For a moist, tender, and ever so flavorful turkey, I dry-brine and then grill my holiday bird. I started doing this several years ago, when Russ Parsons, food editor for the Los Angeles Times, wrote about the excellent results he got using these two techniques. Not only is the turkey fabulous, once it’s on the grill, it needs next to no attention, so you are free to focus on the rest of the meal. And, the oven is available for everything else you’ll want to cook in it.
I use a Diestel American Heirloom Turkey. These are organically raised Bronze turkeys, meaning they are a flavorful breed, free of antibiotics, growth stimulants, and hormones; as a result they deliver a pure, old-fashioned taste. I add hands full of fresh herbs to the salt rub, infusing the turkey with rosemary, thyme, and tarragon. With a dry rub, you get a better texture than with liquid brining, and there is no messy submerging a large bird in liquid and then trying to figure out how to keep it cold for several days.
To go with the turkey, I’ll be serving my Make-Ahead Gluten-Free Mushroom Gravy. Stirring up the gravy at the last minute can be the most challenging part of pulling off the Thanksgiving feast, but not with this irresistible, Marsala enhanced sauce.
In a few days, I’ll post my entire Thanksgiving menu, with links to all the recipes. But I wanted to get you started on your planning today. I’ve ordered my turkey, from a Gelson’s Market, and will pick it up on the Saturday before the holiday. The next day, I’ll simply rub it with salt and herbs, and let it soak up the seasonings until Thanksgiving morning. If beginning this Sunday doesn’t fit into your life, then season the turkey just a day or two before the feast. Even an overnight steep in the salt and herbs will yield a fine bird.
Grilled Herb-Rubbed (Gluten-Free) Turkey
- 12-14 lb turkey
- 2½ tablespoons coarse kosher salt, plus more as needed
- 1½ tablespoons minced fresh rosemary, plus 1 tablespoon for sprinkling
- 1½ tablespoons minced fresh thyme, plus 1 tablespoon for sprinkling
- 1½ tablespoons minced fresh tarragon, plus 1 tablespoon for sprinkling
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1½ cups apple wood chips
- Olive oil
- 4 days before cooking the turkey: Remove the turkey from the bag, remove the giblets and any loose fat from the cavities. Pat the turkey dry with paper towels. In a small bowl combine 2½ tablespoons salt, 1½ tablespoons minced fresh rosemary, 1½ tablespoons minced fresh thyme, and 1½ tablespoons minced fresh tarragon. Sprinkle the inside of the turkey lightly with salt and pepper. Rub the salt and herb mixture over the outside of the turkey, being generous over the breast and thighs. Place the turkey in a large plastic bag. Refrigerate for 3 days, massaging the salt mixture into the turkey once a day.
- 1 day before cooking the turkey: Pat the turkey dry and place on a pan just large enough to hold it (I use a pizza pan). Refrigerate it uncovered overnight.
- 1 hour before cooking the turkey: Remove the turkey from the refrigerator and let it stand at room temperature.
- 45 minutes before cooking the turkey: Place the apple wood chips in a small bowl and cover with water.
- 15 minutes before cooking the turkey: Drain the wood chips and place in a smoke box or wrap in foil, leaving the ends of the foil open. Place the smoke box or foil package on top of the right or left burner, under the grill rack. Place a 9”-10” cake pan on top of the middle burner, in the center, under the grill rack. Light the 2 side burners, leaving the middle burner unlit. Cover the barbecue and preheat to 300°F to 325°F.
- Meanwhile, brush the turkey all over with olive oil. Sprinkle with pepper and 1 tablespoon each minced rosemary, thyme, and tarragon. Tuck the wings under the turkey. Using kitchen twine, tie the legs together loosely.
- When the temperature of the barbecue reaches 300°F to 325°F, place the turkey directly on the grill rack, over the cake pan. Close the barbecue and cook until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of a thigh registers 165°F, 2½ to 2¾ hours. Transfer the turkey to a platter. Tent lightly with foil and let rest 30 minutes before serving.