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The Best Grilled Turkey You’ll Ever Have!

I love grilling turkey and how I became such a master turkey griller is anyone’s guess. Practice I suppose. Since childhood, I have been enamored of anything cooked over charcoal or a wood fire. My dad wasn’t much of a camper, but he loved picnics and he always grilled steaks. My mom (whom I have previously revealed wasn’t the best cook) was a pretty good grill person too, as long as it involved burgers, dogs and steaks.

The charcoal grill I have now is the same grill we gave my dad for Christmas one year, so my grill is approximately twenty-something years old! Good ole’ Weber grills! I moved away from the exclusive steaks, burgers and hot dogs landscape while my dad was still living. I experimented with chicken and all kinds of pork cuts, venison, beef roasts, kabobs, and vegetables of all kinds (grilled eggplant, portabella mushrooms and asparagus are absolutely killer!).

And then one day I thought, “I bet I could do a whole turkey!” But how? Back then there wasn’t an awful lot of info on how to do it. So- -I implemented the offset cooking method I had found for making roasts, used the suggested roasting times on the turkey packaging and a trusty thermometer and voila! The very first grilled turkey came out looking like something off the cover of Family Circle! It was per–fect!

All I did then, was oil him up (the turkey that is), with canola oil, a little salt & pepper and that was it. I kid you not it was juicy, smoky, just wonderful and even my very Italian dad, who was not a big turkey fan (once a year is plenty!) sang its praises.

Since then I’ve experimented with brining, rubs, an assortment of seasonings- -you name it. But this is my basic, go-to grilled turkey recipe, which at first glance seems complicated, but once you’ve done it, it is a breeze. You’ll be wrangling a turkey like a pro in no time!

Patty’s Charcoal Grilled Whole Turkey

  • One whole fresh or thawed frozen turkey (size is up to you), giblets & neck removed
  • Approximately 2 gallons of brining solution to submerge turkey in – -equal parts apple juice (or cider) and water with 1/2 cup of kosher salt stirred in.

Place turkey in brining solution and (depending on size) place in fridge for anywhere from 8 to 24 hours. If your gobbler is a giant, you may want to move him around in his brine once or twice.

Day of grilling: Remove turkey from brine and dry it off with paper towels.

  • 1 stick of butter sliced into pats
  • 1 recipe of your favorite rub or any commercial rub you like
  • 1 or two whole onions (or you could also use oranges or even lemons)

Here’s my rub recipe:

  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 2 tablespoons regular (or sweet) paprika
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon each garlic & onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon thyme

Mix all rub ingredients together.

  • Sprinkle about a tablespoon of the rub inside the turkey cavity
  • Carefully, lift the skin of the turkey up at the front of the breast & gently separate it from the meat as far back as you can and also over the thighs & drumsticks
  •  Take butter pats and insert them under the skin over the thighs, top of drumstick and all over the breast meat
  • Insert sprigs of fresh rosemary under breast skin and gently pull the skin taut
  • Chop onions into quarters and place in turkey cavity
  • Rub turkey all over with vegetable oil of your choice, (you can use olive oil but it has a lower smoking point so you’ll need to watch it more closely as it cooks)
  • Sprinkle or massage more rub mixture into skin all over turkey

Truss the turkey if you need to, sometimes I will just tie the legs together and fold the wings back under it so they act as a kind of turkey stand.

Prepare your charcoal grill for offset cooking and when charcoal is ready, fill a good size drip pan about halfway with more apple juice and water, (or, sometimes I will combine apple juice, water and a good white wine) plus a few more sprigs of rosemary. Place drip pan between mounded charcoal. Carefully please or you’ll burn your arms off! Spray the cooking grate with cooking spray and place grate on grill. When grate is heated, place your turkey (with thermometer inserted correctly) in the center of the grill, place grill cover on grill and roast.

You will need to carefully add more charcoal (6 to 8 pieces per side) approximately every half-hour or so to keep the heat even. Keep an eye on it and when it’s reaching the perfect temp and looks like something you’d see on a magazine cover–your perfect turkey is ready! If you’ve been careful adding charcoal and kept any ashes out of your drip pan, you can use the delicious drippings to make a gravy that will send you over the moon!

Use the onions for the stock you make out of the carcass and you’ll have smoked turkey soup from heaven, not to mention the other awesome leftover possibilities…smoked turkey tetrazzini, smoked turkey & gouda paninis,  smoked turkey cutlets, etc. Enjoy!

For more incredible turkey grilling recipes click here.

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