Turkey on the Grill: Weber as Oven
After too many years of "oven chess" I am planning on making the Thanksgiving bird on the Weber. We did a test run a month ago. Indirect heat (charcoal on both sides), bird in a big spatterware roaster to collect juices for gravy. No tenting, nothing in the cavity, no basting - just a pure test run.
We liked (no, more than liked) the results, but since I will have a lot of other people eating our results, I would love some tips from those who are more knowledgeable than me with Weber turkey.
Do you put butter under the skin and use herbs or citrus in the cavity? Do you tent with foil or let the charcoal smoke do its work? Turning the bird?
I am the next thing to a neophyte with this turkey-grilling-thing, and would appreciate any advice. It would gain me some much needed oven space. Thanks.
I smoke our turkey in the weber, and it is by far the best turkey I have ever eaten. A little maple but mostly chips from our old dead apple tree. Moist, flavorful, perfectly cooked all through. And the best next-day sandwiches(and, last year, turkey molé enchiladas) that you can have. And it looks beautiful too - the skin turns deep mohagany like thanksgiving birds look in norman rockwell paintings.
Put a drip pan in-between the coals and you will end up with a small amount of incredibly intense drippings that make a great gravy with a little cream, some of the collected juice from carving(or broth made from the neck), black pepper and applejack.
For the drip pan, I just use a foil throw away roasting pan. If you use one of these to spread the coals, it may get holes burned in it. The answer is to put another pan on top of the "spreader pan" to catch the drippings. They come 2 to the pack anyway. I don't put the bird in a pan, just on the upper rack. We usually do a 20+ pound bird w/stuffing. The legs tend to be over the coals, so after they look done, I put a little foil shield under them. Last year (windy? cold?) the bird didn't cook up according to schedule so we finished it in the oven and ended up with more drippings than usual and had an excellent gravy.
As ghbrooklyn stated, it's a great bird. And you get a red, smoked layer right under the skin. Great! Did I mention the excellent gravy?
I cannot sing the praises of smoked t-day turkey enough. Another drip pan method (which we use because the space in the middle of our grill is to narrow for and manufactured pans) is to make one out of aluminum flashing. It also doesn't get too hot so the drippings don't burn as badly.
We smoke our turkey every Thanksgiving in an electric smoker. Start by brining the bird, it keeps the meat really juicy and tasty. We smoke for a couple of hours, then finish roasting in the oven. The first time we smoked a turkey, we did it entirely in the smoker. We got very nicely smoked turkey meat with leathery, inedible skin which had to be thrown out. Roasting at higher heat takes care of that, so the skin is crispy.
We flavor the brine with spices - usually peppercorns, juniper, bay, some thyme. And we use about half as much brown sugar as salt. Other than this, we don't season the turkey at all.
My folks have been grilling turkey for years.
Mom rubs the bird with salt, pepper and maybe some thyme and olive oil. Stuff some quartered onion, lemon and a stalk or two of celery in the cavity. Then she puts the bird in a disposable aluminum roasting pan, tents with foil and dad is in charge of the grilling.
He doesn't turn it in the pan, but will rotate the pan on the grill occasionally.
That's about it and it comes out perfectly every year.
I hate to be a PIA, but I think it does matter. When I cook the bird in the Weber, I don't put it in a pan, don't shift it around, and don't tent it, except to protect the bottom of the legs. Because of the shape of the kettle, things cooked slowly with indirect heat get nicely smoked. Yeesh, I sound like an advertisement.
Turkey on the Weber
a covered Weber with a 22" grill
10 lbs. of good quality charcoal
a set of charcoal rails to keep the charcoal banked along the sides an
aluminum drip pan to fit between the rails a cooking rack to hold the
turkey long tongs and cooking mitts 15 -16 lb. fresh turkey, unstuffed
The Turkey cannot be gigantic because the lid will not fit on the barbecue.
A good size is under 16 lbs. and fresh rather than frozen.
Rinse the bird in cold water and pat dry with paper towels. Rub the skin with vegetable oil.
Open all the air vents on the bottom of the grill and leave them open
during the cooking. Ignite all 10lbs of the charcoal- or start half and
add the rest. Start the coals in the middle of the grill, allowing 45
minutes for all of them to light and to be coated with grey ash. Add the remaining briquets.
Transfer the coals to the sides behind the charcoal rails, using the long
tongs and the charcoal mitts. Center the drip pan between the rails. Add about 8 to 10 twigs of applewood, add the grill, add the Turkey on the cooking rack and the Weber Grill Cover/Lid. Open the air vent in the Cover. Optional: soak the applewood twigs for 30 minutes before adding or use hickory, almond pear wood or even, walnut shells. or, just use mesquite charcoal.
Now, sit back and relax.
There's no need to baste. Leave the barbecue covered and don't
peek-lifting the lid releases the heat and will slow the cooking process.
So, put it on the Grill and forget it for two hours for a 15 lb. unstuffed
Remove the bird when the meat thermometer reads 170°F in the center of the breast and 185°F in the thigh. The meat and the juices may be slightly pink, this is characteristic of the smoking process.
Let the bird rest for 30 to 40 minutes before carving. The juices in the
Drip Pan will make an excellent gravy.
The first year that I followed Max's instructions for this grilled Turkey,
we went to a movie while the bird cooked and came home 2 hours and 30 minutes later to a perfectly roasted 16-lb. bird!
Do not be alarmed if the meat looks pink, it is not uncooked. The smoking method turns the turkey flesh pink, just like the pink of a smoked ham.
Weber has times and methods.
The times they list are for UNstuffed.
Cooking Times for Unstuffed Turkeys
10-11 lbs. = 1-3/4 to 2-1/2 hrs.
12-14 lbs. = 2-1/4 to 3 hrs.
15-17 lbs. = 2-3/4 to 3-3/4 hrs.
18-22 lbs. = 3-1/2 to 4 hrs.
P.S. Even though I don't drink, none of my friends have ever complained about someone bringing too many six packs.
re: Sam D.
My Mom has been cooking the turkey on the Weber for quite a few years now, and that's our experience too. Ours is even stuffed. I think the shape of the Weber and the vents makes it a bit like a convection oven.
But what's with 170 in the breast and 185 in the thigh? Isn't the current rec. 165? Especially since with such a large mass the temp is going to rise quite a bit during the rest period.