Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter…whatever the holiday it seems Turkey is always the go-to protein. It’s abundant, affordable, tasty, and usually easy. I only cook one kind of turkey – the Big Green Egg Turkey. An oven-roasted turkey tends to land somewhere on a spectrum of ‘bad’ to ‘good’. A Big Green Egg Turkey can only land from ‘great’ to ‘out-of-this-world’. I haven’t done it on a kettle grill yet but I’m sure the results will still beat the oven.
There are many different recipes out there. I’ve developed my own hybrid recipe from the version found in the Big Green Egg Cookbook and a series of YouTube videos posted by Patio at Penn Stone. I’ve been modifying it over the past few holidays and I think it’s now ready to publish.
Here are the steps to win some fans at your next holiday dinner:
- *1 Turkey
- 1 Gallon of water
- 2 cups of brown sugar
- 1/2 cup of kosher salt
- 3 yellow onions
- 4 oranges
- 4 lemons
- 2-4 stalk of fresh thyme
- 3 heads of Garlic
- **Scoop of butter
- Salt & Pepper
- Apple wood and hickory chips
*Use this handy Turkey Calculator to determine the size of bird you’ll need. A large Big Green Egg can easily accommodate a 20Ibs / 9kg turkey.
**The size of scoop depends on your health quotient but since you’re soaking a bird in sugar and salt I’d say it’s low – so scoop away!
- Plate setter (Big Green Egg only)
- V-rack to place the bird on
- Drip pan
- Aluminum foil
- Meat Thermometer
The day before your feast you can prepare brine for the turkey. This is a crucial step if you want your turkey to fall on the ‘out-of-this-world’ side of the flavor spectrum.
- Remove all the extra stuff from the turkey (giblets, neck, etc.).
- Mix the following together until everything is dissolved
- 1 gallon of water
- 2 cups of brown sugar
- 1/2 cup of kosher salt
- Rind from 1 orange
- 2 quartered onions
- 1 halved garlic head (fully separate if you have time)
- Add the brine and turkey to a pot or bag large enough to hold it all. Keep as much of the turkey submerged a possible. Flip the turkey half way through to ensure all of it gets the treatment.
- Let sit in the fridge overnight.
1-2 hours before you need to start cooking your turkey (lean toward 2 if eggnog will be a part of the preparation process – I highly recommend it with El Dorado 12 year rum and a dash of nutmeg) you can start to get the bird and barbeque ready.
- Rinse the turkey.
- Stuff it with the following:
- Lemons (cut in eighths)
- Oranges (cut in eighths)
- 1 yellow onion (cut in eighths)
- 1 head of garlic (halved or fully separated)
- Crush 3 cloves of garlic and mix with butter. Separate the turkey skin from the meat with your hands and spread the garlic butter between the skin and breast.
- Brush the outside of the turkey with olive oil.
- Salt and pepper the outside of the turkey.
- Add apple wood and hickory chips to water and let them soak for at least 30 minutes. Use a large amount because you’ll need to add more throughout the cook. You can substitute other types of wood (pecan for example) but these are my favorites on turkey.
- Heat the Big Green Egg to 500-600 degrees to clean it and prepare it for the plate setter.
- Add the plate setter at the low height (no grate is required). If you’re using another type of grill get it ready for indirect grilling.
- Bring the temperature back down to 300-350 degrees (25% intake) before you add the bird.
- Place a drip tray on top of the plate setter.
- Put the turkey on the V-rack (usually breast up – although there are different opinions on this) and set it over the drip tray.
- Add the wet wood chips to the coals. The temperature may dip slightly when chips are added but will come back up once they burn up.
- Cook at 300 degrees. I tend to cook a bit lower around 250-300 degrees although I think this may be due to a mis-calibration of my thermometer.
- Cook the turkey to an internal temperature of 170°F / 77°C in the breast and 180°F / 82°C in the thigh. For an idea of how long this will take for your turkey visit the Turkey Farmers of Canada Cooking Times & Temperatures page. I only cook a turkey when I have a good-size crowd to enjoy it so my birds tend to come in around 20Ibs / 9kg and take about 5.5 hours to cook.
- Check the bird half way through cooking to ensure the skin isn’t burning. If so, tent it with tin foil. Don’t get lazy and skip this step. It will greatly increase the visual appeal of your turkey and prevent your dinners from avoiding the black mess you set on the table.
Carve the Turkey
I’m about 100 times better at cooking a turkey than carving it. For some directions on carving your bird and storing your leftovers take some advise from the experts…
Enjoy your bird and be sure to share your experiences and other great turkey recipes in the comments section below.