In My Kitchen - Thanksgiving Barbecue Turkey

November 19, 2019

Fran Lane


Thanksgiving Barbecue Turkey

There’s nothing like barbecue turkey. My husband Tom says: I’ve been barbecuing turkey since I was a sophomore in high school. As I usually barbecue 6 to 8 turkeys a year, I buy them frozen this time of year because they are really inexpensive and I put them in my basement freezer for use throughout the year (I’ve been known to shovel my way out to my Weber grill and knock the snow off it to barbecue a turkey).  Once you learn how to do it~ you’ll never want to oven roast a turkey again.

The first thing to do is brine the turkey. Ever wonder why some turkeys are bone-dry while others remain juicy, tender, and delicious? The answer is brining. The brine solution actually unwinds meat proteins~ trapping moisture and flavor inside the bird. You can buy commercial brining mixes, but they are overpriced. I prefer to make my own: 6 quarts water / 1 quart ice / 2 cups kosher salt / 1 cup sugar / 2 tablespoons poultry seasoning / 2 tablespoons black peppercorns / 6 bay leaves / In a large container that will fit in your refrigerator with a turkey, bring all brine ingredients to a boil, stir and make sure all the salt and sugar is dissolved. Turn off heat, add ice, and allow to cool to room temperature, then cool in refrigerator. Remove neck and giblets from inside thawed or fresh turkey. With a knife, carefully cut a 3 inch slit on both sides of turkey under the thickest part of breast~ cutting skin only, not through meat. Submerge turkey, breast side down in cool brine solution and cover. Place in refrigerator to cure for 24 hours.

Prepare a fire with charcoal in a Weber grill or in the fire-box of a cooker or at the end of a barrel smoker opposite the end with a vent. I use a Weber grill (see photo above). While charcoal is getting ready, soak Hickory wood chips (available in grocery stores where they carry charcoal) in water. Take turkey out of brine and sprinkle poultry seasoning inside turkey. Stuff the turkey with 1 quartered onion, several sprigs of rosemary, and a bunch of fresh sage. Cook the stuffing separately~ I cook it on the Weber after I take the turkey off in a foil pan so it gets that fantastic smoky flavor. Truss the turkey as you usually do and rub with olive oil.

When the coals are covered with gray ash, divide them in half and push them to each side of the grill so a large foil pan can sit in the center. Place the foil pan in the center and add about a cup of water to the pan. Add a couple charcoal briquettes to each side and place the grate on the grill, making sure the handles are placed over the coals so you can add coals and wood chips as needed. This is the indirect method of cooking. The coals are not under the turkey and the Weber grill recreates an oven. You can make gravy from the drippings that fall into the pan. Place the prepared turkey on the grill directly over the foil pan. Add some soaked wood chips to each side on top of the coals and cover with the Weber top/lid with the vent open. The temperature inside the cooker should be kept between 300 to 250 degrees. Most Weber gills these days have a thermometer on the grill top. If not, you can put an oven thermometer inside the grill, but not over the coals. Keep adding briquettes and wood chips about every half hour or as needed throughout the process. Baste with olive oil when you add new briquettes. You can use a pop-up timer or an instant read You can use a pop-up timer or an instant read thermometer inserted in the turkey’s thigh, without touching the bone registers 165 degrees to tell when it is done. The cooking process will take about the same time as cooked in a conventional oven. Transfer turkey to a platter and tent with foil, and let sit at least 30 minutes before carving. Meanwhile- put the dressing in a foil pan and put on grill and heat till cooked, adding more wood chips. Make gravy from the drippings in the pan if you want. If cooking a Thanksgiving or Christmas turkey like this makes you nervous~ relax, try a small turkey the week before to get used to it. Once you barbecue a turkey~ you’ll never want to do it in an oven again. Enjoy.