Thursday, November 19th, 2009

How To Barbecue A Turkey–The Super Easy Way For Morons

Okay, so, now I will tell you the second of my four cooking secrets. (The first is pie crust. The third secret is how to make pizza, which I will tell you at a later date. It's a GOOD SECRET too. The fourth secret, however, might have to remain secret forever.) This cooking secret is: how to barbecue a Thanksgiving turkey. (Or a turkey for any occasion, but really, how often do you eat turkey?) Because, oh yes, gaze at the majesty of my barbecued turkey above, cooked for Thanksgiving '04, back when smoking meat was the hot new thing again, for NO apparent reason. Do you know how easy this is? It is SO EASY that you are going to feel sad for even owning an oven. Sort of! I will explain. Equipment required: wood. Asbestos gloves maybe. Aluminum foil. Any sort of grilling thingie. Maybe a gun.

1. Get a turkey. Don't get one of those nasty turkeys that grew up neck-deep in its own feces. If you live somewhere that is not Los Angeles, just go out and shoot yourself a turkey. The problem with shooting a turkey for Thanksgiving is that you find yourself getting all picky about weight while in the field. (That's the technical term, "field.") Your average adult boy turkey that you're aiming for-the boy turkeys are them brighter-colored ones-weighs a good 20 pounds, so don't get trigger happy and shoot some tiny useless baby turkey.

2. After you shoot your turkey, you will be really sad when you find out that a single turkey has more than 20,000 feathers. SHOOT THE TURKEY A LONG TIME BEFORE THANKSGIVING, UNHAPPY PLUCKER.

3. Also you can get a turkey at the store, I guess.

4. The day before Thanksgiving, whenever you wake up, go dig out that big lobster pot you never use. Fill it 2/3rds of the way with cold water, a handful of pepper corns, maybe some bay leaves, and some other random stuff from the kitchen. Like maybe some tarragon. Put in an onion! Or some stock cubes! A handful of bacon maybe? Just whatever feels right. DO NOT USE TURMERIC or it will taste like pickles. Also no Indian spices. Most important: stir in like a bunch of salt. Like two big handfuls. Maybe three.

5. IMPORTANT: Then put the turkey in the brine. DO NOT FORGET THIS PART. You will have a bunch of annoying people in your house most probably and they will be distracting you.

6. Put the pot with the turkey in it outside if its 45 degrees or colder, and-VERY IMPORTANT-put like a cement block on top of the pot or the raccoons will come eat your turkey.

6.5 Alternately I guess you could put this in the fridge? But who has room?

7. Wake up on Thanksgiving without killing any relatives.

8. Soak a bunch of wood chips in water. It really doesn't matter what wood you use! You don't need to buy fancy cherry chips or nothing. Hickory is fine, or wander around and find some scraps of cedar from a torn-down building. IT'S CEDAR. (Cedar is usually a nice shiny grey if it's been on the side of someone's house.) Just don't use plywood, or treated wood. (That's the gross yellow-green pressurized stuff.) Because then you'll have arsenic turkey.

9. Open the vents on the bottom of the grill. Start a huge bunch of coals in your grill. Then push the coals to the sides of the grill. Put a baking tray in the bottom of the grill, between the coals. THEN put a big box of baking soda nearby, and also maybe a bucket of water.

10. Throw in some of your wet wood chips after stuff is all hot.

11. Put the rack on the top of the grill, throw your turkey on, over the baking tray/drip pan and put the lid on the grill.

12. Replenish coals and then wood chips like once every hour.

GAH13. Watch your turkey burst into flames every time you open the lid. This drip pan you put in the bottom? That is some serious bullshit. Nothing will stop the turkey inferno.

13. This is where the baking soda and water comes in handy, because sooner or later the insane grease fire that is your turkey will spread from the grill to nearby trees or structures.

14. At some point your turkey will be done! You have no idea what temperature your grill is, so you have no idea how long it takes to cook! You just have to be like, "Damn, this turkey cannot take any more cooking! I guess we should eat it?" You could stick a quick-read thermometer in it regularly. Pretty much it should hit like 160 degrees (F) deep inside its most private parts. I mean, really, more like 155? Cuz it'll keep cooking? But it depends on really how much of a wuss you are about food-borne diseases. In any event, it will probably be dark out by now, or close to it, and everyone will be super pissy.

15. Shove the thing on the table. Let it sit there smoldering for 20 minutes. Make someone cut it. The outermost inch of the turkey will taste like BACON. It will taste like eating a wood fire-go figure! It will be like biting down on the forests of Chernobyl. You will pretty much regret ever having done this.

49 Comments / Post A Comment

Dickdogfood (#650)

Yes, yes, but no BBQ sauce?

fek (#93)

"7. Wake up on Thanksgiving without killing any relatives." How much salt do you need for this?

A grain?

Sablesma (#1,244)

or two. WHATEVER. Who has the time and energy to measure things?

Needs more smoking.

Dickdogfood (#650)

OK, but seriously now, how many turkeys had to die before you could attain this wisdom?

Brining!! Alton Brown would be so proud.

Oh. OH! So my neighbor Eric? Was on this Food Network Family Thanksgiving Challenge thing or whatever? (His family totally won!) But they ended up deep-frying the turkey? And the thing was, like, coal black. (I thought it looked kinda good, actually, but everyone was making noises about how black it was, so.) But then it turned out that the black turkey was actually really delicious!

I'm not sure I have a point…
Other than, I have a totally famous neighbor.

hman (#53)

I watched that! They were totally doing it to show off their mother's cooking skills, which was so sweet.
Tabbouleh at the T-giving table sounds pretty great to me.

Bittersweet (#765)

I have discovered salting the turkey, which makes the bird as juicy and delicious as brining but avoids the whole messy water thing.

HiredGoons (#603)

There has to be bourbon in this somewhere, if only in shooting the turkey.

badthings (#1,903)

You have to be very careful with bourbon on Thanksgiving, esp. if you're not used to Wild Turkey 101, which is obviously the bourbon that you have to drink starting at 10 at the latest.

petejayhawk (#1,249)

Thanks, Coach!

KenWheaton (#401)

I'm looking forward to your instructional video, "How to Deep Fry a Frozen Turkey."

Bucko (#1,599)

I BBQ a turkey every year on T-day. If you follow your recipe, but wrap the turkey in several layers of foil, and leave out the drip pan, then you can avoid the fires. I open the foil about 30 minutes before turkey removal to nicely brown the skin.

hockeymom (#143)

Other tips….

1. Do not deep fry your turkey on your apartment balcony

2. Do not deep fry your turkey in your garage.

These lead to tragic turkey fire stories on the local news.

delrayser (#319)

How in the world does Choire not have a Food Network show yet? This is a million times better than anything that assface Bobby Flay has ever said in his life.

Also, Rachel Ray. Yummo, WTF?

I second that emotion.

MattP (#475)

Yeah, but he could only make 3 (possibly 4) episodes.

ljnd (#86)

But we could watch them again and again and again!

elecampane (#1,877)

You are of course familiar with the oeuvre of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, right?

Who goes barefoot in November? You will catch your death!

sox (#652)

My thoughts exactly, and by the raging fire?! You'll singe that foot fur right off!

poisonville (#776)

Folks, with a big bird like a turkey you want to be shooting for the head or neck. A body shot's just going to make it angry.

Also, it's late in the game to be trying out new turkey-calling techniques. Stick with whatever calls worked for you last season, and then work on your repertory over the winter.

Two legs and an arm it is!

That's one sexy bird!

*Blows air gun kiss*

KenWheaton (#401)

My stepdad has converted to the Char-Broil Big Easy Oil-less Turkey Fryer. (

That's right … fried turkey without the risk of burning down a city block.
Sure, it takes all the fun and excitement out of it, but it's still better than dried-out oven bird.

propertius (#361)

If you use cedar, you will also mothproof the turkey as well, no?

Thank to the Pakistani restaurants in my area, my apartment very often smells like mesquite smoke. So I prefer to avoid smoked goods altogether.

poisonville (#776)

Also? Turkey season in New York State ends tomorrow!

You need to order your license two weeks before you use it, so if you don't have one, you might want to bring a buddy to keep an eye-peeled for the Fish & Wildlife cops.

brad (#1,678)

squirrel melts are coming up next on the Appalachian Cooking Minute.

cherrispryte (#444)

You have 2 step 13s! That's double unlucky!

Ted Maul (#205)

This is excellent! I have found that you don't really need to soak the wood chips though.

Shirkimer (#423)

I'm a proud American (Palin 2012!!!!), and as such, I spit on your lowly turkey.

This Thanksgiving, like every Thanksgiving, I will be roasting a BALD EAGLE.

Holy Lord it's delicious. It makes turkey taste like, uh, chicken. And you should see how beautiful it looks on the dining room table with its crispy golden brown skin glistening in the candle light (to say nothing of the brilliant white feathers and razor-sharp yellow beak of the head, which I traditionally cut off with my Bowie knife before cooking so I can re-attach it to the roasted bird for maximum patriotic impact)…

kneetoe (#1,881)

Nicely done. My mother-in-law lives in the woods, so I just extract a sappling (maple, oak, hickory, whatever–but NOT pine, hemlock, other evergreen) and cut it into sticks. Nice and green and you don't have to soak it. Also, the turkey shouldn't explode in flames too often (or, really, at all if you can help it), and if the outside's too smokey, try using less wood (and, again, don't set it on fire multiple times–I can't stress that enough!).

Maevemealone (#968)

1) Are you doing this bbq on Fire Island? Summer drunken bbq'ing is done in fun! Holiday bbq'ing is done in anger! Big difference.
2) I can't believe you didn't recommend this defeathering technique after encouraging use of firearms: (not easy even for carnivores) Voila! 20,000 feathers down the drain!

Mindpowered (#948)

That machine is the bastard offspring of HP Lovecraft and Thomas Edison.

KenWheaton (#401)

1) There are no open flames*, charcoal fires allowed on Fire Island. None! Gas grills only.

*You can pretty much fill in the joke on that one

EvilMonkey (#1,063)

Holy fucking Foghorn Leghorn, that machine is some kind of genius, genius that is. Ah'm a horse, ah say, a horse, mah self.

iplaudius (#1,066)

How does the mohawk fit into all this?

Can I shoot a turkey that I spot in a store or are steps 1 and 3 mutually exclusive?

My favorite part of this was "the raccoons."

lockhart (#2,242)

passed a popeyes the other day with signage "put your turkey orders in now." which, i mean, who knew. also, yum?

KarenUhOh (#19)

Have you ever served a turkey-stuffed raccoon? Delicious, and, as has been mentioned is critical, LOADS of leftovers.

WASPkid (#2,265)

This is a riot! And actually pretty close to how I do it except for a couple things. I put the bird IN the aluminum roasting/drip pan right on the grill, which still exposes the majority of the bird to that wonderful smoke, but without all the inferno issues. Wrapping it all up in foil is kind of defeating the purpose if you ask me.

Yes, bourbon is involved, and usually well before 10:00 (so good in the morning coffee). I add a small aluminum bread-pan between the coals and fill it with the closest available non-vile liquid and assorted seasonings. This adds some moisture and more flavor to the smoke. The wood chips DO need to be soaked, or they pretty much just burn up in a couple minutes.

I usually get a 20-25 pound bird fully cooked in about 3 & 1/2 hours. I recommend starting early as the bird will need to "rest" for a half hour or so before carving (now you cover it with foil) and you can always reheat if you have to, but carving pink, bloody turkey meat in front of your in-laws isn't going to gain you any points.

CB (#2,272)

You guys crack me up. I realize you are spoofing.

Seriously – grilling your turkey, on a gas or charcoal grill, is a good way to go. But all of your problems can be prevented by simply using an indirect heat method,(turn outside burners on low and leave the center burner off or some such arrangement, set the oven thermometer on the grate above the "off" burners and close the hood. Come back in 15 minutes and get a reading of the therm. Adjust and play with it until you get a sense of what's going on in the grill with the hood closed. The therm in the hood is a double check but sometimes can get outta whack.

Once you know the temp of your grill aka – outdoor cooking oven – cook to temp of the bird not time on the dial of a clock. Insert a quality accurate oven safe meat thermometer in the breast meat – so it's not touching the bone and manage the cook until it reaches over 165F degrees. Then monitor and watch for about 170F – 175F and remove. Let rest on kitchen counter and the desired temps are 175-180 in dark meat and 170F in the breast.

Uh – but the cedar is a poor idea – better to not use anything than cedar. Use a branch from the apple tree or branches of rosemary bush. heck, you can even use rose bush stems (just make sure no pesticides on them!) And no need to put wet wood on the fire – wet wood makes steam and that softens skin, ruining the crispness most folks enjoy. You aren't smoking the turkey you are just adding a nice flavor enhancement – so toss on a handful of dry chips either on the coals or in an envelope of foil placed above the burners when you first place the turkey in the cooker. And then repeat about once every 45 minutes or so, when you quickly check the temp of the bird.

And thanks to Ken for suggesting the Big Easy oil-less infrared turkey "fryer" – safe, cheaper and equal to crispiness and moistness of a fried turkey.

I write the newsletter and web log called Sizzle on the Grill and we've got lot's of tips, tricks and recipe ideas for preparing turkey on the grill or outdoor cookers. CB

Emma Cay@facebook (#230,260)

Thanks for sharing. I love cooking out in the backyard when the weather is nice. I really love hanging out and putting my feet up. I love smelling the meat cooking and drinking an iced tea. We use a vertical smoker to cook. I can't image anything else, its perfect.

mmmark (#4,458)

"Also no Indian spices."

2183223464@twitter (#253,311)

Seriously!?! You are a COMPLETE IDIOT!!! We have BBQ Turkey EVERY year for Thanksgiving. It's NEVER burnt, it doesn't taste like some burned wood or even charcoal. It's much more juicy than baked. I'd much rather have it BBQ'd than baked any day. Unless you are cooking!
FIRST of all, the grill you are using is way too SMALL. SECOND, HAVE THE TURKEY CUT IN HALF IF YOU PLAN TO BBQ IT. THIRD, You cook by weight. A 24lb. Turkey cut in half takes about 5 hours to cook, with regular basting with a "mop" sauce (water, butter, worcestershire sauce, salt, pepper, minced garlic, lemons, & onions).

patty (#253,343)

Happy Thanksgiving-now who can help me- I want a barbequed whole turkey roasted in the oven.
Does anyone have a good barbeque sauce recipe foe a turkey-my turkey will be a fresh , 20 lb.
Thank you for any help because this is my first Thanksgiving turkey for a family gathering and I want it to be wonderful!

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