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Oct 25, 2012 09:08 AM

Grilled turkey--think searing is necessary? or breast down?

I'm reading recipes for grilled turkey (whole) and want to give it a try this year on our gas grill. There's one recipe on allrecipes that gets great reviews that involves searing the turkey on both sides first and then grilling breast-side down. Other recipes that don't require searing and keep breast up get good reviews too. Wanting to make things as simple as possible, I'd just as well skip the searing step if it doesn't make that much difference. And does breast down make a significant difference when grilling?

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    1. No need to sear. No need to cook breast side down. Keep it simple.

      What you can do is bring the turkey to room temperature over an hour or two on the counter. While this is happening, have the breasts iced down using plastic freezer bags full of ice placed on the breasts. This will give the legs a head start in the cooking process so that the breasts and leg meat are done at the same time.

      The number one biggest thing you can do to turn out a super-moist turkey is to not overcook it. Pull it as soon as the internal temperature in the breast hits 150 degrees F.

      If you'd like, you can brine it which can impart additional moisture, salt, sweetness, and other flavors into the turkey meat. Brining, however, oftentimes makes the drippings too salty to use for a sauce or gravy.

      4 Replies
      1. re: 1POINT21GW

        I appreciate the tips. I'd be fine with no gravy, but I"m afraid the rest of party will want some. I suppose I could make gravy separately at an earlier date using turkey wings? I'm actually looking to make a Thanksgiving dinner where most of it is made ahead of time.

        Is it true I can take the temp of the breast?! I have to admit that taking the temp of a fowl is my Achilles heel. I'm never sure what is meant by "the thickest part of the thigh" (and it's amazing how hard it is to find a video online to show exactly where this is), but whenever we try to get the temp right, it seems we overcook. But I'm terrified of undercooked turkey or chicken--if I think a fowl is undercooked, I won't eat any of it, which is why I had given up on turkey.

        1. re: Thanks4Food

          You could make the gravy ahead of time going the route you talked about, or you could use the giblets (neck, gizzard, heart, and liver) to make a fantastic gravy. You could add the pan drippings to the gravy to bring up the salt level to where you ultimately want it - ultimately using the drippings not only for flavor, but also as a salt agent.

          Regarding the internal temperature of the breast, yes you can temp the breast. Try inserting the thermometer into the breast from the neck end. Insert the probe parallel to the counter into the deepest, thickest part of the breast without touching the bone. Don't be afraid to temp the other breast too to be sure.

          Once it temps out, let it rest for 20 - 40 minutes (depending on the size of the turkey) before carving.

          Also, if you're not planning to do so, you may want to consider using smoke chips inside a couple of perforated foil packs to add some smoke flavor to your turkey.

          1. re: 1POINT21GW

            good advice on temping the breast, thanks!

        2. Martha Stewart Living Nov 2012 has a nice step by step guide for grilling whole turkey. We intend to do our first whole turkey on the grill (charcoal) this year. I've done a spatchcocked turkey on a gas grill once before.
          That said, I intend to brine the turkey in a wet brine for a day or so, grill breast side up, (skipping the sear) and enjoying a yummy turkey! Good luck and Happy Thanksgiving!

          5 Replies
          1. re: pagesinthesun

            How did the spatchcocked turkey go? The grilling book we have says it's too hard to cut into a turkey--how did you do it?

            I'll have to look for that MS Living!

            1. re: Thanks4Food

              It's much, much easier using kitchen shears than a knife. Kitchen shears (at least good ones) will cut right through the turkey with relative ease.

              1. re: 1POINT21GW

                Poultry Shears....yes. simple simple Kitchen Shears....maybe not.

                I use a cleaver.

                1. re: fourunder

                  I used good quality kitchen sheers and a lot of elbow grease! It was a smaller turkey. I need to purchase some poultry sheers,, though.

                  1. re: pagesinthesun

                    No need to buy special "poultry" shears. Instead of having two sets of shears, just get one good pair of kitchen shears (such as the J.A. Henckels International Take Apart Kitchen Shears, model 11517-100 for $14.99) to do all your work.

          2. absolutely no reason to sear the bird - brining and hot smoking (adding soaked wood chips to grill) is what you need to do.

            Here's a recipe and string on the subject (you can see my comments on this string). As for Gravy, "they say" you shouldn't make gravy from a brined Bird - I really dis-agree with that one - the drippings from a smoke bird are the best I've ever had.
            Further, I baste my birds, and I had mirapoux vegs the bottom the sugars in the counter act the smokiness.

            I don't put my bird directly on the grill, I put on a poultry stand in a disposable pan - this way the bird sits up and can absorb more smoke. Also, you'll likely need to add more wood chips through out the 3.5 - 5 hr process. (note I've always done mine on a weber kettle grill).

            I was a bit intimidated the first time I did this 12 years ago - I wouldn't dream of doing it another way now - it's fun, gets me out of the house, free's up the oven and most importantly is the best turkey I've eaten! I have also included the recipe I use from epicurious (I don't do the glaze).



            I've looked around too - but this is the best recipe. When using a gas grill just use the outside burners. If you don't have a smoker box on your grill use foil pouches and put them directly on the burner.

            3 Replies
            1. re: sparky403

              Thanks, Sparky! I assume you meant to say "they say you SHOULDN'T make gravy from a brined bird..."

              You know, the lightbulb has gone on: since grilling is considered pretty much a guy-thing, I could pass off this experiment to him, and when the turkey comes out really tasty, I could say something like "Honey, I could NEVER have done that--you're in charge of the turkey from now on!"

              1. re: Thanks4Food

                thanks - yes, I did mean shouldn't I made the correction above.

                I'm a guy and it's something I look forward to all year) - it's all in the prep - the brining is important.

                I take it a step further, when guest arrive I will have them baste the bird. that way everyone had a part. It's the best I promise - much easier than it sounds - key is in the prep.

                1. re: Thanks4Food

                  I brine, then butterfly, and then grill the turkey. Breast side up, no seasoning, no turning, no nothing. Smokes like hell from the fat, which seasons it. Only takes about 10 minutes a pound to cook on low, and is the best turkey ever. Butterflying also helps enormously with having the breast done before the drumsticks are dried out.

              2. We've dry brined [using the Los Angeles Times recipe] and grilled the turkey for the past four years. People moan about it. Plussing the no need to sear or cook b-side down. And it frees up the oven!