How to cook your turkey on the grill

Published: December 7, 2020

Grilled turkey Liam Mogan

Grilled Spatchcocked Turkey

Spatchocking poultry frees up the oven for other uses, results in a more evenly cooked bird (read: juicier), and makes carving so much more manageable. Plus, it cuts cooking time—for a 12 lb bird, it can take as little as 90 minutes over charcoal, or up to 120 minutes in the oven or on a propane grill. Dry brining imparts big flavour without the hassle of a wet brine. Serves 10-12.

Dry Brine Rub
4 tbsp mixed peppercorns
3 tbsp fennel seeds
1 tbsp  chili flakes
2 dried bay leaves
1/3 cup kosher salt
1/3 cup citrus zest (orange or lemon, or a mixture)
2 tbsp brown sugar

In a dry skillet over medium heat, toast peppercorn, fennel seeds, chili flakes, and bay leaves until fragrant, tossing pan to mix, about 3 minutes. Let cool slightly, and transfer to a food processor. Pulse to roughly break up, or place in a plastic bag, and crush with a heavy pan. Add remaining ingredients and set aside. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Turkey
1 12 lb fresh turkey, neck and giblets removed (if frozen, thaw in refrigerator for two days)
1/4 cup salted butter, softened

1. Place turkey, breast-side down, on a foil-lined cookie sheet. Using kitchen shears, make two parallel cuts along each side of the back bone and remove. Flip turkey over and press firmly on breast with both hands to flatten (you will hear the bone snap).
2. Place turkey on a sturdy metal rack. Pat skin dry with paper towel, rub spice mixture all over the skin, and refrigerate on the cookie sheet, uncovered, preferably 24–48 hours but 6 hours minimum (see Tip).
3. Remove turkey, still on the cookie sheet and rack, from refrigerator. Wipe off spice rub with moist paper towels. Let turkey come to room temperature for one hour before roasting.
4. Slip fingers between skin and meat at top and bottom of breast to gently loosen, smear half of the butter inside, pressing on skin to help distribute. Rub remaining butter over exterior of turkey. Do not rinse bird or season again.
5. Cook using one of the methods (charcoal grill, propane grill, or oven) below. When done (see “When’s it done?” below), remove rack with turkey from grill and place over a cutting board. Let rest at room temperature for 20 minutes. Remove rack and carve turkey.

Tip: Refrigerating the bird, uncovered, allows for excess moisture to evaporate and yields a crispier, deeper golden-brown skin.

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Charcoal grill method
1. Light one chimney full of charcoal. When ready, pour out and arrange coals in a crescent moon shape on one side of the barbecue. Place an aluminum roasting pan on coal-less side to catch drippings. Set cooking grate over top, cover grill, and allow to preheat, 5 minutes.
2. Transfer brined turkey on the wire rack to the hot grill, legs and thighs positioned closer to the coals. Cover barbecue, situating top vent over cooler side of grill to allow for some smoky flavours to develop (use apple wood chips for extra-tasty flavour).
3. Adjust top and lower vents to keep the barbecue around 375-400°F until the bird is done (see below). You may need to add a few briquettes if the heat is dissipating. 

Propane grill method
Preheat grill to 400°F or medium high for about 20 minutes. Reduce heat to 350°F or medium, and cook prepared turkey until it is done (see below).

Oven method
Preheat oven to 425°F. Place prepped turkey in the oven and roast 30 minutes. Reduce heat to 350°F and cook until done (see below).

When’s it done?
When the turkey is browned and its internal temperature, without touching bone, is 165°F in the thickest part of the thigh and 150°F in the breast, about 90 minutes (allow 7-8 minutes per lb). If legs are browning too quickly, use foil wrap to shield them.

Food handling tips for turkey from Health Canada

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