Grilling a whole turkey using indirect heat keeps the flames at bay the turkey moist and the skin crisp. Herb butter is stashed under the skin to keep the meat moist. Plus there is no brining, basting, or trussing. What more could you want? Well… now you have your oven free for all the other dishes.
There are so many choices of turkeys now on the market. My first choice would be a heritage turkey however; they are quite expensive so it is a splurge. My second choice is a fresh organic turkey. The turkey must be labeled fresh for the best texture and taste. To make it easy for you to remember 1 pound of turkey per person, 2 labeled fresh 3 organic and free-range. Plan about 1 pound of turkey per person and a little more depending on how much, you like leftover turkey.
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 just for this purpose. When I am done I toss them in the washer so they are clean for the next grilling session.
Turkey Stuffed with an Herb Butter Grilled served with Gravy
One 10 – 12 pound fresh heritage or organic free-range turkey (hen)
Fresh ground black pepper
4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter
3 garlic cloves, minced
3/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh sage, chopped
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves only
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 onion quartered
1. Remove the giblet packet that is inside the body or neck cavity and reserve to use for the gravy. Rub the turkey inside and out with 4 teaspoons salt and 2 teaspoons pepper. There is no need to truss, not trussing helps it cooks faster.
2. Prepare an outdoor grill for indirect medium-high heat. On one side, place the coals and the other place a disposable aluminum pan to catch the drippings. You can use them later for gravy.
3. In a food processor pulse the butter, garlic and the herbs until herbs are finely chopped.
Separate the skin over the turkey breast from the meat. Be careful so you do not tear the skin, the small tears do not present a problem. If it is large you should use less butter around the tear. It is difficult to repair when the skin tears easily. Repeat on the other side. Stuff about one-fourth of the herb butter on to each breast, distributing the butter evenly.
Separate the skin at the thigh and place one-fourth of the herb butter on each thigh and if you can work some down to the leg. Place the quartered onion inside the turkey. Remove the turkey from the refrigerator 2 hours before you plan to cook it.
4. Season the turkey again with salt and pepper. Tuck the wing tips under the turkey, there is no need to tie the legs. Having the legs untied helps the turkey cook faster because the heat can easily travel inside the turkey. Place the turkey, breast side up, on a metal grate over the aluminum pan. Cover the grill and have the open vents over the turkey. If there is an external thermostat on the grill maintain the temperature around 350̊. Grill 1 to 2 hours, to an internal temperature of 160°F for the breast, and for the thigh temperature of 165° F. After about 1/2 hour, turn the turkey 180°. It is browning too quickly you can cover with some foil. Remove turkey from grill and let stand 20 minutes before carving.
Note: You can cut the turkey into 5 pieces (2 legs, the breast, and 2 wings) to grill them separately. The advantage is you can cook the individual pieces in less time; about an hour and cook each of the pieces to the optimum temperature. Cook the breast until it reaches 160°F and the legs, thighs, and wings to 165°F.
Brown the neck, liver, heart, and giblets in a small pan with a little oil
2 fresh parsley stems
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1/2 bay leaf
1 shallot minced
1 cup dry white wine
4 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup half and half
1. Make a turkey broth. Place the browned turkey pieces in a medium saucepan along with 4 cups cold water, parsley, thyme, and bay leaf and bring to a boil over medium-high. Cook at a gentle simmer for 1-2 hours. Remove and discard the bay leaf, thyme, and parsley. Remove the turkey parts, cut the heart, liver, and gizzard into 1/8-inch pieces, and return to the turkey broth. Remove as much of the meat from the turkey neck as possible and return the meat to the stock. You can do this the day before or use 4 cups of chicken stock.
2. When the turkey is finished cooking if you used an aluminum pan when grilling pour off the excess fat reserve about 4 tablespoons of the fat in a separate heatproof container.
3. If the drippings are not brown return the aluminum pan to the top of the grill grate over the charcoal and cook until the juices evaporate and brown. Add the wine to the aluminum pan with the juices and scrape up any brown bits with a wooden spatula/spoon cook until the wine has reduced by half.
4. In a medium saucepan add the reserved fat and sprinkle in the flour. Cook over medium heat stirring constantly until the mixture begins to bubble. It is okay if it browns a little. Using a whisk add the reduced wine and the turkey broth all at once whisking constantly over medium-high heat. Bring the gravy to a boil stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Add the half-and-half taste and see if it needs more salt and pepper. Transfer it to a heated sauceboat.
*"Heritage Turkeys prized for their great flavor and moistness are the ancestors of the common broad-breasted white industrial breed of turkey. You will never want the mass-produced turkey once you have tasted a heritage 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 to me once the turkey legs were so tough I needed to save them for soup! You definitely do not want to find out this on Thanksgiving Day.
Copyright © Julie Logue Riordan, Cooking with Julie