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Thanksgiving turkey: Grilling is an easy option

November 13, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
Baking and frying are the most popular options when it comes to cooking your Thanksgiving turkey, but there are a lot of good reasons to try grilling this year.

"It leaves you that whole oven free inside to do everything else," said Sunset magazine's Food Editor Margo True.

She teamed up with meat master Bruce Aidell to show how easy it can be.

"I would say we grilled 20-25 turkeys, in that vicinity, both by gas, which is by far the easiest for beginners, and on charcoal," True said.

True says don't use lighter fluid for this method, and if you use wood chips, soak them first.

Pat the bird down - don't rinse - your completely thawed turkey. It's best for food safety. Make sure to remove the giblets and gizzards, and don't bother to truss. What's also novel about grilling is you don't stuff. Smoked turkey is good, but smoked stuffing is not so good.

True also says you want short nails and small hands so that you can coat the complete inside of the bird with butter. To rub butter under the skin of the turkey, you have to loosen the skin first. And inside the cavity, True says to massage the turkey.

True used Aidell's herb mustard butter, with garlic salt and pepper - careful to spread flavor and moisture evenly. Stuffing the bird blocks heat and makes it unsafe to eat, so cook stuffing in the oven while the turkey is on the grill.

Once prepared, the bird sits on a shallow grill rack, and the drip pan is below the rack to catch drippings for gravy. The heat will come from the sides of the bird but never directly under.

"You do not want live fire under your turkey. That's how it burns," True said. "We also keep the lid down while we're grilling the bird. That's really important."

True suggests a cable-style thermometer inserted in the breast down to the bone, and a secondary thermometer for the thigh to bone where it meets carcass.

A 14-pound turkey averages around two hours, but birds vary. But True says big 20-pounders aren't recommended, as the heat is too displaced and won't cook through.


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