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Turkey on the Grill

When we head to the grill, we use an amalgam of methods from several sources, including the American Turkey Federation, Reynolds, Butterball, Frank Perdue and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Meat and Poultry Hotline.

Here's what we do:

1. To begin, we followed the soggy directions that came with our frozen 9-pound turkey: Remove turkey from the bag, then remove plastic bag that contains neck from body cavity and the plastic bag that contains giblets from the neck.

2. Rinse turkey and drain well. "Frank Perdue's Guide to Turkey" advises removing the plastic temperature gauge, if any.

3. We followed the instructions for indirect-heat grilling from the National Turkey Federation. This method requires a grill with a cover. (For gas grills, follow manufacturers' instructions, setting temperature at low and preheating.) Prepare grill by removing top grill rack; open all vents. Mound 50 to 60 briquettes in center of lower grill rack or bottom of grill and ignite briquettes. When coals are ash-gray (about 20 to 40 minutes), divide coals into two equal parts and position to outside edges of lower grill rack or bottom of grill.

4. Make a foil drip pan: Stack two sheets of heavy-duty aluminum foil 6 inches longer and wider than food to be cooked. Fold in all edges 1 1/2 inches. Fold edges upright, forming 1 1/2-inch sides. Press corners against sides. Place drip pan in center of grill; coals will be on both sides of the drip pan (but not the ends). Pour about 1/2 to 1 inch of water into drip pan. Although not everybody includes this step, we found it added moisture and cut down on splatters.

5. Grease grill rack with vegetable oil and reposition it over hot coals. Good advice from Butterball: Place cooking rack in grill with handles over coals. This makes it easier to add briquettes during cooking.

6. If desired, cover ends of turkey legs and tips of wings to the first joint with aluminum foil to prevent overbrowning. This works nicely.

7. Put turkey -- breast side up -- on rack directly over drip pan and place lid on grill. Although some suggest turning over the turkey midway, we have found this step unnecessary.

8. This is the tricky part: to maintain heat, you must add briquettes to both sides of the coals. "As needed" sounded too vague, so we set a timer and every 15 minutes or so added six briquettes to each side. The question: How do you get the briquettes into proper position once the fire is going and the turkey is roasting? Our high-tech method was to find a stick in the yard and use it to launch the briquettes, which we had dropped through the holes near the handles. One bad shot propelled one briquette into the drip pan, but little harm was done until we tried to add the fat-soaked charcoal to the others. It burst into flame. Not a good idea.

At the same time we added coals, we basted our turkey with a mixture of peanut oil, salt and fresh rosemary, which had been crushed.

Because our fire kept up a good heat, the turkey was cooked earlier than predicted. The 9-plus-pound bird took 2 hours 13 minutes.

Note: Although some sources say to allow from 30 to 40 minutes roasting time per pound, that seems excessive. We followed the Turkey Federation's 11- to 15-minutes-a-pound guideline and found it accurate. It's best to begin checking the turkey for doneness after two hours.

The turkey was crispy and redolent of rosemary -- and moist inside. Thanksgiving is not the day to discard the skin -- it's delicious.

Tip: The pinkish color under the skin is a result of grilling, not an indication that the meat is still raw.

Grilling a whole turkey (allow 1 1/2 pounds for a generous serving)

Cooking time:
8 to 12 pounds -- 2 to 3 hours
12 to 16 pounds -- 3 to 4 hours
More than 16 pounds -- not recommended

Grilling a turkey breast/bone-in (allow 3/4 pound per person)

4 to 7 pounds -- 1 to 1 3/4 hours

Note: Boneless turkey breast is not recommended

The Reynolds Wrap Kitchens

Sunday, November 19, 2000

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