worked out a timeline that i needed to follow to make sure that the food would go out as planned


Buy ingredients(Short Ribs, turkey, etc)

Prepare reduced red wine sauce(mirepoix, bouquet garni, red wine, worcheshire sauce, BBQ sauce, green tea powder, liquid smoke, cumin, thyme, garlic), then freeze


begin defrosting turkey

Dust shortribs with cumin, salt, pepper, paprika, Mexican oregano, vacuum seal with frozen red wine sauce. Cook at 71.2C for 2 days


Remove shortribs and slice thinly, place into ziploc bag with some residual sauce and rapid chill. Then freeze


Purchase pork shoulder and misc other things

Purchase beef tenderloin, season with olive oil + beef stock cube, vacuum seal and cook at 56C for 2 hours. Then remove, pay dry, sear over high heat in garlic/thyme olive oil. Let rest, place in sous vide bag, seal, rapid chill and freeze

Debone entire turkey, reserve bones, freeze meat


Coat pork shoulder in flour, salt, brown sugar, sear in truffle oil

Braise pork shoulder (130C for 4 hours) in mushroom stock and root beer, with fennel, onion, star anise, brown sugar, bouquet garni, button mushrooms, carrots, stock cube. Remove, shred, freeze with some reduced braising liquid


Collect chicken and duck

Debone both birds, reserve bones. Place frozen tenderloin in deboned chicken, meat glue and sew shut. Chill overnight

Begin defrosting turkey in the fridge


Roast chicken bones, pressure cook to create stock. Reduce stuck to intensify it. Then chill

Make brine for the turkey, let it chill


Sous vide the chicken and tenderloin, drain liquid, then rapid chill and place in fridge

Meat glue duck, sew shut

Make brownie batter, place in fridge

Cook stuffing

Grill corn, mix in mint, chill

Brine the turkey in an orange scented brine


sous vide duck,chicken,tenderloin

Bake brownies(might need to move to Sunday)

Make bacon weave

Reheat stuffing

Cook Mac and cheese

Butter Breadcrumbs

Reheat shortribs and pulled pork

Combine bacon weave, stuffing, duck/chicken/tenderloin with the turkey, begin roasting

Finish Mac and cheese w pulled pork

Pulled pork on Mac and Cheese

This dish had alot of ‘firsts’ for me. 2 weeks prior to cooking the meal, I had never deboned a chicken in my life. I had broken down a few chickens(Breaking down: Separating the legs from the breast etc, Deboning: removing all the bone and leaving the meat as a single flat sheet), but never deboned. By Christmas, I had deboned enough chickens to the point where I felt I could debone a chicken blindfolded, hanging upside down and doing sit-ups. And since birds more or less have the same anatomy, I should, in theory, be able to debone the turkey easily, right? Wrong. Nothing could have prepared me for the scumbag that is turkey. Firstly, I bought a giant turkey, weighing in at a good 9lbs, the wing alone was a size of a huge chicken drumstick. When trying to separate the legs or thighs from the carcass, a chefs knife will easily cut through a chicken bone if you don’t hit  the joint at the right  point, but no such luck with a turkey, it’s bones are made of pure titanium and you really have to go at it with a snipers precision, right at its archillis heel(insert the knife between the two bones and wiggle, this point is alot harder to find on a turkey than it sounds) to separate it. This condensed video is about 45 minutes worth of me deboning this monster.

Roasted bones + water = Delicious stock

I’m not gonna write down the full recipe because alot of it was jus adapting and trying to deal with the countless problems I encountered, plus I really wouldn’t wish making this on my worst enemy. The first was discovering that the chicken  I had ordered  was not big enough to sew around the tenderloin that was already cooked, I recalled seeing some much bigger chickens at a nearby supermarket, but the store had already closed by that time, and I was already behind schedule, so I made a quick decision to invert the duck and chicken, the tenderloin would be covered with the duck and I would get a bigger chicken around that.

This monster broke my oven. True story

The duck came out beautifully, and when I begun sewing the chicken around it, of course, I realised it wouldn’t fit. I had a chicken that covered about 3/4 of my duck and I was just staring blankly at it trying to figure out how I managed to convince myself that a duck would fit into a chicken , I suddenly had a eureka moment- why not buy another chicken and  use both chickens to cover the duck?  I seemed to make sense in my head, so out I went to get another chicken, and on it went over the duck. I must have spent a good 45 mins trying to work it out before deciding that if there was ever a time to call it quits, this was it.  I ended up filled the  inside of the turkey with cornbread stuffing, sautéed sausages, fried rice, and two bacon weaves , before roasting the turkey to about 65C.

The works

So how was it? It was good, very impressive for everyone at the table when you cut it into it. But was it worth the effort? Hell no it wasn’t. It’s like a mash up of the bee gees and daft punk, both great on its own, but not so much when combined together(Im waiting for someone to prove me wrong and ruin this analogy).  I’m still glad I  attempted this and sort of managed to pull it off. I wonder what I’ll be making this christmas…

Appetizing-looking food is vastly overrated

PS I sewed the two chickens together with a bunch of leftover stuffing to form some kind of franken-chicken and grilled it. It wasnt pretty but turned out pretty nicely

Frankenchicken. Pretty sure this is one of Neil Gaiman’s characters in his version of hell

2 thoughts on “Sous Vide turduckloin and a Christmas dinner

  1. Awesome stuff. Tried a sous-vide-cooked meal at a friend’s place for the first time recently. For those who are still unsure of the product, try it out for a month first before you buy, with http://www.trybuy.sg.

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