This is my instructable for Barbecue Turkey. Outdoor cooking large poultry has some special challenges that can ruin a bird very quickly, or can make you sick. This how I solve those problems, and end up with a delicious turkey feast!
Step 1: Some Background
To get the most out of a properly cooked turkey it need some prep before going to the barbecue, or oven for that matter. The "recipe" I have come up with is not original. I learned of it from Alton Brown's show "Good Eats" on roasting a Thanksgiving Day turkey. I adapted it to suit my needs. The secret to a properly cooked turkey is in temperature control. The Bird needs to be cooked at a high temp. at first, then reduced to finish. This results in a juicy, flavorful bird, and not a "sawdust" bag..
For the veggie stock:
3 lbs of veggies
For the brine:
1 gal veggie stock
1C salt, kosher, pickling, or sea salt
1/2 C light brown sugar
1 TBS pepercorns
1/2 TBS allspice berries
1/2 tsp dill
1 gal ice water (with ice!)
The aromatics: (for inside the bird)
1 apple (I like green apples)
1/2 onion (I used a purple, but your favorite will work great!)
2 sprigs fresh sage
Salt an Pepper to taste
The only special equipment I use is a 5Gal cooler, a heavy metal v-rack (you can get them at barbecue specialty suppliers, or sometimes the "chain stores" have them)
I prefer "lump" or real wood charcoal. (mesquite is nice)
I also use a "remote reading" thermometer, but you can use a direct if you prefer.
This recipe does not lend itself to a "stuffed" bird, so I strongly recommend against it, besides there are plenty of great oven recipes out there!
Step 2: 2 DAYS Before.....
Yup, 2 days! We're going to do this homemade. You can skip the homemade veggie stock, but it always seems better when I do make my own. First off you will need:
About 1 and 1/2 gallons of water
Put the Bird in the refrigerator to defrost.
I used frozen veggies from the store and some fresh from our garden. The only "rules" about the veggies is to go easy on the Brassicaceae (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brassicaceae) (cabbage relatives) as their flavor can be overpowering. Think of things that would make a tasty veggie soup or stew.
Place the veggies in a pot with the water and bring it to a boil, then reduce to simmer, you will need to let it cook some to get the flavor we need out of the veggies, but don't over cook them, they come into play later...
When they are cooked scoop out the veggies, store them in a bag in the refrigerator. You should end up with about 1 gallon of stock.
Step 3: Making the Brine
What we're going to do now is make a "brine" it's a kind of marinade. Using a little chemistry were going to guarantee a moist and tender bird!
Next up you will need:
1 C Salt, use sea, kosher, or pickling salt, as they have no "anti-caking" additives.
1/2 C Light brown sugar, you can use dark, but it has a stronger flavor
1 Gallon Veggie stock (we just made!) You can substitute store bought or omit this and use water, but the flavor isn't as good.
1 TBS whole peppercorns
1/2 TBS allspice berries
1/2 tsp dill, dried is fine, use fresh if you can get it.
Add these to the veggie stock, simmer until the salt and sugar are dissolved, cool and refrigerate.
Step 4: Brining the Bird!
On the evening of the day before you plan on having the turkey you need to dunk him in the brine.
Now at this point I'm sure your wondering why brine at all, or the bird will end up salty, or what's this nut thinking...
Well it is a type of marinade, but it is actually a clever one. It uses a process called osmosis to draw the plain water out of the meat and replace it with our carefully crafted veggie stock, with just enough salt to keep the flavors locked in deep. It also guarantees a moister bird.
You will need:
1 Gallon of brine (made yesterday)
1 Gallon water and ice
I use a 5 Gallon cooler to hold the brine and the bird, but you can use a food grade plastic bucket or a large canning pot
Put your fully cooled and refrigerated brine into the bucket with some ice, stir..
Put the turkey in
Cover with ice and water, stir again. Make sure the bird is fully submerged, use a weight if necessary.
Put the lid on the bucket and place the cooler in a spot where it won't be disturbed. I use the back porch with something on the lid to keep it on. If you have a large refrigerator (such as in a garage) you can use that or just a dark cool place. The point is to keep it cold, that is why the cooler is ideal. The ice and brine will keep the bird from spoiling. Try to leave the bird for approx 10 hours or so. It can be left up to 16. Left too long (it takes a long time) it can become "salty". Others who use this technique turn the bird half way through, but I have never been able to tell the difference.
Step 5: Get Redy for Barbecue!
So now it's the morning of the big day! We're gonna Barbecue a turkey!
First off we need:
A Barbecue, I use a charcoal "kettle" type for cooking large roasts and ribs
Charcoal, I prefer "lump" type charcoal that is made from hardwoods, it imparts the correct flavor and is easier to clean up as it burns more completely.
Water pan, I use a water pan under the turkey to catch drippings and help control "flare ups"
Step 6: GO!
The turkey is up next, get it out of the brine, give it a quick rinse and dry it off. Place it in a pan to work on it. DISCARD THE BRINE, it is now full of "juices" from your turkey and is not re-usable. Your gonna need:
Fresh sage (if available)
1/2 an onion.
salt and pepper to taste.
Cut the onion and apple up, place them in a microwave dish with about a cup of water. Cook in the microwave oven for 5 min on high.
Take the turkey and place in the cavity:
2 sprigs of fresh sage or sprinkle with dry if that is all you have.
The cut up apple and onion.
Make a foil "hat" for the bird's breast, then remove it, you may need it during the last few minutes of cooking.
Brush the skin top and bottom with melted butter and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Step 7: Onto the Barbecue!
Next up: The bird and the Cue.. a love story..
Using a "V" rack on the barbecue place the bird over the water pan BREAST SIDE DOWN and cover the grille. The temp should go up to around 500degF.
Leave the bird for approx 15 min then quickly uncover and turn 180 degrees, to help cook evenly.
Check again in 15 min, what you are doing is browning the bottom of the bird. Turn again and wait 15 min more, repeat as needed.
When the bottom skin is nice and brown you are going to turn the bird breast side up carefully and repeat the above procedure, you may have to add charcoal to the barbecue at this point. Check every 15-20 min rotating the bird and the rack on the grate. This ensures an evenly browned bird.
When the skin over the breast is a nice brown color it is time for the foil "hat" we made earlier. Place the hat over the bird and place a remote thermometer in the thickest part of the breast meat. Close the vents, top and bottom on the barbecue to "slow" or cool off the fire, you want the barbecue to "cool down" to around 325-350deg F. You will notice the thermometer, in the bird, reads around 80deg F at this point, so you have some time to relax now. Check the bird and the coals at about 30 min intervals and keep an eye on that temp. You may want to rotate the bird on the grate again to ensure evenly cooked legs.
What we did is cooked the skin at a high temperature, melting the fat layer beneath it. This helps "self baste" the bird and gets rid of any "greasiness" in the meat. If we had started out the barbecue at 350deg F it could have resulted in a "greasy" bird and potentially caused a longer cooking time, which dries out poultry.
The reason for starting out the bird breast down and "fliping" it is the barbecue is using indirect heat, the heat is coming from the side and over the top, not from the bottom.
When you taste this bird you will know why the extra effort is worth it!
The bird is done when the breast meat reads 165-170F and the legs and thighs are 185F.
Don't get upset if you go over a little, the brine process buys you a little insurance against over cooking.
Step 8: Dinner Time!
Rest the bird 10 min or so and carve it up!
The bird will be tender without falling apart and will have the nice "smoke" flavor you can only get from using real charcoal and cooking outside.
Step 9: Bonus Round!
Since you saved those veggies from making the stock 2 days ago, wouldn't it be nice to make a little more, say a nice soup for later in the week, or something homemade that could be pulled out of the freezer, and served up quick on a cold night? Read on...
Once you have carved all the meat off the carcass there is still a lot left, it just need a little help to get it off. Chop up the carcass so it will fit in the stock pot and cover it with water, bring to a boil and then simmer for 15 min or so. Turn the heat off and let it cool until you can remove the carcass bones. set them on a plate and pull off the now loose meat. Return the meat to the pot and add the veggies, simmer for a few minutes. Now you have turkey veggie soup! Let it cool off enough to put in containers and refrigerate or freeze.
When you are ready to use it, defrost and re-heat. You can add noodles or rice at this point and make a nice hearty soup with the unusual flavor of barbecue.
Pretty neat huh?
I hope you liked my instructable. I made this for the "Low and Slow" barbecue contest, and my family and I like any excuse we can come up with for a barbecued turkey!
I am welcome to any thoughts or comments you might have and if you think I make good turkey, please vote!