Saturday, November 24, 2012

Simple Grilled Turkey & Stuffing Muffins (Yes, Virginia, you can still have your gravy, too.)

How's are your turkey leftovers doing?  Did you over-indulge? I hope that everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday.  Ours was low-key, with just my two brothers and niece.  My son works in the restaurant business, so he was MIA at our table.  Sigh. 

I believe I've roasted at least 25 Thanksgiving Turkeys in my lifetime.  I've made Butterballs, and graduated to buying free-range turkeys.  I've brined them and I've not brined them.  However, I've firmly resisted the idea of deep-frying a turkey-- not that I haven't heard rave reviews. I just don't want to be a State Farm Insurance television commercial statistic, as one of those unfortunate folks who caught their house on fire. (Plus, it doesn't sound cheap to buy the fryer and all that peanut oil!)  Overall,  I've been pretty lucky, in that I've never made a choke-dry kind of turkey. Amen.

My biggest challenge (other than wishing my bachelor brothers would invite their non-existent girlfriends to help me with the food prep), is that I only have one oven.  It's always been a challenge to get the stuffing and yams baked, and then the rolls.  So, when the Digital October/November 2012 issue of Cook's Illustrated was downloaded into my iPad, I was intrigued at the thought of grilling our turkey.

So I begged asked  my husband to watch the video with me and he agreed to set up the Weber. I assured him that this would not be as time-consuming as his famous grilled brisket or pulled pork. According to the recipe, I had to season the bird with salt & pepper, and then rub in a mixture of salt, pepper and baking powder (apparently this is key in making the skin turn out golden and crispy. Yum.


I didn't photograph the process of preparing the bird, because I didn't want to contaminate my camera with poultry bacteria.  Plus, I didn't really think that Blogosphere needs another turkey recipe (my excuse translating that I wasn't sure I'd need to blog this recipe).  Well, I was wrong-- and I will tell you that this was one delicious bird!  You should can prepare the turkey 24- 48 hours ahead. Somehow, I missed that and it was four hours until the turkey needed to go on the grill, that I discovered this. D'oh! Fortunately, as the photo shows, the turkey turned out fine-- big relief.

There is a printable recipe card at the end of this post, with some notes that I will follow the next time we makes this-- and make this again, and again, we will.  Yes, you can make this on a gas grill, and I will include those instructions as well.  So, you need 4 quarts of briquettes and a disposable pan with water.  The briquettes are placed on the side of each pan, so that the turkey is not set directly over the coals (unless you're making turkey jerky, I suppose.)

This is a 12 pound turkey, so if you are feeding an army of pilgrims, this recipe isn't for you.  I wouldn't recommend doing this with a 20 pound bird, but if you do-- and it works- please let me know!

Vegetable oil has been rubbed on the turkey, before being placed on the grill. Craig has been careful that the turkey isn't placed over the coals.  Good job!  Grilling time is said to be 2 1/2 hours to 3 hours.   I got busy making the Sweet Potato Casserole and making the Mashed Potatoes (updated version to be posted this week).

GRAVY WARNING: You don't get drippings for making gravy, with this method. Instead of resorting to package or canned gravy, I made "Make Ahead Gravy" the night before. I simply put the gravy into a small crockpot on WARM and that was ready to go.

For years, I belonged to the "stuff-the-turkey-with-stuffing-inside-the-turkey" Club.  Then, it was announced that this only invited bacteria and cooks were advised to always bake the stuffing separately.  If you've been reading my blog for a while, I admit that I do not care for stuffing.  (It's a texture thing, and I'm sorry.)  However, I oblige others who love stuffing and I've developed a few of my own recipes that my family loves.

Not this year.  I didn't have the strength desire to bake cornbread and make my famous stuffing. So, I resorted to -- gasp-- buying stuffing mix!  Yes, I took a shortcut and I will share a basic stuffing recipe at the end of this post.  However, this year, I did something I wish I had thought of a long time ago...

 Stuffing Muffins!

Why had I never thought of these before?  I wish I could say these are my idea, because they are all over Blogosphere.  I used an ice cream scoop to measure the stuffing into a muffin tin and set them aside as I made the rest of the meal. By the way, the One-Hour Dinner Rolls saved my day, as I was running out of steam in the kitchen.

Because my oven wasn't occupied by a roasting turkey, I even had time to make my first Pumpkin Roll-- and I'll share that recipe soon.

I made an oath that I was going to keep things simple, since I'm the Chief Cook and Bottle Washer. Still, it took almost five hours for me to make all the side dishes, bake bread and clean up the kitchen.  At least I didn't have to worry about basting the turkey.

The turkey had been grilling for 2-1/2 hours and I suggested that we check on it.

Craig: No, the recipe says 3 hours.
Me:      Well, that's the suggested time.
Craig:  No, I don't want to lose heat!
Me:      What if it's already cooked, then it'll be dry?!
Craig:   (Dubious look on his face.)
Me:       Trust me, I always shorten the recommended time. We can always add more (smug look on my face)

I grabbed the camera and Craig lifted off the lid, and stuck in the instant-read thermometer.

Within seconds, the thermometer said 170F.  "Get it off the grill, now!" I shrieked.
Moral of the story:  Check the bird at 2 hours.  160F would be the ideal temperature.

That skin looks dry and crisp, because of the baking powder.  But, would the meat be as dry?
Truth:  No!  Had we waited a moment longer, it would have been "yes".

Y'all know the commotion that goes on, once it's time to get the Thanksgiving feast on the table, right? I had lost natural lighting, and was busy orchestrating the plating and serving of our meal. (That is my excuse for not having many finished shots.)

TASTING NOTES:  The turkey was still moist-- but, honestly, had we reduced the grilling time to 2 hours, it would have been even moister.  The flavor was different in a very good way. Yes, it had the flavor of grilled meat, and my carnivores loved it.  The skin was very crispy-- I'm not one to eat skin, but for those who do, it's excellent.  The stuffing muffins were a big hit, and easy to just serve one on each place.   Bonus:  At the end of the evening, I put the turkey carcass into a pasta pot and added celery, onion, carrots, Bay leaves and peppercorns and 10 cups of water. The turkey stock had so much flavor!  It's frozen for future recipes.

FOOTNOTE:  I was thankful to have my brothers and lovely niece at our Thanksgiving table.  However, I have made an oath for next year-- and I'm going to keep this one.  I'm going to either be a dinner guest (I will bring a dish) or I am making reservations.  For those of you who think I'll miss not having leftovers-- nah, ah, ah... we'll be grilling this very recipe for us to have as our private reserve.


Now, it's time to think of Christmas.   Once again, I'm the Chief Cook and Bottle Washer. Well, I'll be cooking, but I'm going to hand every family member a dish towel and scrubbing pad. I'm finally catching on!

I always post a printable recipe card at the end of each recipe post. If you cannot view it, you might be using an older version of InternetExplorer. You should be able to view my recipe cards with Safari, Mozilla, Google Chrome and Internet Explorer.
If you still can't view the recipe card, all of my recipes are stored on Key Ingredient, by clicking here.

If you still can't figure out how to view the printable recipe card, please email me at and I am happy to help.

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Christine said...

What a wonderful meal Debby! I did a turkey on the grill once and it indeed was marvelous. Like the muffing stuffing idea and can't wait for the pumpkin roll recipe! Is it stuffed with a cream cheese based filling? Hope so! :) Happy Thanksgiving!

Joolz said...

I love the idea of the stuffing muffins! No-one in my family cares for stuffing either much but if I made herby, crusty, buttery, crunchy muffins I'm sure they'd come around.

And what a great idea of your for next TG - you need a rest after all that prep for such a spread!

Cheers - Joolz (Australia)

Joan Nova said...

The color on the bird is just beautiful and the stuffing muffins look delicious.

Emma Mon said...

Everything you have prepared is wonderful, congratulations.

Sippity Sup said...

That is one good looking bird! I love that you are using Key Ingredient for recipe cards! GREG

Cathy at Wives with Knives said...

Your grilled turkey is cooked to perfect, Debby. And you don't have a huge, messy roaster to wash! No matter how much I do ahead I always manage to get every pot and pan I own dirty before the meal is over. I just make turkey soup and thought of you as I carefully strained the stock into a very large bowl...hahaha. My family could have seen a grown woman cry.

Joanne said...

I didn't get to eat any stuffing on T-Day because it wasn't vegetarian and now I'm craving it. I love the idea of stuffing muffins! Totally going to whip up a batch. :)

The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

I have no yard to grill or fry in, so the oven is the way to go for me no matter what. I bought turkey for 14 and only 7 ate it. I was up to my ears in leftovers. After all of that, I can understand wanting to not want to do it anymore. This year I shared duties with my mother and it seemed like too much work for something not everyone ate.

Roz P. said...

I've fried, baked, and roasted a turkey, but never grilled one! have to try this someday. I tried the stuffing in the muffin tins last year and sadly they turned out badly [ :-( ], so I went back to the tried and true method this year and all was OK in the world again. I'll have to follow your procedure next year!

Karen June Miller said...

Love the stuffing muffins! Very clever!


bellini said...

I'm sure that the entire meal was perfect from start to finish.

Ciao Chow Linda said...

Oh how I wish I had seen this before Thanksgiving. I really want to try the grilling method and those stuffin' muffins. They look fabulous.