McCROSKEY: Grab hold of yourself! You’ve got to talk them down. You’re the only chance they’ve got!
KRAMER (into mike): All right, Striker, now you listen to me and you listen close. Flying is no different than riding a bicycle…it just happens to be a lot harder to put baseball cards in the spokes. Now, if you just follow my instructions…
Lloyd Bridges and Robert Stack, Airplane! (1980)
It’s T-Day minus 2. Are you ready?
I feel like a crisis counsellor the week before Thanksgiving. I give out a lot of pep talks, with rotisserie turkey advice mixed in. Here are the questions I’m getting this year:
You have a lot of turkey recipes on your site. If you had to pick just one, what would it be?
My favorite is still Rotisserie Turkey, Dry Brined with Orange and Spices. Or, if you want to keep it simple, go with my basic Grilled Turkey, Dry Brined.
I wrote about this one a few years back. A kettle grill can handle as big a bird as you’ve got; the rotisserie ring gives it extra clearance. A Weber Summit can fit a 24 to 25 pound bird. I haven’t sized out a Weber Genesis, but I have cooked a 16 pound bird on it, with space to spare, so I’d guess it could go at least 20 pounds. For more details, see my Rotisserie Grilling the Big Turkey post.
How do you use the Infrared burner on your Weber Summit with a turkey?
OK, OK, I can give a better answer than that. I set my Summit up for indirect medium heat, with burners 5 and 6 set to medium, the legs pointing at those burners, and the IR burner set to medium. After that, it depends on the seasonings. If the turkey is seasoned with spices or sugar, it may burn, so I start checking the turkey after an hour or so of cooking. Once it starts to blacken around the edges, I turn off the IR burner and let the heat from the burners in the main part of the grill finish the cooking. If the turkey is seasoned without much sugar, I usually wind up with the IR burner set to medium for the entire cooking time. I check the bird every hour anyhow, just to be sure.
You have two different finishing temperatures for turkey breast; 150°F and 160°F. Why two temperatures?
Because I learned more about the science of cooking white meat turkey. White meat is best when it is cooked to 150°F, plus 4 minutes; that temperature and time is enough to kill salmonella, and the turkey will be juicy. For dark meat, the turkey is best cooked to 170°F, or maybe higher; I try to balance that out in a whole turkey by cooking the turkey to 160°F in the breast. That keeps the breast somewhat juicy, while cooking the thighs and drumsticks properly. For more information, see my Turkey Temperature, Or The 150 Question post.
Is it OK for me to start dry brining my turkey 3 days ahead of time?
Absolutely. Just cover it in plastic wrap until the night before cooking to keep it from drying out too much. In fact, Russ Parsons of the LA Times recommends it. (He was the first person I’m aware of to publish a dry brined turkey recipe, so I trust his judgement.) Now, if you didn't get to your dry brine yet, that's OK - I get good results with at least 24 hours of dry brining a turkey. I'd get started pretty soon, though...
Can I use the pan drippings from a rotisserie turkey?
Yes, I know, I’m leaning on that answer a lot. So, here’s the thing. If you’re cooking in a charcoal grill, you’re going to get ash in your drip pan. I don’t think ashes make for good gravy, so I don’t bother. If you’re cooking in a gas grill, then maybe the drippings will be useable; for me, about half the time, they burn too much; other times they look fine. Either way, I make giblet gravy ahead of time; if the drippings are useable, I add them to the gravy as I reheat it right before serving. If not, that’s OK, my gravy has plenty of turkey flavor anyhow.
Should I save my turkey carcass to make turkey stock?
Yes, you should!
All right, you got me. I planted this question. Save the bones from your turkey, use them to make stock the day after T-Day, and you’ll have the base of best soup of the year. My annual turkey soup recipe is running a little late; make turkey stock, freeze it, and I’ll explain what to do with it next week. (Or, go to the search box at the top right of my page and search for “Turkey Soup.” you’ll find a bunch of good ideas.)
What do you think?
Any other last-minute questions I didn’t answer? Leave them in the comments section below.
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