The dark meat (175º F) of a turkey has to have a 15° F higher internal temperature than the breast meat (160º F). Clearly, this is a major challenge when baking a turkey where the breast meat is exposed to the highest temperature.
In the November – December 2012 Cook’s Illustrated, author Lan Lam (yes, that’s his real name) comes up with an innovative way to cook a turkey on a Weber grill – without the smoky taste!
A Note to Weber Purists: “Real men” don’t use gas-fired Webers! So, if your significant other bought you a gas-fired grill because of your declining culinary skills, you must improvise with the cooking process described below. Actually, a gas-fired Weber is likely to cook the turkey in about half the time.
Mr. Lam reports that you can cook your turkey on the grill without the smoky taste as long as you do not open the lid during the grilling process. According to Cook’s Illustrated science editor, “the smoky flavor that we associate with grilling comes mostly from soot particles that are stirred up and land on the food when the lid is lifted.”
Mr. Lam proposes to place the turkey in the center of the Weber surrounded by two banks of coals on either side. He places unlit coals on the bottom of each pile and burning coals on top. The idea is to keep the internal temperature at 325º F by regulating the airflow and keep the lid closed until done – about 2 ½ to 3 hours.
The beauty of this solution is that that drumsticks will receive more heat than the breast meat and the bird should cook evenly. Furthermore, you have cleared the oven to bake other Thanksgiving goodies.
Use a disposable aluminum pan filled with a cup or two of water under the turkey while baking. Surprisingly, the drippings were quite wonderful and we made a fabulous gravy.
We enjoyed a wonderful turkey, but I would probably have opted for a time closer to 2 ½ hours since Weber thermometers are not particularly good.