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Gobbler on the Grill

August 12, 1993|ROSE LEVY BERANBAUM

People have been telling me for years how easy and delicious it is to cook a whole turkey on a charcoal grill, but I never really believed them. I'd picture a 12-pound bird, considered everything I knew about grilling, and knew I would not be able to reconcile the two.

For one thing, I have never been willing to add coals during the grilling process, a necessity for the longer cooking required for a large bird. The thought of lifting the grill rack with that much weight on top in order to add the coals was nothing short of terrifying. Also, I couldn't imagine how the turkey, which even in an oven doesn't cook evenly, could possibly cook evenly on the grill.

But when my new charcoal grill arrived, it looked so beautiful and functional it gave me the confidence to ignore my reservations and give the turkey a try.

I found that when I used the indirect method of grilling, together with the domed lid, my 12-pound turkey cooked perfectly--no, magnificently--in 1 3/4 hours. No turning, no basting; all I had to do was add coals after one hour of grilling. The skin, though not crisp, was evenly, deeply bronzed--the dark meat fabulously succulent and the breast the most moist and flavorful I have ever eaten.

What could be more perfect, close to effortless and impressive for a summer party? And just think what Thanksgiving possibilities this has!

BEST TURKEY 1 (12-pound) turkey 2 cloves garlic, halved 2 teaspoons salt Freshly ground pepper 1 bunch fresh sage, optional 1 bunch fresh thyme, optional

For extra smoky flavor, soak few handfuls of aromatic wood chips at least 30 minutes (no more than 1/4 of coals or they will extinguish fire).

Rinse turkey with cold running water and drain well. Pat dry with paper towels.

Rub cut side of garlic cloves all over outside and inside of turkey. Reserve garlic. Sprinkle inside and out with salt and pepper to taste. Insert fresh sage and thyme into neck and body cavities together with reserved garlic cloves and close openings with metal skewers. Wrap wings loosely with foil. Allow to stand at room temperature while preparing coals, no more than 1 hour.

Follow manufacturer's directions for indirect grilling. When coals are all lit, place foil drip pan in center between 2 piles of coals. Scatter drained wood chips, if using, on top of coals. Place turkey in center of grill. Cover with grill lid and cook turkey undisturbed 1 hour.

Add 6 fresh coals to each side of fire. Cover and continue cooking about 45 minutes, until instant-read thermometer inserted into thigh, not touching bone, registers 175 degrees. If cooking larger turkey, and after second hour turkey is not done, add 6 more coals to each side and continue cooking until turkey reaches internal temperature of 175 degrees. Allow turkey to stand about 15 to 20 minutes before carving. Makes 8 to 10 servings.

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