The Perfect Thanksgiving Turkey Barbecue Recipe

In our house it’s always down to me to prepare the Thanksgiving turkey and for the best results I now use the barbecue smoker. I’ve read loads of recipe books for menu ideas and every book states something different about how long to cook the turkey for and my greatest complaint is that most of the voices of authority for traditional cooking out there generally overdo the poultry (maybe for safety reasons) and the breast is dry.

So if you’ve searched like me for a guaranteed recipe why not go for the barbecue smoker cookout? But for those outdoor cookout aficionados who prefer the grill then you’ll be better going for turkey smoker grill recipes and choose some sliced breast.

Indirect cooking is to all intents and purposes a slow roasting process and that guarantees a tender result, couple that with cooking over a water bath and you’re progressing fast towards a moist Thanksgiving turkey to boot. I suppose it’s pretty logical when you think about it because the definition of indirect cooking is where the heat is passed over the turkey as opposed to the barbecue grill where the turkey is seared directly over the charcoal grill.

I generally like to keep the seasoning to the basics, be generous with the salt and pepper and have some oil & butter mix on hand to start the basting process. Melt 100g / 4 oz of butter in a bowl and add a tablespoon of sunflower oil – this baste will give all the flavour of the butter without burning it. If you want to go the whole hog, part the skin from the flesh by gently sliding your hand up from the neck and smear some butter under the skin but if you fancy trying this, do be gentle so that you don’t break the skin. Go for a reasonably small bird around 9 – 12 lbs (5 or 6kg), season and baste and then place breast side up on the BBQ smoker.

You may be able to get away with a large kettle barbecue but you’ll have to be conscientious about keeping the charcoal away from the turkey and you may need to place some foil to protect the sides of the turkey. The best solution is an offset smoker or a kamado barbecue such as a Big Green Egg that has a plate setter accessory to guarantee indirect cooking, and after that is just a matter of medium coals, indirect heat and a drip tray in the bottom with a splash of water. Cover and baste every 30 minutes or so with the butter / oil mix and 3½ hours later you will have the perfect Thanksgiving barbecue turkey.

Having said that most cookbooks overdo turkey, the best test for me is not how long it’s been cooked but a skewer test for clear running juice in the breast and legs or a thermometer and look for an internal temperature of 165 °F. If it’s not quite ready just give it another 30 minutes, sit back, relax and have another glass of wine!

Wood chips! I hear some of you cry……….try apple or orange. Certainly the fruit woods work a treat.

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