Published November 1, 2012. From Cook's Illustrated.
Cooking your bird on the grill frees up the oven for all those other holiday dishes—but does it have to mean giving up clean, oven-roasted flavor?
Every Thanksgiving the turkey roasts away in the oven while countless foil-wrapped side dishes wait (and wait) for their turn to cook or reheat.
We wanted a classic, clean-tasting turkey that we could prepare on a gas or charcoal grill that could serve as the main attraction in a low-stress holiday meal.
To ensure that our bird was moist and seasoned, we salted it overnight. Salting, as opposed to brining, eliminated the hassle of finding space in a refrigerator for a container large enough to hold both the brine and the bird.
We then moved on to determining the best grill setup. A split-fire setup, which calls for dividing the coals into two piles, with the bird in the middle, was the best option because it required no rotating. (For a gas grill, we placed the turkey on a cooler area between two lit burners and rotated it halfway through cooking.)
We wanted our turkey to taste like it had just come out of the oven, so no smoky or sooty flavors. To do this, we needed to find a way to leave the lid on the grill for the entire cooking time (so soot particles wouldn’t land on the food when the lid was lifted) and a means to roast the bird more gently (so there would be fewer smoke-generating flare-ups).
If we weren’t going to open the lid during grilling, we needed to build a longer-lasting fire. We simply arranged some unlit coals in the kettle with hot coals piled on top. The unlit coals slowly ignite and start to produce some real heat just as the top layer of coals disintegrates into ash. To lower the overall temperature of the grill (and thus prevent flare-ups), we placed a disposable pan partially filled with water between the two piles of coals. It absorbed heat, decreasing the overall temperature of the grill. (On a gas grill, which can’t fit a large roasting pan, we put the water in two disposable pie plates placed directly on the burners.)
Once our turkey was perfect, we turned to making a quick accompaniment in the form of an easy gravy. We used the turkey neck and giblets for meaty flavor, and a combination of chicken and beef broths to up the savory element.list of recipes