- Cullman, Alabama

November 18, 2012

BBQ: Turkey preparation requires attention to details

By Dave Lobeck
CNHI News Service

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!

Leftover Recipes:

Unless your family totally demolishes your bird, you will more than likely have leftovers. If possible, store the leftover turkey in large pieces. Avoid the temptation to fully carve the bird unless it looks like

the entire bird will be eaten in one seating.

Bigger sections mean less surface area and less drying out of the meat.

Following are some of the recipes we use for leftovers, in addition to that simple turkey sandwich with mayo and horse radish. Each recipe has the search term you can use to locate the instructional video on our YouTube channel.

Hot Brown Sandwich

• 2.5 lbs of cooked turkey

• Sliced Bread

• 8 oz of Mushrooms

• Two Chopped Shallots

• Eight Slices of Cooked Bacon

• Two Tablespoons of Flour

• 1/4 Stick of Butter

• One Cup of Shredded Swiss Cheese

• One Cup Plus Two Tablespoons of Milk

• 1/2 Teaspoon of Poultry Seasoning

• 1/8 Teaspoon of Cayenne Pepper

Toast the sliced bread and set aside. Thinly slice the chicken or turkey and set aside.

Chop the shallot and saute in one tablespoon of butter until translucent. (About 3 minutes)

Add sliced mushroom and saute of three minutes.

Set shallots and mushrooms aside.

To Make the Sauce: You should really watch the video, but melt 1/4 stick of butter and mix in 2 tablespoons of butter. Once mixture is smooth, slowly whisk in milk. Add poultry seasoning, cayenne pepper and 1/4 cup of the cheese. This is called a Bechamel Sauce for those of you who are interested.

Assemble the Sandwich: Place turkey or chicken on bread. Spoon on mushroom mixture and then the sauce. Then lay bacon on the sandwich and top off with Swiss cheese.

Bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for five minutes then broil at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for two minutes or until the cheese is melted.

Turkey Pot Pie

Pie Crust

• 1 Stick of Chilled Butter

• 2 Cups of Flour

• 4 Tablespoons of Iced Water

Please watch the video if you want to make the pie crust from scratch. The other option is to buy the ready made pie shells.

Pie Filling

• 1/2 Cup Chopped Celery

• 1/2 Cup Chopped Carrots

• 1 Chopped Onion

• 2 Cups Sliced Mushrooms

• 3 Cups of Cooked Turkey (or Chicken)

• Salt and Pepper to Taste

• 1 Tablespoon Herbes De Provence: If you don't have this, substitute 1 teaspoon each of rosemary, thyme and marjoram.


• 3 Tablespoons of Unsalted Butter

• 3 Tablespoons of Flour

• 1/2 Cup of Chicken Stock

• 1/2 Cup of White Wine

• 3/4 Cup of Milk

• Salt and Pepper to Taste

With the sauce, you melt the butter and then mix in the flour over medium heat to create a rue. Stir until the flour dissolves. Then stir in the stock and wine. Stir for a bit. Lastly, stir in the milk. Stir over medium heat until you have a consistency that is slightly thicker than gravy.

Pour filling into a cast iron pan and then pour sauce over filling. Cover with pie crust. Pierce few openings in the crust to allow steam to escape.

Brush the crust with egg whites. Cook for 40 minutes in a preheated oven at 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Enjoy your holiday, and be sure to give these leftover recipes a try!

Dave Lobeck, of Sellersburg, Ind., is a financial adviser, barbecue chef and Kansas City Barbecue Society judge. He writes a column for CNHI News Service. Visit his website at