This recipe is inspired by Rick Bayless – he cooks his turkey with a hint of Mexican flavors to give it a south-of-the-border feel. Rick wet-brines the turkey, then stuffs the back cavity with herbs and aromatics to perfume the bird. I had to try it.
Now, I made a few changes to Mr. Bayless’s recipe – he uses mesquite, a controversial smoking wood. That’s right—wood can be controversial. Want to start an Internet war? Mention mesquite in a barbecue forum. Oh, the rage! Mesquite has a very strong flavor—used in large quantities, it can overpower food. I substitute pecan, another traditional Southwestern smoking wood. (If you want to use mesquite, you can – the small amount of wood in this recipe won’t overwhelm the bird.)
I wet brine the turkey overnight1, then stuff it with herbs2, truss it, and let it rest with a bag of ice on the breast while I prepare the grill. I concentrate the heat of the grill on the leg side of the bird, add the smoking wood, and then rotisserie grill with the lid closed until the turkey reaches 155°F in the thickest part of the breast. Done!
Recipe: Rotisserie Turkey Stuffed With Herbs
From my cookbook: Rotisserie Turkey
Adapted from Mesquite-Smoked Grilled Turkey by Rick Bayless
- Grill (I love my jumbo Weber Summit gas grill)
- A drip pan to catch the drippings (I used an 11- x 13-inch aluminum foil pan)
- A container large enough to hold the turkey
- Gallon-size zip-top plastic bag full of ice
- 2 fist-size chunks of pecan smoking wood or 2 cups wood chips (or substitute oak)
- Instant Read thermometer (I love my Thermapen)
Rotisserie Turkey Stuffed With Herbs. Wet brined turkey, perfumed from the inside by a big handful of fresh herbs.
- 2 gallons cold water
- ½ cup table salt or 1 cup kosher salt (6 ounces)
- ¼ cup light or dark brown sugar
- 12-to–14-pound turkey
- 6 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
- 1 bunch fresh oregano
- 1 sprig fresh rosemary
- 1 sprig fresh sage
- 1 bunch fresh thyme
- 1 handful fresh parsley leaves and stems
- Wet-brine the turkey: Nine hours to one day before it is time to cook, pour the water into the container. Add the salt and sugar and stir until they dissolve. Submerge the turkey in the brine and refrigerate overnight. If you’re pressed for time, brine for at least 8 hours; don’t go much longer than 24 hours.
- Drain, stuff, truss, and spit the turkey: One hour before cooking, remove the turkey from the brine, let it drain, then pat dry with paper towels, inside and out. Discard the brine. Grab the garlic and herbs in a loose handful and rub them all around the inside of the back cavity. Leave them in the back cavity to perfume the bird while it cooks. Fold the wingtips underneath the bird, then truss the turkey. Skewer the turkey on the rotisserie spit, securing it with the spit forks. To keep the breast meat cool, set the bag of ice on the turkey’s breast, arranging it so the ice does not touch the thighs or drumsticks. Let the turkey rest at room temperature until it is time to cook.
- Set up the grill: Set up the grill for indirect medium heat (325° to 350°F), with the drip pan in the middle of the grill and the heat concentrated on the drumstick side of the grill. Use the U of charcoal or turn on burners on one side of the grill, if possible (see the Charcoal Grill Setup and Gas Grill Setup chapters for more details). Add the smoking wood to the fire.
- Rotisserie the turkey: Discard the bag of ice. Put the spit on the grill with the drumsticks pointed toward the heat. Start the rotisserie spinning, and make sure the drip pan is centered under the turkey. Close the lid. If you are using a charcoal grill, add 16 unlit briquettes every hour to keep the heat going. Cook until the turkey reaches 155°F in the thickest part of the breast, about 2 ½ hours.
- Carve and serve: Remove the turkey from the grill, remove the spit from the turkey, and cut the trussing string loose. Let the turkey rest for 15 to 30 minutes before carving. (Leave the garlic and herbs in the cavity – they gave their flavor up while cooking.) Arrange the carved turkey on a platter and serve.
What do you think?
Questions? Other ideas? Leave them in the comments section below.
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