Try Something New This Thanksgiving: Grill a Turkey

Grilling a whole turkey is a unique way to prepare the main dish

There is a very exciting event taking place today and tomorrow
in downtown San Jose called

San Jose Cooks!

This event features live demonstrations and hands-on exhibits,
including local celebrity chef demonstrations and food sampling.
The exhibit and display area hosts a wide variety of everything
kitchen and food.
There is a very exciting event taking place today and tomorrow in downtown San Jose called “San Jose Cooks!” This event features live demonstrations and hands-on exhibits, including local celebrity chef demonstrations and food sampling. The exhibit and display area hosts a wide variety of everything kitchen and food.

I am specifically interested in the barbecues (not grills here), barbecue accessories, outdoor kitchens and gourmet foods. While at the show, I hope to find new innovations, ideas and some tasty items that I will feature in future columns.

San Jose Cooks will take place at Parkside Hall, 180 Park Ave. in San Jose. It runs today and tomorrow from 10am to 6pm. Admission is $12 at the door for adults, and a $2 discount coupon is available at all San Jose Smart & Final stores. Admission for children ages 4 to 14 are $5, and children younger than 4 are free. For more information about this event, call (408) 277-5277 or go to and click on San Jose.

Now for a shift in topics, let’s talk turkey. Thanksgiving is one of the two holidays that the United States does not share with another country, the other being the Fourth of July. The two holidays are special days when we celebrate where we have come from and what we have accomplished as a country.

One of my little annoyances is the idea of precooked Thanksgiving dinners. There are too many boxes of packaged gravy, premade stuffing and dried mashed potatoes to count. We now have turkeys that go directly from freezer to oven. One local supermarket is even featuring a turkey that only takes two hours to cook.

I think the idea of precooked dinners is getting out of hand. For those who are uncomfortable with cooking, it is actually a great idea. I have always thought of Thanksgiving as one of those holidays that everything must be made from scratch.

The turkeys that many grocery stores are giving away for free may not be large enough for some families. These birds are usually smaller, about 10 to 15 pounds – half the size of the turkeys my wonderful grandmother oven-roasts every year. If you use a larger turkey, take advantage of the free offer. There are two things that can be done with your free turkey:

• Many charities are seeking donations at this time of year. Find one in your Gilroy, Hollister or Morgan Hill community that will assist a needy family and make their holiday special.

• If you are used to the oven-roasted turkey every year, consider indirect grilling for the second bird. You may think this does not seem very traditional, but it actually is. According to The History Channel Web site, the method for cooking was fire-roasting on a spit, requiring constantly turning the handle.

We have come a long way since then. Many gas grills are equipped with electric rotisseries. With an added smoker box, you can achieve the same flavor as the early fire. Consult your smoker box directions for specific details.

Both gas and charcoal grills use the method of indirect grilling. Large pieces of meat may burn and become dry through direct grilling. With indirect grilling, burning and drying does not occur. One downside to indirect grilling a turkey is that you are limited to size. A bird that is 16 pounds to 17 pounds should be the upper limit for size, depending upon the side of your grill and cover. Anything larger and the cover will not fit tight, and the air circulation will not be at the optimum level.

My experience taught me that a turkey should not be stuffed when indirect grilling, as the stuffing becomes too smoky. Consider a few aromatics such as carrot, celery and onion in the body cavity instead. It will add extra flavor and make a nice presentation if you serve the turkey whole.

Be careful when using the pan drippings to make gravy, as the final product may be too smoky. Use a disposable roasting pan. The smoky residue that will develop on the pan is difficult to clean. Transferring the turkey from the grill to the house will be easier if the turkey and roasting pan are placed upon a larger cookie sheet, because disposable pans are often flimsy.

A note about last week’s column: An editing error misstated a guideline of using a grill pan. With use and further seasoning of cast iron, grill pans actually develop a dark patina and become nonstick over time.

The following is my family’s recipe for grilled turkey. I hope you and your family have a wonderful and safe Thanksgiving!

Mariani Family Grilled Whole Turkey

Serves 8-12, depending on turkey size

1 turkey

1/4 cup butter, room temperature

2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. pepper

1 tsp. poultry seasoning mix

1/2 white or yellow onion, cut in quarters

1 carrot and celery rib, cut in half

1 cup of water

Step 1: Wash and try the turkey thoroughly. Rub the room temperature butter over the skin of the turkey. Mix the salt, pepper and poultry seasoning and sprinkle on the outside and inside of the turkey. Place the onion, carrot and celery in the body cavity of the turkey.

Step 2 :Prepare the grill. Preheat the opposite sides of the gas grill. For charcoal, construct a tower of about 30 pieces of charcoal in the center of the charcoal grill grate, light the charcoal and allow them to ash. Move the heated charcoal to opposite ends of the charcoal grill grate. Make sure all vents are open to allow air circulation.

Step 3: Fill disposable roasting pan with the 1 cup of water, set roasting rack in the pan, and place turkey on top of the roasting rack.

Step 4: Transfer the roasting pan with turkey directly on top of the grill making sure the heat source is not directly under the roasting pan and close the lid. Check the turkey every 15 to 25 minutes, basting with the pan drippings. If using a charcoal grill, add about 8 pieces of charcoal to each pile of hot coals every hour while the turkey is grilling.

Step 5: Continue grilling the turkey until the temperature is 180 degrees in the thigh and 170 degrees in the breast. Allow 11-13 minutes of cooking time per pound, but this may be a little longer or shorter depending upon how much heat the grill is generating.

Step 6 After the turkey is off of the grill, tent it with foil and allow the turkey to sit for 15 minutes prior to caving. The foil will help retain some heat and the sitting time will allow the juices to absorb back into the meat.

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