Grilled Heritage Turkey with an Herb Rub-Winter

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. Sage and rosemary are powerful herbs. Combined, they should be only about 1/4 to 1/3 of the overall herb mix. If you can't find a heritage turkey, look for free range, organic anti-biotic free turkey.

1 14-16 pound heritage turkey (hen)
Kosher salt
Fresh ground black pepper
4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup coarsely chopped fresh herbs: parsley, chives, thyme, sage and rosemary
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
Neutral flavored cooking oil (grapeseed, sunflower, or canola)

1. Remove the turkey from the refrigerator 2 hours before you plan to cook it, to come to room temperature. Rub the turkey inside and out with salt and pepper, you will need about 2 teaspoons of each. Tuck the wing tips under the breast to keep from burning. There is no need to truss, this will help it cook faster.

2. Prepare an outdoor grill for indirect medium-high heat. Use a mixture of hard wood and briquettes, placing them on one-half of the grill. Use plenty of briquettes for the long burning, and the wood for the flavor. 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 middle. 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 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.

4. Brush the outside of the turkey with olive oil. Oil the grill grate with oil.

5. Place turkey, breast side up, on the grill on the side where there are no coals. Grill, covered, begin to check the temperature 2 hours into the cooking, cook to an internal thigh temperature of 155̊ F. If there is an external thermostat on the grill maintain the temperature around 350̊. There are many variables that will affect the cooking time. It could take up to 4 hours. Keep plenty of hot coals at the ready if needed. Remove turkey from 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). Use the same butter and herb mix and grill over indirect heat, until each section reaches 155̊ 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, Check with who you purchase your turkey from to find out how tough it may be. It's only happened once when the legs were so tough I needed to save them for soup! You definitely don't want to find out this on Thanksgiving day.
Black Spanish, and White Holland. " (

© 2010 Julie Logue-Riordan

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Copyright © Julie Logue Riordan, Cooking with Julie