27 Nov 2012: Thanksgiving Turkey and Veggies with Ranch

lunch on 27 November 2012: turkey with veggies and ranch
lunch on 27 November 2012: turkey with veggies and ranch

It is hard to believe, but we are getting down to the last of the turkey. We cooked this year’s turkey on the grill and it turned out AMAZING. Since I have various fancy odds and ends still languishing in the fridge, I made cranberry goat cheese stuffed figs to go with the shredded turkey. The figs are from a neighbor’s tree at the end of our block that is currently bursting with fig goodness. Since this lunch is somewhat decadent, I also included ranch dressing with the crudite, also known as carrots, cucumbers and grape tomatoes. Bunny grahams are the treat today.

A now, because I know you’re curious about my AMAZING grilled turkey, I will share the whole elaborate process:

*Cooking Tip: Best Ever Smoky Grilled Turkey

  1. If your turkey is frozen and you plan to cook on Thanksgiving day, put it in the fridge to defrost on Saturday.
  2. 48–24 hours before cooking, dry brine (thank you, Mark Bittman, you’re a genius) the turkey. You will need approximately 1 tablespoon of kosher salt for ever 4 pounds. Remove the giblets and neck (use these later for stock and gravy). Pat the turkey dry and rub that raw bird all over—outside, under the skin, in the cavity—with the salt. Put the turkey in a roasting pan breast side up, cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge.
  3. Halfway through brining, if you think of it, flip the turkey over.
  4. On cooking day, take the turkey out of the fridge one hour before you plan to cook it. Mash up a softened stick of unsalted butter with some chopped fresh herbs (the usual suspects: thyme, rosemary, sage, etc), smoked paprika and black pepper. Pat the turkey dry again, because dry skin = crispy skin. Slather the butter all over the turkey, inside and out, and try to get all much as possible under the skin. It will be lumpy, but just flatten out the lumps as well as you can. I highly recommend using latex gloves for this; your fingernails will thank you. Cover the tips of the wings and ends of the legs with aluminum foil.

    turkey getting rubbed with herb butter
    turkey getting rubbed with herb butter
  5. Make 3–4 smoker packs. Soak several handfuls of wood chips (we used mesquite) in water for 20 minutes. Put the damp wood chips and some fresh herbs into an aluminum foil packet that is open enough to let some smoke escape.
  6. Preheat your grill to 400 degrees. You need a pretty big grill with three heating elements. You want the turkey to be cooked with indirect heat, so you will turn off the heat source directly below the turkey and keep the heat coming from the grates to the left and right of the turkey. Place one smoker pack on the grill while it preheats. If the heat source of your grill is exposed, place an aluminum drip pan underneath the grates to prevent flare ups.
  7. When the grill is up to temperature, place the turkey on a grill roast rack like this. Lower the temperature to 350 and try to maintain this temperature for the duration of cooking. Our 12.8 pound bird took 3 hours. Each hour, replace the smoke pack with a fresh one. If the skin starts to brown too quickly (this didn’t happen to us), cover the top with foil.
  8. Cook the turkey until the thickest part of the breast reaches an internal temperature of 165ish. If you are nervous about constantly checking the temperature, get one of those handy thermometers with a cord that can stay in the meat the entire time. It will provide you with a sense of calm and security on Thanksgiving Day. Trust me, it’s worth the 20 bucks.

    turkey on the grill: almost done
    turkey on the grill: almost done
  9. When the turkey is done, remove it from the grill (a little tricky: silicone gloves and a wide metal spatula will help). Tent it with foil and let it rest for an hour while you go about mashing potatoes, making gravy, pouring wine, etc.
  10. Behold the glory of your smoky grilled bird. The dark meat will practically fall off the bone. The breast meat will, *gasp*, actually be juicy. I think I shall never cook a bird in the oven again.

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