With the festive season well and truly upon us, you’re probably busily preparing for Christmas dinner – and to add extra flavour and an exciting twist to the day’s events, why not barbecue the turkey this year?
Instead of roasting the turkey in the oven, barbecuing the bird using the grill adds a smoky flavour to the meat and crisps up the skin. Not to mention the fact it gets the whole family outside and into the fresh air.
Although cooking on a barbecue is not as accurate as cooking in the oven, there are some steps you can take during the preparation and barbecuing phases to ensure the turkey cooks evenly and without drying out. The first thing to check is the size of the turkey – you don’t want it to be too big or you run the risk of overcooking the outside and undercooking the inside. Around the 12-pound mark is ideal.
Before you place the turkey on the BBQ, brine the bird so it will be super-moist when cooked. This is a great idea whichever method of cooking you’re using but especially when barbecuing as the grill can dry the meat out.
To brine the turkey, find a large pan or container and fill with water. Then dissolve salt and seasoning (such as spices, herbs, garlic and a little brown sugar) in the water before adding the turkey, making sure it’s completely covered. Leave for around 10 hours or 1 hour per pound of meat. When the turkey’s ready, remove from the brine and rinse thoroughly in cold water. Pat dry and fire up the barbecue!
For a charcoal barbecue, make sure the coals form a circle around the outside of the turkey when it’s placed on the grill or that there are coals on both sides of the bird, with a space in the middle, to ensure the meat cooks evenly. Place a roasting pan in the space between the coals to collect the drippings from the bird. Known as “indirect heat” this way of cooking means the meat isn’t simply cooked from below like on a normal barbecue, and allows the hot air to circulate to cook the turkey evenly.
If you’ve opted for a gas barbecue this winter, depending on the number of burners on the BBQ turn off the middle one, two or three burners and turn on the end two burners. Place a drip pan under the grill, beneath the burners that are off and the section where the turkey cooks.
For an added smoky flavour, add apple wood chips to the charcoal or wrap in some aluminium foil and pierce a couple of holes for gas barbecues.
When the barbecue is at the required temperature (around the 320f mark) simply place the lid down on the BBQ until the turkey’s ready. As a guide, the meat will take up to 15 minutes per pound. Keep checking on the turkey as it cooks, to ensure it doesn’t burn – on a gas barbecue, turn the turkey every half an hour and baste the meat, and on a charcoal grill baste the turkey every 30 minutes and top up the charcoal as needed.
As the turkey roasts, you can use the oven to cook all the trimmings, taking away the stress of trying to fit everything in the oven and adding a sense of fun to the occasion, knowing the turkey is barbecuing alfresco.
When the turkey is done, insert a fork into the meat to check its juices run clear – if they do, the meat is ready. Let the turkey rest for 10 minutes before carving and serving.
A Christmas barbecue is fun and a great way to get everyone involved, as you can allocate roles to people from making the BBQ sauces and preparing the salads to helping baste the turkey as it cooks. And of course, you can have mulled wine and winter spice tea on the go to keep everyone warm as they wait for their sumptuous Christmas dinner.