Sunday, November 7, 2010

Cooking A Turkey Outside

If you are the center of attention these days, don't feel like you're alone. Lake Bluff had it's own wild turkey this past summer and got a big following on Facebook.

These recommendations for cooking a turkey outside come from AZCentral. I know you’ll miss that great smell lingering in your kitchen but these methods turn out amazing results.

The flavor of the meat that comes from smoking a turkey is magnificent. I guarantee that you will savor it before it hits your dinner table. The result: A very tasty and lightly smoked turkey and whoever gets the last bite of the dark meat wins. If you happen to have any leftovers, it will make great sandwich.

Cooking a turkey a smoker

Time commitment: At least six hours from beginning to end for a 10-pound turkey.

The wood: Mesquite is a good match for turkey. Cherry wood will give turkey a sweet, mildly smoked flavor. Lump hardwood hickory is also good. Use 15 pounds of wood, a mixture of dry and wet. You may use more or less, depending on your smoker.

Turkey details: Use a 10-pound bird. Larger birds take too long to reach that safe internal temperature. If you need more meat, cook two small turkeys at once.

Brine: Brine the turkey the night before in a solution of 1 cup salt, 1 cup brown sugar and 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar, and enough water to submerge the bird.

Prepping the turkey: Rinse the bird and pat it dry. Remove the packages from the neck and body cavities.

Rub: You can use almost any rub you want to – you may have your own favorite. You can rub the skin with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and then a dry rub consisting of 2 teaspoons of kosher salt with a teaspoon of fresh ground black pepper and a tablespoon each of fresh rosemary and thyme leaves.

To truss, or not? Just tie the legs together. Our sources warned that parts of the bird may be undercooked if the turkey is trussed.

The temperature: Our sources recommended keeping the smoker temperature between 180 and 220 degrees. Be careful not to let the temperature get too low. Harmful bacteria can multiply at lower temperatures.

The technique: We smoked the bird for five hours in an offset smoker, followed by a one-hour finish in the oven. We were tempted to smoke the bird until it reached a safe internal temperature of 165 degrees, but were concerned about the turkey taking on a bitter flavor from too much smoke.

As with all smoking, it's all about trial and error. The most important thing to remember is to check the temperature on the smoker every 30 minutes and tend the fire as needed. Also, be sure to monitor the level of smoke in the smoker. Too much smoke can make the meat bitter.

A friend of mine swears by deep frying his Thanksgiving turkey. Don’t even attempt to do this indoors because it is definitely an outdoor adventure.

The result: A tasty turkey with extremely crispy, delicious skin. For outdoor cooking techniques, deep frying is the speediest way to get your turkey on the table.

Cooking a turkey a deep fryer

Time commitment: Minimal. From start to finish, it took less than an hour to prep and fry a 10-pound turkey.

Level of difficulty: Easy, but dangerous if you don't follow the directions.

Attention level: High. You have to closely monitor the oil. Hot oil can catch on fire.

The setup: There are dozens of outdoor turkey fryers on the market, ranging from $40 to $125 or more. The setup we used was an economical $50 setup with a sturdy 12-inch burner base, a propane gas tank and a large 30-quart frying pot. You should use a turkey fryer setup that is made especially for frying turkeys outdoors.

The turkey: Fry a 10-pound turkey. It's best to fry a smaller bird. A large bird would require a larger pot than the typical 30-quart pot that most turkey fryers come with. Frying a large turkey in a small pot is a recipe for disaster.

Turkey prep: Be sure to rinse and pat dry the bird. Remove the packages from the neck and body cavities. We separated the skin from the turkey and rubbed butter, salt, rosemary and thyme between the skin and the body. You can use just about any kind of rub or brine. We lifted the bird on the cooking rack that came with the turkey fryer and tied the turkey's wings and legs to the body with kitchen string.

The oil: Use peanut oil. It's an oil that has a higher smoke point (the higher the smoke point, the higher the temperature can safely get). Keep the oil temperature between 325 to 350 degrees (never higher). Use a thermometer to closely monitor the oil temperature.

How much oil to use? A good pot should come with a fill line. If not, follow the manufacturer's directions for filling the pot.

Do not overfill; the oil could overflow when you lower the turkey in the pot.

Safety equipment: You'll need a thermometer that is made for measuring the temperature of hot oil. You want to place the thermometer in the hot oil and keep it there to monitor the temperature continuously. Invest in an internal thermometer that can survive inside a frying turkey. It's essential for an accurate internal temperature.

Safety precautions: Be sure to locate the fryer outdoors, at least 20 feet away from any structure. Hot oil catches on fire and would ruin your Thanksgiving, not to mention your house. Also, be sure to wear gloves and safety goggles when submerging and removing the turkey from the fryer. Keep a fire extinguisher near, just to be safe.

When placing the turkey into the hot oil, the safe thing to do is to remove the hot pot from the burner, turn the fire off and slowly lower the turkey into the hot oil. Then, with help, lift the pot back onto the burner, then relight the burner once the pot is safely on top of the burner. Repeat the process when lifting out the turkey to check the temperature of the bird. Do not remove or lower a turkey into oil that is near a flame.

The technique: Depending on the manufacturer's directions, your experience will vary, but our bird cooked in about 40 minutes. Many books we consulted recommended three to four minutes of cooking time per pound. Our turkey reached an internal temperature of 175 degrees, so we definitely could have taken the bird out sooner. Thirty minutes probably would have been fine.

There is no better taste than a Rotissare cooked turkey. You just don’t get this when you cook a turkey in the oven. This method gives great, no fail results. Rotissare cooking is one of my favorite methods of cooking so if you happen to make it this way invite me over! I’ll even volunteer for the cleanup because it’s so easy when you use a spit to cook.

Cooking a turkey outdoors...on a spit

Time estimate: Two to 2 1/2 hours, depending on size of turkey.

Equipment: We used a Weber gas grill with an electric rotisserie attachment. Weber grills, with their indirect heating method, seem well suited to rotisserie cooking. If you are using another brand or a charcoal grill, check the manufacturer's suggested cooking method.

Turkey preparation: Use a small 10-pound turkey, a nice size that will cook evenly and will not flop about. You can go larger, but it might be more difficult to balance on the roasting spit. Rinse and pat dry. Stuff if desired. Slather with vegetable cooking oil. Apply rub. Truss with string or tuck and pin wings and legs into place with small skewers. Fix the turkey on the rotisserie skewer. Secure tightly onto brackets, and test to see if it's well-balanced when rotated.

Here's the rub: We recommend a dry spice/herb rub for flavor and appearance. You could use any kind of prepared poultry rub, or create your own. An easy one: 3 tablespoons each fresh rosemary, thyme and tarragon (half the amount if using dried herbs), 1 tablespoon pepper, 1 tablespoon kosher salt. Apply liberally over the skin and inside the cavity.

Roasting: Lower to indirect medium heat when you put the turkey on. Check periodically to make sure bird is still secured. You could mop with chicken stock, white wine or your choice of basting sauce if desired. When internal temperature reaches 165 degrees in the thickest part of the breast, remove from grill. Use oven mitts to remove from skewer.

Back To The Basics – Cooking a turkey in the ground

This is the most creative method of cooking a turkey outside if you don’t have any of the equipment and want to get back to the basics. And believe me… this is basic.

My friends cooked a turkey ala this method last August when they were camping and swear that it was the best. They don’t remember where they got the recipe but they said that they could not have possibly made it up. I haven’t tried it but they have cooked it twice since then. You might even have yourself a real winter luau.

Supplies: (Don’t Laugh!)

10 pound Turkey

10 pound bag of Charcoal plus lighter fluid and a long stem butane lighter

5 gallon steel bucket - no handle, paint or galvanizing.

Hickory wood stick 18” long x 1” x 1”


Aluminum cooking foil - 24” wide

Baking pan of tin, aluminum, or ovenproof glass

Garden shovel

Heavy duty oven mitts

2 large barbecue forks

Heavy string


Select cook site: Site should be well away from flammable material, and sheltered from steady wind. Remove flammable ground cover and stones under and near planned fire location.

Prepare charcoal: Empty all 10 pounds of charcoal into a pyramid shape pile, and light. Let coals turn gray.

Prepare turkey:Defrost turkey completely, rinse with water, and ties legs together with string.

Prepare hickory wood stick: Drive stick into the ground. Leave top of stick high enough to just allow bucket to be lowered over the stick.

Place aluminum foil: Roll aluminum cooking foil onto the bare ground all around the stick to form a ~ 3'x3' foiled area.

Impale turkey on hickory wood stick: Slip the turkey over the stick and down to the aluminum foil.The turkey's narrow end does down.

Cover turkey and stick with plain steel bucket: Invert 5 gallon plain steel bucket and lower same over turkey down to the aluminum foil.

Load charcoal coals onto bucket: Using the garden shovel, carefully move the hot gray charcoal coals from the pile to the bucket. Pile a layer two coals deep onto the top. Place the balance around the perimeter of the bucket at its base.

Cooking times –

Standard Bird:

10 pounds charcoal 10 pound turkey = cook 1 hour 45 minutes (Approx. time for golden brown bird)

Cooking times - Nonstandard Bird:

10 pounds charcoal = all sizes

~ 8 pound turkey = cook 1 hour 30 minutes (Approx. time for golden brown bird)

~12 pound turkey = cook 2 hour 00 minutes (Approx. time for golden brown bird)

~14 pound turkey = cook 2 hour 15 minutes (Approx. time for golden brown bird)

Reduce cooking time for less well done.

Increase cooking time for windy or very cold weather conditions.

Block wind from cooking bucket with nonflammable material if needed.


Remove charcoal coals from bucket: Using the garden shovel, carefully remove the hot charcoal from the bucket.

Remove the bucket from the turkey: Lift the bucket straight up and off the bird.

Remove the turkey from the hickory wood stick: Using the two barbecue forks, pick the turkey from two sides and carefully lift the turkey up and off the stick.

Soy-Sauce-and-Honey-Glazed Turkey

I love Asian food and this is one of my new favorite turkey recipes. The combination of soy sauce and honey give it a beautiful and tasty glaze.

2 cups soy sauce

1 cup honey

1/4 cup toasted sesame oil

1/2 cup thinly sliced fresh ginger

One 14- to 16-pound turkey

1 tablespoon kosher salt

2 teaspoons freshly ground pepper

1 1/2 teaspoons Chinese five-spice powder

6 scallions, cut into 2-inch lengths

2 cups chicken stock or low-sodium broth

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

In a very large bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, honey, sesame oil and half of the ginger. Put the turkey in the bowl, breast side down, and marinate at room temperature for 45 minutes. Turn the turkey and marinate breast side up for 15 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350°. Set a rack in a large roasting pan. In a small bowl, combine the salt, pepper and five-spice powder. Remove the turkey from the marinade; reserve the marinade. Set the turkey on the rack, breast side up, and season it inside and out with the salt mixture. Stuff the cavity with the scallions and the remaining ginger. Turn the turkey breast side down on the rack. Add 2 cups of water to the roasting pan. Loosely cover the turkey with a foil tent.

Roast the turkey for 4 hours, basting with some of the reserved marinade every hour and adding a total of 3 cups of water to the pan during roasting. Turn the turkey breast side up and baste well with the reserved marinade. Roast uncovered for 30 minutes, basting once halfway through cooking. The turkey is done when an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thigh registers 165°.

Carefully pour the juices from the turkey cavity into the roasting pan and transfer the turkey to a carving board. Let rest in a warm place for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, strain the pan juices into a large saucepan and skim off the fat. Add the chicken stock to the juices along with 3 cups of water and bring to a boil.

In a medium bowl, blend the butter with the flour to make a smooth paste. Gradually whisk in 2 cups of the hot pan juices until smooth. Whisk the mixture into the saucepan and bring the gravy to a simmer, whisking constantly, until thickened. Simmer the gravy over low heat, whisking occasionally, until no floury taste remains, about 8 minutes. Carve the turkey; pass the gravy at the table.

Slow-Smoked Turkey with Cane Syrup-Coffee Glaze

This is another distinctive recipe and the cane-syrup-coffee glaze is a perfect match for the mild taste of the turkey.

I know, tradition is tradition but it seems that more and more recipes these days include ingredients like cane syrup and coffee that give turkey a unique and flavorful taste.

2 gallons water

1 cup apple cider vinegar

1/2 cup ground coffee, preferably chicory coffee

1 large onion, halved

12 large thyme sprigs, tied together

1/4 cup kosher salt

1 tablespoon black peppercorns

2 cups light brown sugar or 3 cups cane syrup (see Note)

One 11-pound turkey

About 3 cups hickory chips

Vegetable oil, for brushing

In a large saucepan, bring 1 gallon of the water to a boil; keep warm. In a large stockpot, combine the cider vinegar, coffee, onion, thyme, salt and peppercorns with 1 3/4 cups of the brown sugar and the remaining gallon of water. Bring to a boil.

Holding the turkey by the legs, carefully ease the bird into the hot brine, neck end down. Add enough of the hot water to the stockpot to cover the turkey and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 1 1/2 hours.

Carefully remove the turkey from the stockpot. Strain 2 cups of the braising liquid into a heatproof bowl and stir in the remaining 1/4 cup of brown sugar. Discard the remaining braising liquid.

Meanwhile, light a charcoal grill or preheat a gas grill. A few minutes before the turkey has finished simmering, add 2 cups of the hickory chips to the coals. When the chips start smoking, brush the turkey breast with oil. Set the turkey, breast side down, on the grill. Cover and smoke over a low fire or flame for 15 minutes. Baste the turkey with the reserved braising liquid; turn it breast side up and baste again. Cover the grill and continue smoking the turkey for about 40 minutes longer, basting occasionally with the braising liquid and adding more coals or hickory chips to the grill as necessary. The turkey is done when an instant-read thermometer inserted in the inner thigh registers 165°. Transfer the turkey to a cutting board and let rest 20 minutes before carving.