- Cullman, Alabama


November 18, 2012

BBQ: Turkey preparation requires attention to details

Sellersburg, Ind. — As Thanksgiving approaches, attention will undoubtedly turn to the traditional recipes and food preparation styles we are all comfortable with for the big holiday meal.

Today I will cover some basic turkey cooking/grilling tips as well as provide you with some turkey leftover recipes that I know you and your family will love.

First, let me explain the benefits of moving the turkey preparation outside. If you grill / smoke the turkey on a traditional kettle grill and utilize hardwood chips with your charcoal, or use lump charcoal made from real wood, your turkey will have wonderful outdoor flavor.

Personally, I prefer hickory, and it's easy to find. You will also free up the kitchen and oven for the preparation of the side dishes and desserts. Following are some key pointers for grilling a turkey.

1. Size: Don't overdo the size of the bird. If you have a standard 21.5-inch kettle grill, any turkey over 16 to 17 lbs will not fit. Remember, you are using indirect heat, meaning the charcoal is stacked on one or two sides and none of the bird can be directly exposed to the coals. If you would like to see how we set up the grill and grill a turkey, visit our YouTube channel and in the “search channel” box enter “smoked turkey.”

2. Thawing: If you buy a frozen bird, give it at least two to three days to thaw in your

refrigerator. If the bird still has frozen areas on Thanksgiving morning, place in a large bucket and cover with cold water. Allow a small stream of water to trickle in from the faucet and allow it to trickle out and over the top of the bucket. By continually (and slowly) replacing the water, you maintain a temperature and water movement that will speed up the thawing process. Of course the best solution is to buy a fresh bird that is not frozen.

3. Seasoning: Rubs, salt, and pepper placed directly on the skin do very little for flavoring, and the smoking process will provide great color. To get flavor into or on the meat, you can pull the skin up and rub the meat with herbs and spices, making sure you place the skin back where it was, or you can inject with a flavored broth or solution. Personally, I go “all-natural.”

4. Moistness: Once you remove the neck and giblets from the cavity, you have a wide open space that will be filled with hot air, which could adversely impact the moistness of the turkey. I fill the space with peeled and halved onions as well as quartered apples. The onions and apples add some flavoring as the steam is released, while helping keep the bird moist. Discard when done.

5. Positioning: The breast of the turkey tends to be the biggest challenge in terms of maintaining moistness. Something I have started doing is cooking the breast side down. The white meat does tend to be more moist, but the end product looks a bit strange with grill marks on the breast portion. It's up to you if moister meat is worth a less desirable visual presentation. Moistness wins for me.

6. Flexibility: Realize that each grilling experience has its own personality. Weather conditions and the heartiness of the charcoals will impact the temperature of the grill, thus determining cooking time. Plan on 20 to 30 minutes per pound, assuming your grilling temperature will be around 325 degrees. But, please realize it can happen quicker. The turkey will be done when a thermometer inserted into the thigh (nor touching the bone) registers 160 degrees. I've had a

turkey finish up to an hour early.

7. Rest: When you take the bird off the grill and bring it inside, strut your stuff baby! But be careful not to drop the turkey while performing your rendition of the Michael Jackson moon walk across the kitchen. Most importantly, allow the bird to rest for 20 minutes or so before carving. If you carve too soon you will release a lot of the juices. Also realize that the temperature of the bird will continue to raise an additional 7 to 10 degrees before starting the cooling process.

8. Be Sharp: This is really important. Be sure that your knife is freshly sharpened. Otherwise you will rip the bird apart when trying to carve it.

9. Wait! Don't dare throw the carcass away when done. Wrap it and freeze it. The carcass can be used as the source for a fantastic poultry broth for turkey noodle soup, vegetable soup, whatever you would like!

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