This Thanksgiving why not start a new tradition? Opt for a grilled turkey instead of an oven roasted one. Although not traditional, grilling produces the best turkey you’ve ever eaten – with juices running off your chin from each and every slice.
Grilling is the way the Pilgrims cooked their turkeys. Isn’t it time you tried one?
And if you love turkey gravy you can still have it by placing a metal pan under the turkey to catch the drippings. Just be sure to add cup of water to the pan to avoid scorching the drippings.
So don’t let the absence of gravy put a stop to your grilling your turkey.
There are a couple of things you need to consider if you’re going to grill a turkey. Since you will be grilling your turkey via indirect heat, it’s important to take the weather into consideration – especially if you’re in a cold climate.
You will need to place your grill in a sheltered area – away from the wind – to ensure even cooking temperatures throughout the process.
Second, this is not a job for a charcoal grill. You will need to maintain an even, steady temperature of between 300-350 degrees F – and this cannot be done on a charcoal grill.
Third, a gas barbeque grill works by heating the air that moves around the food to cook them. This can dry out your turkey in a New York minute. The best way to ensure a moist bird is to brine it and baste it to keep it moist and tender.
What You’ll Need
- A 12 pound turkey
- A great brine
- A great Baste
- A great aromatic
- A 5 gallon bucket
- A sturdy V-shaped roasting rack to sit the bird in
- A shallow pan to sit the roasting rack in
- An oven thermometer to monitor the interior grill temperature. The thermometer that comes with your grill is not accurate enough to get this job done.
- A smoke source – oak, hickory, apple or cherry wood will be best
- An excellent meat thermometer
- Plenty of fuel – you’ll need an extra tank of fuel if you’re using a propane gas grill
- Time and patience. It will take as long to grill your turkey as to roast it in the oven. It’s just going to taste much, much better.
Step One – The Day Before You Grill: Prepare the Turkey
Remove the neck and gizzards from inside the cavities of the bird. Also remove the plastic pop-up timer and whatever device is holding the legs together. Wash the inside and outside of the turkey very, very well. Pat it dry. Do not truss the turkey as this will keep the thighs from cooking evenly.
Step Two – The Day Before You Grill: Brine the Turkey (Courtesy of Alton Brown)
For the brine:
- 1 cup kosher salt
- 1/2 cup light brown sugar
- 1 gallon vegetable stock
- 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
- 1 1/2 teaspoons allspice berries
- 1 1/2 teaspoons chopped candied ginger
- 1 gallon heavily iced water
Combine the vegetable stock, salt, brown sugar, peppercorns, allspice berries, and candied ginger in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Stir occasionally to dissolve solids and bring to a boil. Then remove the brine from the heat, cool to room temperature, and refrigerate.
The Night Before You Grill:
Combine the brine, water and ice in the 5-gallon bucket. Place the thawed turkey breast side down in brine. If necessary, weigh down the bird to ensure it is fully immersed, cover, and refrigerate or set in cool area for 8 to 16 hours, turning the bird once half way through brining.
Remove the bird from the brine and rinse thoroughly both inside and out. ePat dry
Step Three – Getting the Turkey Ready for the Grill (Courtesy of Alton Brown)
Alton Brown swears by stuffing your turkey with aromatics when you plan on grilling it. A grilled turkey should never be stuffed with bread dressing – you risk bacterial growth. So I included Alton Brown’s favorite aromatic for your use.
- 1 red apple, sliced
- 1/2 onion, sliced
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 cup water
- 4 sprigs rosemary
- 6 leaves sage
- Canola oil
Combine the apple, onion, cinnamon stick, and 1 cup of water in a microwave safe dish and microwave on high for 5 minutes. Add the steeped aromatics to the turkey’s cavity along with the rosemary and sage. Tuck the wings underneath the bird and coat the skin liberally with canola oil.
Place the turkey breast side down into the V-shaped rack, place the rack into a shallow pan and place it in the gas barbeque grill.
Step Four – Maintaining an Even Temperature
Allow your turkey to cook for one hour without opening the cover. After an hour, raise the lid and quickly check the temperature. Adjust your burners as needed to maintain a temperature between 300-350 degrees F.
Step Five – Turn and Baste the Bird as Needed
Ingredients for the Perfect Turkey Mop:
- 1 cup butter
- 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons poultry seasoning
- 2 teaspoons sweet basil
- 2 teaspoons thyme
- 1 teaspoon sage
Each time you open the grill, baste the turkey liberally with this Mop. You won’t need to worry about starting a flash fire in your grill since the V-shaped turkey rack is inside a shallow pan to catch the drippings. Run off from the Mop will only improve the flavor of the gravy.
Step Six – Testing for Doneness
The tried and true standard for testing a turkey for doneness is to wiggle the thigh. If it moves around freely, the turkey is done. This works just as well when you grill a turkey- but the alternate test of internal temperature is always a smart thing to do.
Plunge your meat thermometer into the breast – but do not touch bone. Your turkey is ready to remove from the grill when the internal temperature has reached 155 degrees.
Step Seven – Remove the Turkey and Let it Rest 20-30 Minutes
Everyone is so impatient on Thanksgiving. When’s the bird going to be done? When’s the bird going to be done? To produce that wildly juicy turkey this last step simply cannot be rushed. Your turkey must rest at least 20 minutes (30 is better) in order for the juices to redistribute themselves throughout the meat.
Slicing into a turkey without completing this step will produce an instant rush of juices onto the plate – and a less than succulent meal.
Enjoy your Thanksgiving Turkey and Happy Grilling to You All…