Cooked the Thanksgiving Turkey on the Grill (327/366)

“I grill, therefore I am.”
~ Alton Brown

 

There have been a lot of food-related posts lately, and I’m sure there will be a lot more – it’s the Holidays – and today’s Thanksgiving!  Last night I made Schmaltz and Gribenes for our kosher celebration with our great friend Mike this year, and two days ago I spatchcocked and dry-brined our turkey in preparation for cooking it.

And today, we used our awesome grill (and aid in many INDTs both last and this year) to make the centerpiece of our Thanksgiving dinner – our turkey!

To prepare our grill I filled our chimney starter, and when the coals just started to ash over I poured them on either side of where we’d be putting the turkey.  Then I placed two aluminum pans in the middle (I didn’t have one large one – boo!), propping them up with some aluminum foil so they’d be level, but also since these were a bit shallow, to raise them higher (I didn’t want to get ash in them).  I poured turkey broth in the pans to keep the atmosphere in the grill more moist, and to give a head start to my gravy, which would be made with the drippings of the turkey and the broth in the pans (YUM).

On went the spatchcocked, dry-brined turkey from a few days ago – the skin had begun to dry out pretty nicely in the fridge.

After this, I closed the cover and watched the temperature.  Our instructions said to try to keep the temperature around 350F – plus or minus about 25 degrees.  I have to say that with highs and lows (I still have not mastered keeping a steady temp in the grill like Nick has gotten several times) I was only able to keep the temperature around 315-325.  Grilling with charcoal and on our balcony which can get windy is sometimes a real challenge – well, when you’re doing something like this where you need to keep the grill closed and at a specific temperature for a while.  After about an hour and a half, here’s where we were:

Lookin’ good!  Nicely colored all over – no hot spots like you’d get in an oven.  Since it had only been an hour and a half and our turkey was supposed to take several hours, I didn’t bother checking the temperature of the turkey itself yet.  Just closed the cover after adding more hot coals and kept an eye on the temperature in the grill (that’s a chunk of sweet potato with an oven thermometer probe sticking out of it between Mr. T’s legs there – the display is outside of the grill, so I can check the temp without lifting the lid – my first experience with this kind of cooking was outlined when I smoked ribs for the first time, too).  I wrestled with the temp some more, adding coals at various times – I would start them in the chimney and then add them – but because I didn’t want to get ash in the drippings pans, I’d have to use barbecue tongs to put them in the grill; not the best thing for getting them in there quick and keeping the heat regulated.  But after another hour and a half:

Holy smokes (ha ha ha pun not intended but totally awesome), this turkey was looking beautiful!  I was still wrestling with the  grill temp, and now that I’m looking at the pictures, I should have totally noticed the skin at the bottom of the drumsticks beginning to pull away from the bone – that’s usually a sign that those drums are done or close (if they pull away a lot, you’ve likely overcooked your bird).  I continued to wrestle with the temperature – I thought our instructions said it would take us about 4 hours to cook this turkey since it was 18lbs., so I just kept it going for a bit more.  At this point, the sun was going down and the temperature dropped significantly – I was worried we’d have to bring the turkey in and finish it off in the oven.  After another 45 minutes (3:45 total), we went to retrieve it:

Man, this thing looked GOOD.  The skin had browned quite beautifully, although I didn’t think it was cooked all the way through.  Again, I should have looked at the drumsticks.  Duh.

I decided I should check its temperature to see how close we were … and it was way too hot!  The breast meat was over 180F, and I would have wanted it out at around 150F!  I had overcooked my bird!  Well, the good thing was, it was done – we wouldn’t be waiting around the oven to get it finished.  The bad thing was … had I totally ruined this thing?  Were we gonna be eating cardboard tonight?  We let the turkey rest for about fifteen minutes while we finished up the other sides (Nick and Mike were total rock stars in the kitchen today!).  Then I began to carve the turkey.

What’s that in the breast meat?!  JUICE!  Even though I had brought the turkey up to a WAY higher temperature than I’d liked to, the turkey wasn’t dry!  It’s a Thanksgiving miracle!  I kept cutting – the meat was beautiful.  We even got our all-important, lovely smoke ring on it.  Note: If you’re thinking of grilling your turkey, be sure you have at least one FULL extra-large bag of charcoal at the ready – it took us about that much for this bird.

This was AWESOME.  I’ve never seen skin and meat so gorgeous on a turkey.  I am SO glad I tried cooking the turkey on the grill this year.  I think since I spatchcocked the bird it cooked a lot faster than I’d realized it would – I had been going back and forth between two different recipes for tips and I think I got confused on the cooking time because one recipe was on the grill, but NOT spatchcocked, and one was spatchcocked, but not on the grill.  It’s almost a good thing I wrestled with the temperature so much, or else I might have SEVERELY overcooked our turkey!  And I’m almost positive Alton’s dry brine is what saved this over-cooked (but beautiful!) turkey from being dry.

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody!

Related Links:
How to Grill a Thanksgiving Turkey: SeriousEats.com
How to Cook a Spatchcocked Turkey: SeriousEats.com
Char-Griller 1224 Smokin Pro 830 Square Inch Charcoal Grill with Side Fire Box
Weber 7416 Rapidfire Chimney Starter

Comments
One Response to “Cooked the Thanksgiving Turkey on the Grill (327/366)”
  1. Ying says:

    Beautiful! Like I said in a previous post, you should do the Thanksgiving turkey from now on!

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