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Dad Cooks Thanksgiving Dinner 2011

Cartoon © Randy Bish. Used with permission.

Cartoon © Randy Bish. Used with permission.

T-Day minus three and counting. Are you ready for Thanksgiving?

Last week, I shared this year’s turkey recipe and how I make gravy ahead of time:

Annual Thanksgiving Advice:

Best Thanksgiving Question:
Now, for some rotisserie turkey details. My question of the year (so far) was from an observant, anonymous commenter:

It seems that your setup on you Summit varies. In a 2009 post on rotisserie turkey, you advised to set the two outer burners on medium and the infrared on medium. Here you say the two right hand burners on high and the infrared on medium. Why the changes?

I have changed my approach over the last couple of years. Long-time readers know I preach using an instant read thermometer to see if the bird is done. The problem is, turkey should be cooked to two different temperatures. White meat is safe to eat when it has been at 150F for ten minutes, and starts to overcook and dry out at 160F. Dark meat is safe at 150F, but very chewy because of fat and connective tissue. Those break down about 170F, so the dark meat is best at 170F to 180F. That’s a big swing.
(See my Turkey Temperature – the 150 Question post for more details on cooking turkey.)

Now, the thickness of the breast slows down its cooking compared to the legs and thighs. Trussing also seems to help by pushing the drumsticks out from the bird. But I’ve adopted two tricks to help cook the legs faster, and slow down cooking the breast.

The first change is mentioned in the question. I don’t use an even split of indirect heat with turkey. I use a “U of fire” in my Weber Kettle, or light two burners on one side of my Weber summit, and then point the legs of the turkey towards the hotter side of the grill. This gives the legs more direct heat than the breast.
[h/t the How to Barbecue a Turkey pamphlet from Weber grills for this idea]

The second change is to make the breast colder than the legs. I take the turkey out of the refrigerator an hour or two before cooking, fill a zip-top gallon bag with ice cubes, and set the bag of ice on the breast. That way, the legs come to room temperature, while the breast stays cold.
[h/t Harold McGee and Cooks Illustrated for this tip]


Best Thanksgiving Question(s) on the Web:
This year, everyone seemed to have a “ask any question, we’ll answer it” series on their website. Here are my two favorites, because of the crazy range of questions they answered:

Kenji Alt – The Food Lab Answers Questions
Turkey, non-turkey mains, gravy
Sides and Desserts
Leftovers, Family Traditions, etc…
My favorites:

  • The turkey butt debate: disgusting, or the best part of the bird?
  • Fry your own fried onions for green bean casserole
  • Dropping the pumpkin pie in front of your mother-in-law
New York Times dining section:
Thanksgiving Help Line
My favorites:
  • Is it safe to cook a Regan era turkey?
  • Will I kill my family if I cook the stuffing inside the turkey?
  • How long should I cook my Turducken?
Good luck with Thanksgiving this year, everyone!

What do you think? Questions? Other ideas? Leave them in the comments section below.

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Filed under: Ramblings


Hi! I’m Mike Vrobel. I’m a dad and an enthusiastic home cook; an indie cookbook author and food blogger with a day job, a patient spouse, and three kids who would rather have hamburgers for dinner.

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