Though most people think of serving turkey for Thanksgiving, it is also a popular holiday main course for Christmas and Easter. There are many ways to roast a turkey on a Big Green Egg (BGE) and I have tried several of them. I have settled on two recipes that our family likes best and I will present the first of these in this blog today. (This recipe can also be used on a turkey cooked in a charcoal or gas grill or an oven and is Ideal Protein, Phase 1 compliant). First I must go over the 8 “Rules of Turkey Cooking”:
Rule #1: The Turkey I purchase a fresh (never frozen) turkey whenever I can. These are a little more expensive and can usually be found at The Fresh Market or non-grocery butcher shops. They will often NOT be injected with sodium and water and will not be self-brining. If one purchases a grocery store turkey (Butterball, etc), check the labelling, as it will likely be injected with 3-8% solution. It keeps the turkey moist when cooked in a hot, dry oven, but remember when cooking in the awesome, moisture-retaining BGE it will not need to be brined. (That said, some BGE owners insist on brining their turkeys, usually to infuse added flavors before cooking it in the Egg, but occasionally it’s because they just don’t understand their Egg’s properties).
Rule #2: Practice run One needs to know if their plan will work (fit) on the Egg. I put all the components into the Egg, including the bird (frozen or fresh – still in the plastic wrapper) to be sure the pans will fit and it will close properly with the bird in place. I often have to modify my original plan based on this practice run – change from upright roaster to roasting pan or adjust grid heights to accommodate the drip pan or a large bird. I have even removed the fire ring and lowered the PS to the top of the fire box (4 inches deeper) to get a large turkey upright. I could easily touch the bird through the top opening!
Rule #3: Thaw thoroughly – with a frozen turkey, remember it will take at least 2, sometimes 3 days to fully thaw it in a refrigerator, so plan accordingly.
Rule #4 Separate the skin This is not a requirement on every turkey cook, but many recipes for turkey, and well as chicken, will instruct one to use a wooden spoon handle or, my preference, fingers to carefully undermine the breast, thigh and leg skin (try NOT to create a hole in the skin). This serves two purposes: (1) it allows one to add butter, olive oil, rubs or herbs under the skin for flavor, and (2) it also helps crisp up the skin when cooking.
Rule #5: Room temperature Always place the turkey on the counter and allow it to approach room temperature before placing in the BGE (or oven). This can range from one hour for a small bird to 2 hours for a very large one.
Rule #6: Chill the breast A perfectly cooked turkey (or chicken) will be done when the internal temperature of the breast is 160-165*, yet the legs and thighs should be 170-180*. I fill a gallon-size ziplock bag with crushed ice and place it on top of the breast about 20-30 minutes prior to placing the turkey in the Egg. By chilling the breast meat, it takes the breast longer to reach its done temperature, allowing time for the thighs to reach 180* (works for oven-cooked turkeys, also).
Rule #7: Don’t forget the giblets! Don’t forget there is a neck and a bag of giblets stuffed inside the cavity of the bird. Make sure it is completely removed!
Rule #8: Estimated cook time I have kept records of my cook times and Egg’d turkeys seem to average roughly 8-10 minutes per pound at 325-350* dome temperature. This is shorter than what most people expect, but remember, the BGE is essentially a convection cooker. With recipes that involve stuffing fruit and/or vegetables inside the cavity, the cook time will be longer – more like 15-20 minutes per pound.
Herbes de Provence Turkey
The first and simplest of my turkey recipes I learned from my former colleague and his gracious wife – Barry & Carolyn Aden. This gives a nice, browned turkey with a pleasant herbal flavor.
I use a herb paste made from olive oil mixed with Herbes de Provence and kosher salt. This paste is rubbed under the skin of the breasts, thighs and legs plus the outside and cavity of the turkey. To give it a short dry brine and let the flavors soak into the meat, it is covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated several hours or even overnight.
Prepare the BGE for an indirect cook with a drip pan and a dome temp of 325-350*. Place the platesetter (PS) with the legs up. Put some spacers (3-4 small balls of aluminum foil will work) on the PS, then a drip pan on the spacers (the air gap between the drip pan and the PS helps prevent the drippings from burning). The turkey can be placed on an upright roaster or in a V-rack (or roasting pan). The best smoking woods are mild fruit woods like apple, pecan or cherry (poultry soaks up smoke, so don’t overdo it).
Once the Egg has stabilized (with the PS and the drip pan) at your goal temp of 325-350* for about 45 minutes, place the turkey inside and insert a continuous-read thermometer (see “thermometers” in The Basics) into the thigh, avoiding contact with the bone. Baste occasionally with paste diluted with white vinegar. When the breast begins to brown, tent it with a loose piece of aluminum foil until about the last hour, when you can remove it and let the breast brown up nicely. Remove the bird when it’s done, cover and rest it on a cutting board until time to carve and serve.
1 12# fresh turkey
3 tbsp Herbes de Provence (more, if needed)
4 tbsp EVOO (more, if needed)
1 tbsp Coarse sea salt, or Kosher
2 oz White vinegar
(1) Mix EVOO and Herbes de Provence and salt to make a thick paste. Reserve the remaining paste and mix it with the white vinegar to make a baste for later (or remake a smaller quantity for basting).
Prep of turkey:
(1) Pat the turkey dry. Undermine the skin with fingers or the handle of a wooden spoon, beginning at the top of the breasts and undermining as far onto the thighs and drumsticks as possible, being careful not to tear holes in the skin. Generously rub the paste under the skin, then completely rub the outside of the turkey and the cavity with the paste. Lightly cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate several hours or overnight.
(2) Allow the turkey to come to room temperature before putting on the grill (about a hour). During the last 20-30 min. of this time, place a gallon bag with crushed ice over the breasts to keep them cooler than the dark meat.
(1) Fill the BGE up with lump to within about 1″ of the bottom of the platesetter. Get it stabilized at about 325-350* with the platesetter in place and the legs up (may need to remove the fire ring if turkey is 20# or so). Mix some pecan or apple chips/chunks in with the lump.
(2) Place turkey on a vertical roaster in a drip pan, a V-rack over a drip pan, or in a roaster/rack pan and cook until thigh temp is 180* (the breast should be about 160*). Cover and rest until time to serve.