Cooking turkeys has long been fodder for sitcoms, with the overachieving first-time-holiday-hostess haplessly serving a frozen bird or salvaging a charred turkey from the depths of the oven. Even for a seasoned cook (in real life), the turkey plus all the sides can be a daunting task. With magazine after magazine saying just grill that bird and save the oven space, we asked Jill to do a pre-holiday test run. We’d love to hear what other holiday staples have migrated from your oven to the grill. -Maggie
Thanksgiving and Christmas are just around the corner, and with it come the traditional feasts and all the trimmings. Instead of cooking your bird in the oven, try the grill. It will free up your oven for things like Cheddar Bacon Cornbread or Denise’s fresh take on Green Bean Casserole (recipes coming soon on EB!).
I whipped up this turkey using a recipe from Cook’s Illustrated. You can either make it on a charcoal barbecue, or gas grill using indirect heat. Here’s a step-by-step of how I went about grill-roasting this bird:
Two-inch incisions are made on either side of the backbone, under the wings and thighs. With your fingers or a spoon, carefully separate the skin from the breast and thighs, then rub salt between the skin to season the meat. I must confess – it wasn’t as easy as the video made it seem. I was afraid that I was going to tear the whole skin off, so I simply separated as I much as I could.
Rub salt, baking powder, and pepper over the skin. Then wrap the whole bird tightly with plastic and refrigerate for 24-48 hours. This is an old espresso coffee grinder which does a fantastic job of grinding peppercorns.
The recipe calls for baking powder, which through some scientific reaction, is supposed to make the skin crispy. And it worked! I now use a bit of baking powder whenever I want crispy chicken legs or wings. Hmmm, wonder if works on oven-baked fries?
Just before cooking, unwrap the turkey and rub vegetable oil all over. Be sure to tuck the wings under, and ensure the legs are tied. You want it to cook as evenly as possible.
The recipe says to put the pan underneath the grill, but my barbecue didn’t allow that, so I improvised and placed the turkey right in the pan instead. The burners on either side are set at medium low, with the burners directly under the turkey turned off.
Cover and try to maintain a temperature of 325-F, rotating and basting halfway through cooking.
Cooking time will vary, depending on outside temperatures and your barbecue. Mine took about 4 hours for a 12 pound bird.
Garnish on a platter with seasonal fresh herbs, fruit or vegetables.
Gas Grilled Turkey (from Cooks Illustrated)
Serves 10 to 12
Some notes from Cooks Illustrated: Don’t use table salt for this recipe; it is too fine. If using a self-basting turkey (such as a frozen Butterball) or a kosher turkey, don’t salt in step 1, but do season with salt in step 2. Check the wings halfway through roasting; if they are getting too dark, slide a small piece of foil between the wing and the cooking grate to shield the wings from the flame. As an accompaniment, try Cook’s Illustrated Gravy for Simple Grill-Roasted Turkey.
- 1(12- to 14-pound) turkey, neck and giblets removed and reserved for gravy
- Kosher salt and pepper
- 1teaspoon baking powder
- 1tablespoon vegetable oil
- Large Disposable aluminum roasting pan (if using charcoal) or 2 disposable aluminum pie plates (if using gas)
- Place turkey, breast side down, on work surface. Make two 2-inch incisions below each thigh and breast along back of turkey (4 incisions total). Using fingers or handle of wooden spoon, carefully separate skin from thighs and breast. Rub 4 teaspoons salt evenly inside cavity of turkey, 1 tablespoon salt under skin of each breast, and 1 teaspoon salt under skin of each leg.
- Combine 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon pepper, and baking powder in small bowl. Pat turkey dry with paper towels and evenly sprinkle baking powder mixture all over. Rub in mixture with hands, coating entire surface evenly. Wrap turkey tightly with plastic wrap; refrigerate for 24 to 48 hours.
- Remove turkey from refrigerator and discard plastic. Tuck wings underneath turkey. Using hands, rub oil evenly over entire surface.
- FOR A CHARCOAL GRILL: Open bottom vent halfway and place disposable pan filled with 3 cups water in center of grill. Arrange 1 1/2 quarts unlit charcoal briquettes on either side of pan (3 quarts total) in even layer. Light large chimney starter two-thirds filled with charcoal briquettes (4 quarts). When top coals are partially covered with ash, pour 2 quarts of lit coals on top of each pile of unlit coals. Set cooking grate in place, cover, and open lid vent halfway. Heat grill until hot, about 5 minutes.
- FOR A GAS GRILL: Place 2 disposable pie plates with 2 cups water in each directly on 1 burner over which turkey will be cooked. Turn all burners to high, cover, and heat grill until hot, about 15 minutes. Turn primary burner (burner opposite pie plates) to medium and turn off other burner(s). Adjust primary burner as needed to maintain grill temperature of 325 degrees.
- Clean and oil cooking grate. Place turkey, breast side up, in center of charcoal grill or on cooler side of gas grill, making sure bird is over disposable pans and not over flame. Cover (placing vents over turkey on charcoal grill) and cook until breasts register 160 degrees and thighs/drumsticks register 175 degrees, 2 1/2 to 3 hours, rotating turkey after 1 1/4 hours if using gas grill.
- Transfer turkey to carving board and let rest, uncovered, for 45 minutes. Carve turkey and serve.
All photos styled and taken by Jill Chen.
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