This Saturday on Good Food, BBQ Master Adam Perry Lang shares his techniques for cooking a flawless Thanksgiving turkey on the grill. He says anyone can achieve a moist, perfectly grilled bird, no matter what kind of grill you have in your backyard. The key is indirect heat.
Keep reading for Perry’s recipe for Whole Turkey with Light Salt Brine from his book Serious Barbeque: Smoke, Char, Baste, and Brush Your Way to Great Outdoor Cooking. His latest book is Charred and Scruffed.
You can also listen to Perry’s entire uncut interview, where he explains his wet brining technique.
And below, find Stacie Hunt’s Thanksgiving wine pairings.
Whole Turkey with Light Salt Brine
(Adapted from Adam Perry Lang’s Serious Barbeque: Smoke, Char, Baste, and Brush Your Way to Great Outdoor Cooking)
One Thanksgiving a while back, I told my family that I was going to barbeque our turkey, and they insisted I roast a back-up in the oven, in case they didn’t like it. But surprise, surprise, the smoke-blasted turkey was a tremendous hit, both that night and in a phenomenal turkey salad the next day.
Tip: This method works beautifully with a smaller bird and even one that weighs up to 25 pounds.
One 12-14 pound turkey (see Tip)
1 tbsp crushed hot red pepper flakes
2 tbsp boiling water
18 cups water
½ cup kosher salt
1 tbsp granulated sugar
4 thyme sprigs, bruised with the broad side of a knife
2 tbsp black peppercorns, crushed with a dowel or bottom of a heavy pot
Three .18 ounce packets Goya Sazón Azafran (see Note)
About ½ cup canola or vegetable oil
3 tbsp garlic salt
1 ½ tbsp chili powder
1 ½ tbsp coarsely ground fresh black pepper
8 tbsp (4 ounces) unsalted butter, melted
½ bunch thyme and ½ bunch sage tied in an herb bundle
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
6 tbsp finely chopped chives
Fleur de sel
Finely ground black pepper
Note: Goya Sazón Azafran contains MSG. If you want to avoid it, substitute a combination of 1 teaspoon chili powder, 1 teaspoon cumin, 1 teaspoon garlic salt, and 1 teaspoon turmeric. The turkey will not have quite the punch or color as it would with the Sazón.
1. Place the pepper flakes in a small bowl and pour the boiling water over them. Let sit for 1 to 2 minutes to rehydrate the flakes. Combine all the brine ingredients, including the pepper flakes and the soaking water in a large bowl and stir to dissolve the salt and sugar. Let sit at room temperature for 24 hours to allow the flavors to develop.
2. Strain the brine and discard the solids.
3. For easier carving, remove the wishbone from the turkey by carefully running a boning knife underneath the skin along all sides of the wishbone to loosen and then remove it without damaging the skin. (The wishbone can be smoked alongside the bird and later traditionally broken.)
Place the turkey in a jumbo-sized resealable bag (some manufacturers make storage bags that are up to 2 feet square), a brining bag, or an unscented garbage bag that can be sealed with a plastic tie. Pour over the brine, squeeze out any excess air from the bag, and close. Place into another bag, for insurance against leaking, and seal again. Refrigerate for at least 12 hours, or up to 24. (If you don’t have room in your refrigerator the turkey can be stored in a small cooler with ice or frozen ice packs.)
4. Preheat an indirect barbeque with a drip pan and hardwood (preferably hickory, oak, or pecan), a ceramic cooker with deflector plate and fruitwood (preferably hickory, oak, or pecan), or a charcoal or a gas grill with a box or packet of hardwood (preferably hickory, oak or pecan) to 275 degrees Fahrenheit.
5. Remove the turkey from the bags. Rinse and lightly pat dry with paper towels.
Using your hands or a brush, evenly, but lightly, coat the turkey with canola oil.
Going under the skin, place a remote thermometer in the thickest part of the thigh – or one in the thigh and one in the breast, if you have two remote thermometers.
6. Place the turkey in the cooker and cook until the internal temperature of the thigh registers 165 degrees Fahrenheit and the breast registers 155 degrees Fahrenheit, about 3 ¾ hours to 4 hours and 15 minutes, depending on the size of the bird. (A 25-pound turkey will take about 7 to 7 ½ hours.)
7. Meanwhile, combine the seasoning blend ingredients.
8. Remove the turkey from the cooker, brush the skin with the melted butter using the herb bundle, and season all of the skin with the seasoning blend.
Return the turkey to the cooker and cook until the internal temperature of the thigh registers 175 degrees Fahrenheit and the breast registers 165 degrees Fahrenheit, about 30 minutes to 1 hour more, depending on the size of the bird. (A 25-pound turkey will take about 2 more hours, for a total cooking time of 9 to 10 hours.)
9. Drizzle the olive oil on an extra-large cutting board. Top with the chives, fleur de sel, and pepper. Remove the turkey from the cooker, place on the board, and let rest for 15 minutes.
10. Slice the breast and dredge in the dressing. Pull all of the dark meat from the thighs into chunks and dredge in the dressing. Leave the drumsticks and wings whole. Arrange on a serving plate and sprinkle with fleur de sel and pepper.
Stacie Hunt suggests a number of wines to pair with your turkey and cranberry sauce. Here are her Red, White and Beaujolais Choices:
White: ’10 Hugel Gewurztraminer, Austria – $25
Light gold in color; aromas of figs, lychees nuts, spice; tastes of white peach, fig, melon and spice.
Red: ’09 Tobin James Zinfandel – $16
’10 Bogle Zinfandel – $12
Ruby-garnet in color: aromas of raspberry, strawberry, white pepper, cedar, and spice; tastes of blueberries, pepper, and strawberry.
Beaujolais Noveau (various producers) – $10
Bright ruby color; aromas of fresh-picked strawberries, vanilla, and multi-fruits. Serve this wine chilled.
Rosé or Blush:
’11 Turley White Zinfandel, Napa – $20
The famed Turley Zinfandel winemaker, weighs in with this beautiful light salmon-pink wine, dry in style.
’11 Petale de Rose, Provence – $15
The classic from Provence: pale rose-pink, raspberry, strawberry and dry as a bone.