Simple Grill-Roasted Turkey
Published November 1, 2012. From Cook's Illustrated
Why this recipe works:
Besides freeing up your oven for other dishes, roasting your turkey out on the grill also means that you needn’t worry about constantly monitoring the bird to ensure a perfectly juicy, tender turkey. We divide our coals into two piles on either side of the grill so that the turkey thighs… read more
Besides freeing up your oven for other dishes, roasting your turkey out on the grill also means that you needn’t worry about constantly monitoring the bird to ensure a perfectly juicy, tender turkey. We divide our coals into two piles on either side of the grill so that the turkey thighs receive the highest heat. A combination of lit coals and unlit briquettes yield a longer-burning fire, making replenishing coals unnecessary. The addition of a pan of water stabilizes the temperature inside the grill for even cooking and a quick salt rub before grilling yields seasoned meat and crispy skin.less
Serves 10 to 12
Don’t use table salt for this recipe; it is too fine. If using a self-basting turkey (such as a frozen Butterball) or a kosher turkey, don’t salt in step 1, but do season with salt in step 2. Check the wings halfway through roasting; if they are getting too dark, slide a small piece of foil between the wing and the cooking grate to shield the wings from the flame.
1. Place turkey, breast side down, on work surface. Make two 2-inch incisions below each thigh and breast along back of turkey (4 incisions total). Using fingers or handle of wooden spoon, carefully separate skin from thighs and breast. Rub 4 teaspoons salt evenly inside cavity of turkey, 1 tablespoon salt under skin of each breast, and 1 teaspoon salt under skin of each leg.
2. Combine 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon pepper, and baking powder in small bowl. Pat turkey dry with paper towels and evenly sprinkle baking powder mixture all over. Rub in mixture with hands, coating entire surface evenly. Wrap turkey tightly with plastic wrap; refrigerate for 24 to 48 hours.
3. Remove turkey from refrigerator and discard plastic. Tuck wings underneath turkey. Using hands, rub oil evenly over entire surface.
4A. FOR A CHARCOAL GRILL: Open bottom vent halfway and place disposable pan filled with 3 cups water in center of grill. Arrange 1 1/2 quarts unlit charcoal briquettes on either side of pan (3 quarts total) in even layer. Light large chimney starter two-thirds filled with charcoal briquettes (4 quarts). When top coals are partially covered with ash, pour 2 quarts of lit coals on top of each pile of unlit coals. Set cooking grate in place, cover, and open lid vent halfway. Heat grill until hot, about 5 minutes.
4B. FOR A GAS GRILL: Place 2 disposable pie plates with 2 cups water in each directly on 1 burner over which turkey will be cooked. Turn all burners to high, cover, and heat grill until hot, about 15 minutes. Turn primary burner (burner opposite pie plates) to medium and turn off other burner(s). Adjust primary burner as needed to maintain grill temperature of 325 degrees.
5. Clean and oil cooking grate. Place turkey, breast side up, in center of charcoal grill or on cooler side of gas grill, making sure bird is over disposable pans and not over flame. Cover (placing vents over turkey on charcoal grill) and cook until breasts register 160 degrees and thighs/drumsticks register 175 degrees, 2 1/2 to 3 hours, rotating turkey after 1 1/4 hours if using gas grill.
6. Transfer turkey to carving board and let rest, uncovered, for 45 minutes. Carve turkey and serve.
Cleaning a Grimy Grill Lid
We’re fanatics about making sure that we thoroughly clean our grill grates before grilling, but we often forget to give the same attention to the grill lid. Over time, grease and smoke oxidize and turn into carbon that builds up under the lid and eventually becomes patchy flakes that look like peeling paint. To see if this carbon buildup imparts any ashy off-flavors to food, we took the filthiest lid we could find in the test kitchen and used it to grill-roast turkey and fish, comparing the results after following the same recipes on a new grill with a shiny clean lid. Most of us didn’t detect any off-flavors, but we do recommend cleaning the inside of the grill lid on a regular basis to prevent the strips from flaking off and landing on your food. The peeling carbon comes off easily with light scrubbing with steel wool and water. (Don’t waste your time trying to clean off any buildup that isn’t already flaking. When we attempted to remove every speck of the shiny carbon layer, none of the methods we tried—lemon juice and salt; vinegar and baking soda; S.O.S pads; or even spraying the surface with Easy-Off, sealing the lid in a plastic garbage bag, and letting it sit in the sun for several hours—made much of a dent.)