Who says turkey needs to be cooked in the oven? Throw that old-fashioned notion out the window and enlist your grill to do the cooking. The result will be a deliciously juicy turkey with a crisp skin and smoky flavor. And you’ll free up oven space for more side dishes or an additional pie!
Just be sure your grill is large enough to house a turkey (a standard kettle grill should do the trick). For maximum flavor potential, brine the turkey for at least 12 hours before it hits the grill; use wood chips such as cherry, hickory, pecan or maple.
Apple-Bourbon Brine (recipe below)
Spice-Herb Butter (recipe below)
Country-Style Gravy (recipe below)
1, 12-14 lb. (6-7 kg.) fresh whole turkey or 1 fresh wild turkey, neck, giblets and wing tips removed and turkey dressed
Salt and ground white pepper
3 large carrots, peeled and halved lengthwise
4 celery ribs
2 yellow onions, peeled and quartered
1-2 lb. wood chips or chunks, soaked for 30 minutes
Brine the turkey: Rinse the turkey, inside and out, under cold running water, then place in the brine. Add cold water to cover the turkey; weigh it down with a plate and refrigerate for up to 12 hours or overnight. Remove the turkey from the brine 1 hour before grilling and pat dry with paper towels. Discard the brine.
Season the turkey, inside and out, with salt and white pepper. Starting at the neck end, carefully loosen the skin from the breast with your fingers. Then, working from the cavity end, loosen the skin from the breast and legs. Massage the spice-herb butter under the skin; massage any remaining butter into the outside of the skin. Truss the turkey.
Prepare a charcoal or gas grill for indirect grilling over medium-low heat. Arrange the vegetables and the reserved herb sprigs in a large aluminum roasting pan. Place the turkey on top of the vegetables.
CHARCOAL: Sprinkle half of the wood chips over the coals. Place the pan with the turkey and vegetables on the cooler side of the grill, cover, and cook until the skin is nicely browned and the juices run clear when the thigh is pierced, 2 1/2 -3 hours or 12-15 minutes per pound. Replenish the coals and wood chips and baste the turkey with its own juices every 30 minutes.
GAS: Raise a burner to high. Heat a smoker box half full of wood chips until smoking; reduce heat to medium-low. Place the pan with the turkey and vegetables over unlit burners, cover, and cook until the skin is browned and juices run clear when the thigh is pierced, 2 1/2-3 1/2 hours or 12-15 minutes per pound. Replenish wood chips and baste turkey with its own juices every 30 minutes.
To test for doneness, insert an instant-read thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh away from the bone; it should register 170°F (77°C). The breast meat should register at least 155°F (68°C).
Transfer the turkey to a carving board, tent with aluminum foil, and let rest for 20-30 minutes. Carve and serve with the country-style gravy alongside. Serves 8-10.
4 cups (32 fl. oz./1 l) apple cider
2 cups (16 fl. oz./500 ml) bourbon or other whiskey
1/2 cup (4 oz./125 g) coarse salt
1/2 cup (4 oz./125 g) granulated sugar
1 yellow onion, quartered
3-4 whole bay leaves
In a clean 5-gallon (20-l) plastic bucket, combine the apple cider and bourbon. Whisk in the salt and sugar until dissolved. Add the onion and bay leaves.
Pour over turkey in a large container, stock pot or clean plastic bucket. Add enough water to cover and weigh down with a plate to submerge the bird in the brine. Makes 2 qt. (64 fl. oz./2 l).
2 Tbs. each white peppercorns, fennel seeds and coriander seeds, toasted
1 Tbs. each chopped fresh rosemary, sage and thyme
1 cup (8 oz./250 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 Tbs. granulated garlic
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
In a spice grinder or blender, combine the peppercorns, fennel and coriander seeds. Process into a coarse powder. In a small bowl, stir together the spice powder, chopped herbs, butter, granulated garlic, lemon zest and juice, and 1 teaspoon salt.
This butter will keep 1 week in the refrigerator or 3 months in the freezer. Makes 1 cup (8 oz./250 g).
1/2 cup (4 fl. oz./125 ml) white wine
1/2 cup (4 fl. oz./125 ml) water, chicken stock or broth
2 Tbs. unsalted butter
2 Tbs. all-purpose flour
Coarse salt and ground white pepper
Using the Grilled Turkey recipe above, mash the roasted vegetables and herb sprigs that are under the turkey in the roasting pan. Return the pan to a grill over direct heat or stove top on medium-high heat and deglaze the bottom of the pan with the white wine and water, using a wooden spoon to dislodge any brown bits. Strain through a sieve into a measuring cup with a spout or beaker; discard the solids. Using a small ladle, skim the grease off the top, leaving 1-2 tablespoons in the cup with the pan juices.
In a saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter until the foam subsides. Stir in the flour, season with salt and white pepper, and cook, stirring constantly, until golden brown, about 2 minutes. Add the strained pan juices, 1/2 cup (4 fl. oz./125 ml) at a time, and briefly remove the pan from the heat, whisking vigorously, after each addition. Simmer the gravy until it is very smooth and thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 10 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Serves 4.