Carrie and I have been testing various BBQ Turkey recipes for the better part of two weeks. At last count, we experimented with eight different iterations of classic BBQ turkey in an effort to determine which might work best with the most common side dishes that find their way onto the Holiday table.
Through this quest, we’ve discovered one solid truth. We shouldn’t make the bird taste like our competition chicken. Our initial thought, and first trial, was to impart the intense flavor that only competition grade rubs and brine could accomplish. We certainly got amazing turkey…that paired with absolutely nothing on the table. In fact, the super charged contest quality turkey almost made the usually flavorful gravy, mashed potatoes, veggies and stuffing taste at best…bland.
The tests afterward soon had us searching for the most important aspect of any good turkey – moist and juicy white meat. Soon enough we had a winner. A BBQ Turkey that would go with nearly any side dish one could imagine. We took what we learned and taught a class on it at our Green Leaf BBQ Shop last Saturday. This recipe is dead basic, but it absolutely works and will deliver time after time. Give it a try!
1 Gallon of Water
12-14 lb. Turkey (Select a Natural bird with no existing brine or enhancements)
8 oz. Santa Maria Style BBQ Rub (Garlic, Salt, Pepper base) our favorites became Blue Star Seasonings and The Rub Co.
8 oz. Light Brown Sugar
Mix these together until the solids dissolve. Submerge the cleaned and prepared Turkey in a 5 gallon bucket or a stainless stock pot. Add water to the container to cover the turkey completely. Orient the Turkey with its breast side down. Refrigerate for 12 hours. Agitate the brine at least once during this process. After 12 hours – remove and dry the Turkey. Set the bird on a large cookie sheet or similar for seasoning.
Cavity: Use your brine base again – Blue Star or The Rub Co. “Santa Maria Style”. Take special care to season the underside of the breast and thigh areas inside the cavity.
Skin: We coated the now dry turkey skin with a light olive oil. This helped the seasoning stick. We used a Honey Based BBQ Rub like Butcher’s or a Pecan Rub like John Henry’s. This not only gave a very nice traditional flavor, but wonderful color.
Time: 13-15 minutes a pound – unstuffed.
Done Temp: Breast 160F – 165F. Any higher and you risk dryness.
Fuel: Oak lump charcoal & Wine Infused Oak smoke wood.
Special Tools: Roasting Throne
Cooker: Big Green Egg
Notes: The turkeys that we cooked on a vertical throne were cooked both more evenly and somewhat quicker than a traditional roasting rack or “back down” arrangement. Please add a few minutes of cooking time if you aren’t using a throne. Temps higher than 350F will sometimes render the skin too completely and splits will form in the skin late in the cook.
Best of Luck this Thanksgiving!
-Tim Bryan, Green Leaf BBQ