Thanksgiving Barbecue

The forecast is for scattered showers turning to snow in the late afternoon. If I start the fire an hour earlier, maybe the turkey will be ready by 3:00…probably not.

Seasoned turkey

We have always cooked our turkey on the grill. Early on we had a couple of occasions where we were tempted to just go ahead and cook inside, but we always stuck to our guns and did the barbecue. Even after we moved from sunny California to New York we have stayed with our tradition. It isn’t just stubbornness on our part- the flavor and texture is worth the extra effort.

A chimney is the best way to start the charcoal- no lighter fluid, just a sheet of newspaper…or two or three.

Starting the charcoal.

The coals are divided on each side of the kettle and a small roasting pan is placed in the middle to catch the drippings. A layer of water helps keep the drippings from scorching.

Charcoal and drip pan

We try to have a 20 pound turkey to cook. We like the leftovers, so a smaller bird doesn’t seem worthwhile. More than 24 pounds and fit in the Weber becomes an issue. We don’t stuff the turkey- the cooking time gets too long and it is hard not to have over-cooked areas. While the charcoal is starting the turkey gets dried inside and out. I spray PAM all over the outside of the turkey, then sprinkle well with garlic salt. I also stick slivers of garlic under the skin all around the breast side of the bird.

A layer of foil protects the skin so that it doesn’t brown before the meat cooks. The wings and legs each get a block of foil (the oil spray helps prevent the skin from sticking to the foil).

Turkey wrapped in foil

A sheet of foil goes on the grill with holes pierced in it to let the juices drip into the pan. The turkey get set on the foil (this may take two people on a breezy day) and the sides tucked up to cover up to the foil on the legs and wings.
A length of foil goes overt the breast and upper edges of the other foil pieces to finish wrapping the turkey.

Foil on grillTurkey- wrapped & ready

The turkey gets a protective wrapping of foil in sections so that it can be unwrapped as it finishes cooking. The heat and smoke can work its way through the layers of foil, but the skin doesn’t scorch. Once the turkey is on the grill and covered, the lid goes on with the vent facing into the wind to help the heat circulation.

Cold wind, especially with rain or snow, draws heat from the Weber very quickly. A sheltered location can help cut heat loss.

Rain on the Weber

In warmer weather the turkey will be able to completely cook with one load of charcoal. That doesn’t happen in November in New York, however. I’m finding that it is best to start another chimney of briquettes (about 20 or so) after the turkey has been cooking about an hour. Once they are going good, split them between the two stacks that have been cooking.

When the meat temperature gets to the 160° range it is time to start unwrapping the bird to start browning. The breast cover comes off first, the legs get exposed once the color starts developing. The wings stay covered- they are thin and will overcook very easily.

Turkey ready to brown

When the meat temperature gets to 160° I start trying to estimate when the bird will come off of the grill. Checking the temperature change in 5 minutes gives me a rough idea how much time is left to cook- helpful to coordinate the rest of the meal. It also lets me know if the charcoal stalls, which happens with a wind or precipitation increase or the coals are burning out. I use a digital probe on a braided lead, so I don’t have to lift the lid to check the temperature- opening the lid drops the temperature and extends the time.

Once the turkey reaches 178 or so I start getting ready to pick it up. The temperature will come up a couple of degrees while the bird rests on the counter. I let turkey rest 10 to 15 minutes before carving so the juices stay in the meat. It is after 4:00, so we are running a bit late, but there are only mild complaints. The flavor of the juicy meat makes up for a delayed dinner!

Finally! The meat is up to temperature- time to bring the turkey to the feast!

The turkey is ready!

Posted on 25 November 2010, 22:49 by Burney Baron