I know a lot of people are tempted to buy the turkey deep fryer this time of year, especially now that Butterball has come out with an electric home turkey fryer that seems to make the job a lot easier and safer. (I’m still not OK with frying turkeys indoors, no matter how safe they say it is.)
The concept of a deep-fried turkey sounds pretty cool. And if you do it right, it tastes pretty good. I’ve had my share of fried turkeys when I lived in Alabama many years ago. But for me, it’s just too much damn work: finding a safe spot in the yard to blast the propane-fueled fryer so that you don’t burn your house down, standing outside and freezing your ass off while it fries, and then disposing of gallons of used oil at the end of it all. And making sure the oil is at the right temperature so you don’t get a scorched turkey on the outside and raw turkey on the inside.
So here’s what I do: I cook the turkey in my good old Weber grill. The standard Weber grill allows you to cook up to a 15 lb. turkey–big enough for my purposes–and it comes out crispy, smokey and delicious. If you’re afraid to try this for the first time at Thanksgiving when it really matters, wait a few months and buy a turkey when you have the craving and try it out.
Although I’ve stopped using charcoal briquettes a long time ago, and now strictly use natural hardwood charcoal, this recipe works best with Kingsford. The idea is for the coals to cook slowly and evenly. And never use lighter fluid…always start your fire with a few pieces of crumbled newspaper under a charcoal chimney.
Weber grill, with the dome top
Kingsford charcoal briquettes (do not use Match Lite or other pre-soaked briquettes)
Heavy duty aluminum pan (disposable)
Whole turkey, up to 15 lbs, thawed and previously brined (see my blog about brining a turkey)
Olive oil (to rub on turkey)
2 yellow onions, chopped
4 stalks of celery, chopped
½ lb (2 sticks) of unsalted butter, melted
1 Tablespoon granulated garlic
1 Tablespoon onion powder
2 Tablespoons salt
1 Tablespoon pepper
If you want stuffing, make it separately and cook it separately.
Light 8 to 10 lbs of charcoal in the grill…depending on the size of the turkey and how cold it is outside.
Remove the giblets from the turkey. Place the bird in the aluminum pan.
In a small bowl, mix granulated garlic, onion powder, salt and pepper Add any other seasonings you like.
Coarsely chop onions and celery. Place in a large bowl. Mix with the melted butter and 1/3 of the salt/pepper/garlic powder mixture. Place a small handful of this “stuffing” mixture in the neck cavity of the turkey. Place the rest in the body cavity (where the stuffing would usually go.) You can fasten the bird with turkey skewers if you like. This “stuffing” is strictly to flavor the turkey…you don’t eat it!
Rub the outside of the entire turkey with the olive oil and sprinkle the rest of the garlic/onion/salt/pepper mixture on the outside of the bird. Make sure you get the whole bird…on the bottom as well.
When the coals in the grill have ashed over, spread them to the outside edges of the Weber equally. Put the cooking grill rack in place. Place the aluminum pan with the turkey in the center of the grill, keeping it away from the direct heat of the coals. If using a a meat thermometer, insert the probe into the thickest part of the breast, being careful not to hit the bone. Place the lid on the grill. (You may need to bend your pan a bit.) Open the vents on the bottom of the Weber as well as the lid. Important to get air circulating!
No basting is necessary.
Now here’s the tough part: DO NOT OPEN THE GRILL TO CHECK ON THE TURKEY! (If you must look, shine a flashlight into the vent holes on the lid to take a peek at the pop-up timer, if there is one.) The whole point is to keep the heat inside the kettle. You’ll know your turkey is done when no more smoke or heat rises from the grill, and the turkey inside stops making sizzling noises.
Remove the turkey and let it rest at least 15 minutes before carving.