The idea of Thanksgiving often comes with a certain vision – one of frantically pacing back and forth in the kitchen, from the counter to the stove, trying to find a way to get everything done as economically as possible. If this isn’t your idea of a great holiday, it may be time to try switching things up.
Though the oven is an old Thanksgiving turkey standby, there are actually several alternative ways to cook a turkey outdoors. These methods are advantageous in that they free up precious oven space for side dishes, and afford you the opportunity to leave the overcrowded kitchen. Read on to find out which method of cooking a turkey outdoors is best for you.
For this turkey cooking method, you’ll need an outdoor smoker, charcoal, and, optionally, wood chips for added flavor. Start by building a fire in the smoker’s coal pan, just as you would with any other meat. The operation itself is nearly identical to lighting a charcoal grill. When the coals are nice and hot, fill the smoker’s water pan up and put it in place. Finally, set the pre-seasoned turkey on top of the smoking grate and close the lid. Turkey tastes best when slow cooked, so keep the heat regulated at about 300 degrees. Since it takes roughly 20-30 minutes per pound to cook, you can expect to add fresh coals and fresh water several times throughout the cooking process.
When you think the turkey’s about done, use a meat thermometer to verify that the middle of the bird is at least 180 degrees. The finished product will have a semi-crisp skin and a deliciously moist center.
Turkey frying is a delicate, sometimes dangerous art. Every year several homes are burned down in botched attempts at deep frying. If you’re new to this outdoor cooking method, it might be best to bring in someone with a little experience to show you the ropes. Start by placing the fryer in a grassy area well away from the house. Backyards are generally the spot of choice. To find out how much oil you need, use water as a test gauge. Fill the fryer’s pot with enough water so that the turkey is submerged by an inch or two – but not enough to overflow. While the turkey itself is still raw, you can use an injector to marinade it from the inside out.
When it’s time to cook the bird, replace the water with oil, and heat it to 325 degrees. After lowering the turkey slowly in the oil, pay close attention and stay nearby, because a deep fried turkey only takes about three minutes per pound to cook. When it’s done, bring it inside and be sure to let the oil cool before going in to chow down yourself.
Grilling a whole turkey, as you could probably guess, necessitates a lot of time and a heavy duty grill. The general grilling method is very similar to using a smoker– in fact, the taste of the finished product will very closely resemble smoking, especially if you’re using charcoal. All you need to do is pre-heat the grill to about 300 degrees, plop the pre-seasoned and marinated turkey on the grate, and wait. Then, wait some more. Depending on the temperature outside and how often you open the lid, cooking time will take around 10-15 minutes per pound. It’s generally a good idea to keep an extra tank of propane or bag of charcoal nearby to avoid fuel shortages, as this is definitely a marathon grilling session. As always, use a meat thermometer to ensure that the bird’s deepest sections are fully cooked.
By relocating your turkey cooking efforts, you can maximize the efficiency of Thanksgiving Day preparations and save yourself from laboring too much over a hot oven. Cooking your turkey outdoors might just be the spark your Thanksgiving dinner needs to go from good to downright mouthwatering.