Y’all. We are 10 days away from Thanksgiving and I have the perfect grilled herb turkey recipe for you! Also, my house is already mostly decorated for Christmas. 😳 Normally I put a strict embargo on all things Christmas before Thanksgiving. But then 2020 happened. And after seeing everyone’s so pretty Christmas decorations on instagram, I caved.
I caved big time.
But I’ve made my peace with it. Lane, who loves all things Christmas and would leave our tree up all year like some kind of fluffy green lamp, is thrilled. And of course Richard loves it. Lu (for Lydi Lu 🎀) just goes with the flow. I did stipulate that we had to wait until after Thanksgiving to put up our tree. 🎄🎄🎄
Soooo…do you have your decorations up? Has it made 2020 a little more bearable? And, are you ready for this grilled herb turkey?! You’re going to love how unbelievably crispy the skin gets while the meat maintains all its flavor and moisture. And thanks to the way we prep it, the meat and the skin have tons of flavor.
I know lots of people roast turkey. My dad always used to smoke ours. I remember many Thanksgivings where he would start smoking the turkey the night before, waking up every few hours, heading outside into the cold to replenish the wood in the smoker. When I would get up in the morning to watch the parade I could smell the turkey inside our home – it was so amazing.
My dad has been gone for 10 years now, and we don’t have a smoker. And we only have the one oven – so I wanted to come up with a turkey recipe that didn’t take up oven space, because if there is one thing that is at a premium around the holidays its oven space! Thus, the grilled herb turkey came into our lives.
Alright – I know that grilling a turkey is probably not something that most of us have done before, so I have lots of recipes tips.
- First, you must brine your turkey. Don’t skip this step – brining is what helps make the skin super crispy by drawing out the water in the skin. I prefer a dry brine over the fill-a-giant-pot-with-salt-water type of brining. It’s easier and way less messy.
- Next, leave your turkey to brine in the fridge, uncovered, overnight. Sounds a bit sketchy, I know, but as long as you make sure the turkey isn’t touching anything it will be sanitary.
- Before cooking the turkey you need to rub some herb butter under the skin – directly on the meat – and over the skin to help it crisp. The butter on the meat helps keep the meat from drying out and gives it lots of flavor too. To do this, take a very sharp knife and starting at the top of the turkey – breast side up – cut a slit in the skin and then use your fingers to gently separate the skin from the muscle. For the turkey’s legs, cut a slit in the skin right at the top of each turkey leg and then gently separate the skin from the meat.
- Slather the meat with LOTS of butter. I usually spread some under the skin and then use my hands to smoosh it around.
- Make sure the grill has all its burners on high prior to putting the turkey on – you want it to get hit with a high blast of heat at first and then grill it around 350 to 375 for the rest of the time.
- Let your turkey rest for at least 30 minutes after grilling – you want to give it plenty of time to reabsorb some of its juices.
- This is key: read the entire recipe at least once and make sure you have everything ready – once you start working with a raw turkey you need to have everything you are using easily accessible to prevent kitchen contamination.
Grilled Herb Turkey
- 1 12 to 14 lb turkey
- 1 T KOSHER salt
- 2 t baking powder
- 1 c butter softened
- 1 T dried thyme
- 2 T dried rosemary
- 1 t dried basil
- 2 t dried oregano
- 1 t garlic powder
- 1/2 T salt
- 2 onions
- 10 garlic cloves
- 1 lemon
- 1 parsnip
- 1/4 c chicken broth optional
To Brine the Turkey
- Make sure your turkey is totally thawed (I usually leave mine in the fridge for 2 to 3 days in advance). Take 2 disposable, foil roasting pans and stack them inside each other. Set aside.
- In a small bowl combine the 1 T of kosher salt and 2 t of baking powder. Set aside. Get a lot of paper towels ready.
- I clear out and scrub my sink with hot soapy water, place the bagged turkey in it, and open it there – this way I don't have to worry about drips and juices running everywhere. Remove the giblets/organs and neck – save if you are going to make giblet gravy.
- Pat the turkey totally dry with paper towels. Lift the turkey into the foil pans and place breast side up.
- Using your hands, spread/pat the dry brine over the whole turkey – packing it on as thick and as best you can.
- Wash your hands really well under warm/hot water with soap and then carry the turkey to the fridge. Place it, uncovered, in your fridge making sure the raw turkey is not touching anything. Leave it to brine in the fridge overnight.
To Grill the Turkey
- Plan out your time – a 12 to 14 pound turkey will need 3 to 3 ½ hours to cook, plus a 45 minute resting time. Determine when you want to eat dinner and work backwards. Take your turkey out to sit at room temperature.
- Turn all the grill burners on high and allow the grill temperature to come to at least 425.
- Meanwhile, take 1 cup of butter (2 sticks) out of the fridge and allow them to soften (or, put them in a microwave for about 30 seconds). In a medium bowl mix together the butter, thyme, rosemary, basil, oregano, garlic powder, and ½ T of salt. Set aside.Get out a sharp knife and set aside.
- Quarter the onions and remove papery skin, peel the garlic cloves, and wash and quarter the lemon and parsnip.
- Pat any excess liquid off the turkey again. Stuff the turkey with the onions, garlic cloves, lemon, and parsnip.
- Cut an incision in the skin at the top of each side of the breast and right above each leg. Using your hands or a flat wooden spoon, gently separate the skin from the meat.
- Take large spoonfuls of the butter mixture and spread it under the skin on top of the meat over the entire turkey, saving some butter to spread on top of the skin. Once all the meat has some butter mixture spread on it, carefully fold the skin flaps back over the meat. Then spread the remaining butter mixture over the skin.
- Wash your hands thoroughly in warm/hot water with soap.
- Once the grill has reached at least 425, turn all burners off except one. Set the remaining burner to medium or medium high – whatever is needed to keep the grill at a steady 325°. Place the turkey (in the foil pans) over the off-burners and close the lid. Grill for 3 to 3 ½ hours, checking periodically to ensure that the grill temperature remains at 325°.
- You can pour ¼ c of chicken broth in to the bottom of the pan and baste the turkey periodically, but this is not necessary. Either way, try to keep the lid of the grill closed as much as possible.
- Once the turkey has been cooking for 3 hours, insert a meat thermometer (without touching the bone) and check to see if the temperature registers 170°. I always check the breast and a leg. If the meat is 170° remove it from the grill, if not, continue cooking 30 minutes more, or until the meat reaches 170°.
- Once the turkey has been removed from the grill, place it in a dry, warm place free of drafts and cover loosely with foil. Allow it to sit for at least 30 minutes, preferrably 45. Once the turkey has rested, carve it up and enjoy!
Nothing will top the turkeys my dad made, but this one comes pretty close!
Share in the comments: Do you usually grill, smoke, roast, or fry your turkey? Do you have more than one at your Thanksgiving dinner? What is your favorite Thanksgiving memory from childhood?
If you make this grilled herb turkey…
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