Everything tastes better with bacon.
Last year, an interviewer asked Christopher Kimball what his favorite turkey was. His answer? Turkey larded with bacon. The moment I heard that answer, I knew what I was cooking for thanksgiving this year.
Bacon? What does bacon do for a turkey? Turkey breast is very lean, so basting the turkey with bacon fat will help keep the breast moist while the turkey cooks. It adds a hint of salty, smoky flavor to the breast, which helps if you are cooking on a gas grill. I think the extra layer of bacon slows down the cooking on the breast, which is a good thing - the drumsticks need extra time to cook. And, not least, the layer of crisped bacon on the skin adds extra flavor to the relatively bland white meat.
Now, is bacon essential to turkey? No. My favorite turkey is still my Dry Brined with Orange and Spices recipe. But, if you want a subtle improvement to a traditional turkey, bacon on the breast is a nice addition.
*Of course, if you're the kind of person who wants to blow away your guests, adding a bacon wrap to your turkey is another weapon in your arsenal. Not that I
No rotisserie? No worries. It's a great idea on the grill (though I would get a smaller, 12 pound turkey), or in the oven. See the Notes section for cooking non-rotisserie cooking instructions.
Recipe: Rotisserie Turkey Wrapped with Bacon
Cooking time: 3 hours
- Grill with Rotisserie attachment (I used a Weber Summit with an infrared rotisserie burner. Here is the current version of my grill. )
- Aluminum foil drip pan (Get an oval turkey roaster style pan)
- Butcher's twine
- 1 Turkey (20-24 pounds)
- 1/2 cup kosher salt (I used Diamond Crystal kosher salt; reduce to 6 tablespoons if using Mortons kosher, because it is denser)
- (Reduce to 1 tablespoon of salt if the turkey is "enhanced with a natural solution" of more than 6 percent)
- 6 strips hickory-smoked bacon
Directions:1: Dry brine the turkey
Sprinkle the turkey with the salt, inside and out. Gently work your fingers under the skin on the breast, then rub some of the salt directly onto the breast meat. Refrigerate at least overnight, preferably two to three days. If dry brining more than a day in advance, cover the turkey with plastic wrap until the night before cooking, then remove the plastic wrap to let the skin dry out overnight.
*If the turkey is "enhanced with a (percentage) solution", cut the salt back to 1 tablespoon. The turkey is pre-brined; you don't want to over salt it.
2: Truss and spit the turkey
Two hours before cooking, remove the turkey from the refrigerator. Truss the turkey, following the instructions in my How to Truss and Spit a Turkey post. If the turkey is larger than 18 pounds, un-fold the turkey wings and tuck them under the trussing string, as shown in my Rotisserie Big Turkey post. Skewer the turkey on the rotisserie spit, securing it with the spit forks. Fill a gallon zip-top bag with ice, and rest the bag on the breast of the turkey to keep the breast colder than the drumsticks.
3. Wrap the breast in bacon
Discard the bag full of ice. Lay the bacon over the turkey breast, as shown in the picture above. Tie the bacon down onto the turkey. Loop a length of twine under the turkey and behind the wings, then around the front of the breast to tie down the edge of the bacon strips near the turkey neck. Next, loop a length of twine under the turkey, around the drumsticks, and over the top of the breast to tie down the other edge of the bacon strips. Finally, tie a third loop of twine around the middle of the turkey to hold the bacon down in the middle. Make sure to tie the twine tight at the edges, or the bacon will work loose as the turkey rotates.
4. Set up the grill
Set the grill up for indirect medium heat (325°F to 350°F) with the drip pan in the middle of the grill. Set up all the heat in the grill on one side, facing the turkey legs. With a charcoal grill, light a charcoal chimney 3/4 full of charcoal, and wait until it is covered with gray ash. Make a U of charcoal, with the pan in the middle, and the breast facing the open part of the U. With a gas grill, if possible, turn on two burners on one side of the grill instead of one burner on each side.
*If you are cooking a 16 pound or larger bird, and you have an infrared rotisserie burner, leave it off. You probably won't need it, but if the turkey needs last minute browning, turn it on for the last half hour of cooking. If you are cooking a smaller bird, like the 12 pounders I prefer, then turn the infrared rotisserie burner to medium.
4: Rotisserie cook the turkey
Put the spit on the grill, start the motor spinning, and make sure the drip pan is centered beneath the turkey. Close the lid and cook until the turkey reaches 155°F in the thickest part of the breast, about 3 hours for a 24 pound bird. If you are cooking on a charcoal grill, add 24 coals to the fire every hour to keep the heat going.
Remove the turkey from the rotisserie spit and remove the twine trussing the turkey. Be very careful - the spit and forks are blazing hot. Let the turkey rest for 15 to 30 minutes, then carve and serve.
- No rotisserie? No worries. Set the grill up as described, put the turkey on top of the grill grate over indirect heat.
- No grill? No worries. Cook the turkey in a 350°F oven.
- I used a simple dry brine in this recipe; if you want to use a fancier dry brine with a bacon wrapped turkey, go for it. Try my Dry Brine with Orange and Spices, Cajun Dry Brine, or one of the other dry brines from my book.
- A drip pan full of bacon fat and turkey drippings is perfect for Rotisserie Pan Potatoes.
- The bacon will try to work its way loose from the edges of the string. If it does, that's OK. Let it flop around until the heat of the grill has cooked it a bit, about a half an hour, then tear it loose. Eat it, of course - this is a cook's treat.
What do you think? Questions? Other ideas? Leave them in the comments section below.
Rotisserie Turkey - The Big Turkey
Dry Brine with Orange and Spices
Cajun Dry Brine
Click here for my other rotisserie recipes.
|Check out my cookbook, Rotisserie Grilling.
Everything you could ask about the rotisserie,
plus 50 (mostly) new recipes to get you cooking.
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