For Thanks­giv­ing, grilling the tur­key is ideal

The Washington Times Daily - - Auto - BY EL­IZ­A­BETH KARMEL AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

It all started with the But­ter­ball Tur­key Talk-Line. My love of grilled tur­key, that is. Early in my ca­reer, I man­aged and pro­moted the an­nual Thanks­giv­ing help line. And ev­ery fall, all of the op­er­a­tors would gather to­gether for a train­ing ses­sion that would pre­pare th­ese “cook­ing coun­selors” for the na­tion’s up­com­ing tur­key trauma. Ev­ery­one was as­signed a dif­fer­ent tur­key cook­ing method and brand of tur­key so we could all be fa­mil­iar with the dif­fer­ent sce­nar­ios home cooks might face.

As I watched all the vet­eran op­er­a­tors lobby to get the grilled and smoked tur­key as­sign­ments, I won­dered why. But af­ter my first ses­sion, I knew. The fla­vor, tex­ture and aroma of the grilled and smoked tur­keys were far and away tastier than any other method, even the clas­sic open-pan roast­ing method.

The nat­u­ral con­vec­tion-style heat of the out­door grill is per­fect for cook­ing a Thanks­giv­ing tur­key. But you must use a grill that has a lid and is con­fig­ured for in­di­rect heat. This is not a job for an open braiser. The lid down/in­di­rect heat­method en­sures that the skin is golden brown and crisp at the same time that the bird is done.

And there’s another ben­e­fit, too. All that hot air ro­tat­ing around the big bird means the out­door grill method takes less time than tra­di­tional oven roast­ing. Plus, mov­ing the tur­key onto the grill frees up oven space for all those won­der­ful sides you’re crav­ing.

In re­cent years, I’ve upped my game by adding a brine to the recipe to pro­duce the juici­est, tasti­est, most golden brown and pic­ture-per­fect tur­key you can im­age. The brine sea­sons the tur­key to the bone and en­sures it will be juicy. If you are brin­ing the bird, it is im­por­tant to buy a nat­u­ral tur­key that has not been pre-basted (pumped full of salt wa­ter).

It’s been many years since my But­ter­ball days, yet ev­ery Thanks­giv­ing, I am still “on call” for a se­lect few. While I am cook­ing my own meal or get­ting ready to en­joy the fruits of some­one else’s la­bor, I am on speed dial wher­ever I am. And an­swer­ing their calls — hav­ing a tur­key trauma mo­ment, a laugh and ul­ti­mately as­sur­ing them that the tur­key is go­ing to be great (al­ways grilled) — has be­come as much a part of my Thanks­giv­ing tra­di­tion as the tur­key it­self.

Brin­ing helps en­sure that the tur­key stays juicy while roast­ing. This orange brine com­ple­ments the maple-South­ern Com­fort glaze and scents the tur­key with Thanks­giv­ing’s fa­vorite sea­son­ings. Though some peo­ple use cool­ers or buck­ets to brine their tur­keys, the eas­i­est way is with a large brin­ing or zip-close plas­tic bag. Most gro­cers sell them this time of year. Start to fin­ish: 1 hour, plus brin­ing time Makes enough for a 12- to 14-pound tur­key 6 cups wa­ter 1 cup packed dark brown su­gar 2 cups Kosher salt 3 cups ice 2 large navel or­anges, quar­tered 3 ta­ble­spoons whole cloves 3 bay leaves 2 tea­spoons black pep­per­corns In a large saucepan over high heat, com­bine the wa­ter, su­gar and salt. Bring to a boil, stir­ring to dis­solve the su­gar and salt. Re­move the pan from the heat and add the ice. Stir un­til melted.

In a tur­key brin­ing bag or other food­safe con­tainer large enough to hold the tur­key and liq­uid, com­bine an ad­di­tional 2 quarts of cool wa­ter, the or­anges, cloves, bay leaves and pep­per­corns. Add the warm su­gar-salt so­lu­tion and stir. Let come to room tem­per­a­ture be­fore us­ing.

To use the brine, sub­merge the tur­key in the cool brine. If nec­es­sary, add more wa­ter to cover tur­key, and top with a weight to make sure it is com­pletely cov­ered with the liq­uid. Re­frig­er­ate for 8 to 12 hours.

The sweet maple syrup, sharply sweet notes of orange — and of course the South­ern Com­fort — com­bine not only to cre­ate a lus­cious glaze for the tur­key, but also lend an amaz­ing fla­vor to the pan juices, which make a won­der­ful gravy. Just re­mem­ber to glaze only dur­ing the fi­nal 30 min­utes of cook­ing to pre­vent burn­ing. Start to fin­ish: 2 to 3 hours (mostly in­ac­tive), de­pend­ing on size of the tur­key Serv­ings: 14 1⁄2 cup maple syrup Juice of 1 small orange 2 ta­ble­spoons South­ern Com­fort 12- to 14-pound tur­key, thawed and brined (neck and gi­blets re­moved) 1 to 2 ta­ble­spoons olive oil Ground black pep­per Pre­pare your grill for in­di­rect, medium heat cook­ing. On a char­coal grill, this en­tails bank­ing the coals to one side. On a gas grill, it means turn­ing off one or more burn­ers to cre­ate a cooler side.

In a small bowl or 2-cup mea­sur­ing cup, whisk to­gether the maple syrup, orange juice and South­ern Com­fort. Set aside.

To pre­pare the tur­key for grilling, re­move it from the brine. Set it on a large cut­ting board. Use kitchen twine to tie to­gether the ends of the legs, then tuck the tips of the wings un­der them. Brush the olive oil over the en­tire tur­key, then sea­son it with black pep­per.

Place the tur­key on a dis­pos­able foil pan be­fore set­ting on the grill grates. Cover the grill and cook for 11 to 13 min­utes per pound, or un­til an in­stant-read ther­mome­ter in­serted at the thick­est part of the thigh (not touch­ing the bone) reg­is­ters 175 F and the juices run clear. Brush glaze on the tur­key dur­ing the fi­nal 30 min­utes of the cook­ing time.

Trans­fer tur­key to a plat­ter and let stand for at least 20 min­utes be­fore carv­ing.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Grilling tur­key out­doors — this one soaked in an orange brine and glazed with maple syrup and South­ern Com­fort — cre­ates a tastier bird and takes less time than roast­ing.

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