Grill a Turkey This Thanksgiving

Everyone knows about roasted turkey.

And the ever-growing-in-popularity fried turkey (don’t drop them in the oil if they’re frozen – they really do explode).

But what about grilling a turkey? That’s something I never thought of. But I was reading an article about it online the other day, and thought I’d share it with our readers.

It really sounds good. I’ve grilled whole chickens – beer butt chicken – and oh my gosh, is it good if you do it right.

But grilling a big old turkey?

A couple of reasons why this is a good idea:

  • The heat from cooking the turkey is outside and not making your kitchen a sweltering torture chamber.
  • The emissions from the grill are outside, making it much safer for you and your family. A lot of people forget that even clean-burning natural gas has emissions that can be dangerous. Running your oven for several hours if it’s not fully vented outside (whose oven really is?) can fill your house with nasty stuff that isn’t good to breathe.
  • If you use charcoal/wood, you’ll get a great smoky flavor with your turkey. FYI – beginners are advised to use a gas grill.
  • It’s very difficult to gauge the proper temperature with a charcoal grill if you don’t know what you’re doing.
  • Everything tastes good grilled.

One reason I’m not sure I’d like grilling a turkey

  • You can’t stuff the bird (it won’t cook properly). That kind of sucks for me, because I truly love stuffing.

Anyway, I found a great article on KABC TV’s site about grilling a turkey that I’ll share here. It tells you everything you need to know:

Baking and frying are the most popular options when it comes to cooking your Thanksgiving turkey, but there are a lot of good reasons to try grilling this year.

“It leaves you that whole oven free inside to do everything else,” said Sunset magazine’s Food Editor Margo True.

She teamed up with meat master Bruce Aidell to show how easy it can be.

“I would say we grilled 20-25 turkeys, in that vicinity, both by gas, which is by far the easiest for beginners, and on charcoal,” True said.

True says don’t use lighter fluid for this method, and if you use wood chips, soak them first.

Pat the bird down – don’t rinse – your completely thawed turkey. It’s best for food safety. Make sure to remove the giblets and gizzards, and don’t bother to truss. What’s also novel about grilling is you don’t stuff. Smoked turkey is good, but smoked stuffing is not so good.

True also says you want short nails and small hands so that you can coat the complete inside of the bird with butter. To rub butter under the skin of the turkey, you have to loosen the skin first. And inside the cavity, True says to massage the turkey.

True used Aidell’s herb mustard butter, with garlic salt and pepper – careful to spread flavor and moisture evenly. Stuffing the bird blocks heat and makes it unsafe to eat, so cook stuffing in the oven while the turkey is on the grill.

Once prepared, the bird sits on a shallow grill rack, and the drip pan is below the rack to catch drippings for gravy. The heat will come from the sides of the bird but never directly under.

“You do not want live fire under your turkey. That’s how it burns,” True said. “We also keep the lid down while we’re grilling the bird. That’s really important.”

True suggests a cable-style thermometer inserted in the breast down to the bone, and a secondary thermometer for the thigh to bone where it meets carcass.

A 14-pound turkey averages around two hours, but birds vary. But True says big 20-pounders aren’t recommended, as the heat is too displaced and won’t cook through.

So, the big question is, “Am I grilling a turkey this year?” The answer is no. I’m going to my mother’s house and she’s baking it. But maybe next year? Maybe, just maybe!

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