Grilled Heritage Turkey with an Herb Rub
Heritage* turkeys do not need to be brined and are moist and flavorful. You’ll never go back to the mass-produced birds once you’ve tasted this turkey. If you can't find a heritage turkey, look for a free-range, organic antibiotic-free turkey.
You can use a gas or charcoal grill, you will have the best flavor cooking over charcoal. Cooked over indirect heat the advantage is there are no flare-ups, the turkey cooks evenly and stays moister. Keep in mind sage and rosemary are powerful herbs combined, they should be only about 1/4 to 1/3 of the overall herb mix.
Grilling a whole turkey can be challenging to move it around on the grill for even cooking without damaging the skin. I use two clean lint-free towels instead of tongs, bbq fork or potholders. When I am done I toss them in the washer. I have several I keep just for this purpose.
1 10-12 pound heritage turkey (hen)
Fresh ground black pepper
4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter
3 garlic cloves, minced
3/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1 teaspoon thyme, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh sage, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped
1 onion quartered
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
Neutral flavored cooking oil (grapeseed, sunflower, or canola)
1. Remove the giblet packet that is inside the body or neck cavity and reserve to make gravy. Rub the turkey inside and out with salt and pepper, you will need about 4 teaspoons of salt and 2 teaspoons pepper. Tuck the wing tips under the breast to keep the tips from burning.
2. Prepare an outdoor grill for indirect medium-high heat. Use a mixture of 1/4 hardwood and 3/4 briquettes, placing them on one-half of the grill. If you have a gas grill, only heat one side, or if your gas grill is large you can have the heat on two sides. The key is to have no coals or flame in the center of the grill. If you are using briquettes you may want to place an aluminum pan under the grate to catch any drippings. You can use them later for gravy.
3. Place the butter, garlic, herbs, 1 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper together in a food processor. Pulse on and off several times until well mixed and the herbs are finely chopped. Divide into 4 equal parts. Lift the skin where the neck used to be and use your finger to separate the skin from the breast on both breasts. Place one-fourth of the butter mixture under the skin of each breast and gently rub to spread the butter over the top of the breast meat. Turn the turkey over and using a small knife separate the skin by the tail at the thigh, placing one-fourth of the butter on each of the thighs. Rub to evenly distribute on the thighs. Place the quartered onion inside the turkey. Season the outside of the turkey again. Remove the turkey from the refrigerator 2 hours before you plan to cook it.
4. Clean and oil the grill grate with the cooking oil.
5. Place turkey, breast side up, on the grill on the section where there are no coals. Grill, covered, begin to check the temperature 1 hour into the cooking, cook to an internal thigh temperature of 165̊ F, the breast should be at 160F. If there is an external thermostat on the grill maintain the temperature around 350̊. There are many variables that will affect the cooking time. Using clean towels turn the turkey 180-degrees every hour so it cooks evenly. It could take up to 4 hours. Keep plenty of hot coals at the ready if needed. Remove turkey from the grill as it rests it will reach the desired temperature of 165Fand let stand 20-30 minutes before carving.
Note: The fastest way to grill a turkey is to separate the turkey into 5 pieces (2 legs, the breast, and 2 wings).Cook the breast until it reaches 160°F and the legs, thighs, and wings to 165°F. Remove from the heat cover to keep warm and let rest for 20 minutes. It will take an hour or less!
*"Heritage Turkeys prized for their great flavor and moistness are the ancestors of the common broad-breasted white industrial breed of turkey. Most breeds of heritage turkey were developed in the United States and Europe. These breeds include the Standard Bronze, Bourbon Red, Narragansett, Jersey Buff, Slate, Black Spanish, and White Holland. " Check with who you purchase your turkey from to find out how tough it may be. It has only happened once when the legs were so tough I needed to save them for soup! You definitely do not want to find out this on Thanksgiving day.
© 2010 Julie Logue-Riordan
Copyright © Julie Logue Riordan, Cooking with Julie