By Mike Thayer
So what are you doing for Thanksgiving?
If you're not into cooking, the smart play is to go to a friend or relative's house. Be sure to take a bottle of wine, you can't go in empty handed. It you don't live near the 'nest' and you like to entertain, then the fun play is to have some other single friends over for the holiday.
Offer to make the turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy and have your friends bring the sides, the green bean casserole, stuffing, rolls, the cranberry sauce, some pies for dessert. This is a really fun way to celebrate Thanksgiving and you get to learn some new things about your friends, like who can cook and who can't!
And don't settle for a turkey in the oven, screw that! Out of all the ways to prepare a turkey, that is the LEAST flavorful way to do it!
Grill your turkey!
You read that right, grill it.
Here's a recipe for a grilled chicken, but the same preparation can be done with a turkey as well and for Thanksgiving, you might want to skip the BBQ sauce, but absolutely use the rub! The rub, combined with the smoke from the coals means FLAVOR! You won't go back to a turkey prepared in the oven after this. Mopping option: Instead of mopping the turkey with BBQ sauce, spray it with apple juice. This recipe can be found on my grilling blog: GrillingGoodEats.com
This is a great recipe if you don’t have a smoker or a pit, because doing a whole chicken on a grill can be a tough thing to do. Many folks who have tried to do a whole chicken on the grill have found their chicken to be crispy good looking on the outside, but ‘medium rare’ on the inside. OOPS!….. That’s no good. It’s GOT to be cooked all the way through. Butterfly Chicken alleviates those, “Is it done inside?” worries because you‘ll be able to lay that whole chicken down flat on the grill, you get even cooking.
- Whole chicken, about 3-½ to 4 pounds
- ½ cup Olive Oil
- ½ cup of Cookies Flavor Enhancer or other dry rub
- ½ cup of your favorite BBQ sauce for glazing
Contrary to popular belief, you do not need to rinse your chicken off, it comes pre-washed from the producer, just make sure there are no pin feathers sticking out. Remove the neck and giblets, set aside to make chicken stock or discard. Butterfly the chicken by cutting the backbone out. Use a big knife, perhaps some kitchen shears, cut down along either side of the backbone, remove. TIP: Save that backbone, neck and giblets to make the chicken stock. Flip your chicken over, placing it breast side up in a big baking pan and press down firmly on the breast bone to break it. You should be good to go, you have now butterflied a chicken! Rub it down inside and out, over and under with Cookies Flavor Enhancer or other dry rub. You’ll want to do this at least one hour (four hours is better) before grill time. Cover and refrigerate your chicken. If space is a concern, it’s OK to fold the chicken up. About 30 minutes before grilling, take your chicken out of the refrigerator. Coat it with the olive oil. When your coals are ready, place the chicken on the grill, skin side up - indirect heat is key here, so the grill set-up is the Snake Method referenced in Chapter 3. Place your grill cover on and walk away for 45 minutes. When that time is up, it’s time to baste/mop the chicken with that BBQ sauce and then flip your chicken over to the breast side. Gauge your heat, now is the time to perhaps add a few coals if needed. Baste/mop the ‘inside’ of the chicken and put the grill lid back on. Cook about another 15 to 20 minutes, or until the breast temperature of the chicken is at least 165 degrees. If you don’t have a meat thermometer, check the chicken legs, if you can start to easily pull them away from the chicken, like, falling apart, it’s done. Pull that beautiful butterflied chicken off the grill and let it rest for 10 minutes. This makes for a great center piece served family style on the picnic table.
TIP: After you’re done grilling dinner is an excellent time for making chicken stock, beef stock, lamb, fish or even a veggie stock for later use or to store in your freezer. Take advantage of that leftover charcoal heat. Don’t be afraid to adjust your remaining coals if necessary then just put a stock pot over the heat and dump in those chicken bones, skin or that trimmed off beef fat from prepping steaks. Shrimp shells and tails make a nice fish stock. Cover with water, add your favorite aromatics and/or seasonings and let that residual heat go to work for you.
And for bachelors who really like to grill, here's a poultry brine recipe to try:
Mike’s Poultry Brine
If you’re looking for something a little different in how to do grilled chicken or turkey, this might just be the ticket for you. Talk about moist and tender poultry! It’s an easy brine and adds a lot of flavor to any cut, chicken breasts or thighs, turkey breasts, turkey drumsticks, in fact, this brine is excellent with pork cuts as well.
- One gallon of warm water
- ¾ cup of Kosher salt
- One heaping tablespoon of Cookies Flavor Enhancer
- 2/3 cup sugar
- ¼ cup olive oil
Put the salt, sugar and olive oil into a big pan, add the warm water. Stir until the salt and sugar have dissolved, which the warm water helps to do. After the water comes back down to room temperature (VERY important, we’re brining the poultry, not cooking it), give the brine another quick stir and add your chicken or turkey, letting them brine for at least four hours in the fridge. Overnight is even better. This amount of brine is good for a whole chicken, or up to about 8 pounds of breasts, thighs or drumsticks. This brine is so good, you don’t have to add a dry rub to the meat if you don’t want to. Grill naked…… keep your mind out of the gutter, that means no seasoning. I’ve grilled poultry ‘naked’ plenty of times, just brushing the chicken or turkey with garlic infused olive oil after each quarter turn (about every 2-3 minutes), hitting it again with the olive oil when moving it to the cooler spot on the grill (indirect heat) to finish cooking and then hitting it again with the olive oil just before plating.
TIP: Don’t pour brine down the sink after you pull the poultry out of it. Use a cup of it or so to cook up some rice. Prepare the rice per the package instructions, replacing 25% of the water needed, with the brine. Talk about flavor city!