Posts from a year ago:
If there is one thing that always seems to happen when we entertain a group and try a new recipe at the same time – it is that I end up forgetting to get a decent picture of the dish when it finishes cooking, and before it has been reduced to little more than a small dish of leftovers. This is exactly what happened (again) this past Thursday when we had Karen’s extended family over for Thanksgiving, and I spent the day slow-cooking a 14-pound turkey on the pellet grill. In the end, I managed to get a photo of the platter of dark meat tidbits, because the rest of the bird was gone too fast for me to think about getting photos!
In order to ensure a perfectly moist and seasoned bird, we stuck with the proven method of brining ahead of time. And, if you’ve followed the blog for a while, you may also notice the cooking times and methods used in this recipe closely mirror those used previously in our Chile-grilled Turkey, though the ingredients themselves are changed. Again – why mess with something that you know works?
- 13 to 15-lb turkey, fully thawed with giblets and parts removed from the cavity (save these to make some stock)
- 1-1/3 cup kosher salt (or any other large-grained natural salt – do NOT use iodized)
- 1/3 cup honey
- 10 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed (not pictured)
- 3 bay leaves
- 1 tbsp dried rosemary
- 2 tsp dried tarragon
- ~7 quarts water, divided
Start with one quart of water in a pot on the stove. Heat to near boiling, then add all of the brine ingredients. Stir until the salt is fully dissolved, then remove from heat. Grab a canning pot or food safe container large enough to hold the entire bird AND fit in the refrigerator (there are alternative methods using a cooler and ice if you don’t have the fridge space), then add the brine “tea” to this container. Pour in four quarts of ice-cold water to bring the temperature down below 50 degrees. Place the bird, breast down, into the brine and add enough water to fully cover the bird. Place in the refrigerator for 6 to 12 hours.
- 1/4 cup grass-fed butter
- 1 tbsp salt-free seasoning blend
- 1 tsp dry ground mustard
- 2 tsp dried rosemary
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled
Remove the turkey from the brine (discard the liquid), then rinse completely inside and out in cold water. Pat dry, then place in a roasting pan breast up. Using your fingers, work carefully to loosen the skin of the bird away from the meat along the breasts, back, thighs, and legs – trying not to tear the skin at all (you’d be amazed how flexible the skin is after brining all night). Combine all of the rub ingredients in a small food processor and pulse until they form a thick paste, then rub liberally all over under the skin of the bird. Make sure to leave plenty of excess around the breast, and rub a little on the inside of the cavity as well.
Get your grill set up for smoking at a temperature of around 185. (Of course – here is where I forgot to take pictures.) If you only have a gas grill or are cooking in the oven, you can skip this step – but I’ll tell you that the flavor this adds is incredible and well worth the effort. When the grill is ready for smoking, place the bird breast-side down in the roasting pan and place in the grill. Leave it to smoke for 2-1/2 hours with the lid closed as much as possible (lifting only to add fuel if you are using a standard charcoal grill).
After smoking for 2-1/2 hours, turn the bird over so that the breast is up (the bird will not be hot to the touch, so you can do this with bare hands). Add fuel to increase the temperature to 325 degrees indirect heat, and insert a meat thermometer into the breast of the turkey so that it is about 1/2 inch from the bone. If using a gas grill or the oven, this is where you will start cooking.
Continue cooking until the thermometer reaches a temperature of 160 degrees – about 3 hours for a 14-lb bird. Don’t check it at all for the first 2 hours (you’ll lose heat every time you lift the lid), then check only every 15 minutes until you know you are getting close. Or use a handy remote thermometer like this one. Tent the bird with foil if the breast starts to crisp too much (though I didn’t have any trouble).
When the bird reaches temperature, remove from the grill and tent with foil for another 10 minutes while you get everything else out and ready to serve (assuming you aren’t attacked by a mob of hungry guests the moment you bring it in from the grill). Carve the bird according to your own traditions, and serve immediately. Dig in!