Want to try something a little different this year with your holiday turkey? Wish you had your oven free for side dishes? Or maybe you are having a big enough crowd that you really need two turkeys! Grilled turkey solves all these problems and is fast, easy, and tasty. So, butterfly your turkey this year, rub it with Italian flavors, and make Tuscan grilled turkey!
I know what you’re thinking.
‘But gravy! How to I make gravy on the grill???’ Don’t worry. I have you covered! I have a great no drippings gravy recipe coming up on Friday. Because I love gravy too, and don’t want to have turkey and mashed potatoes and stuffing without it anymore than you do.
Last year at Thanksgiving time, I was very new blogger and didn’t feel up to sharing any turkey recipes. The photography just seemed so daunting! I did share an apple pie and a sausage stuffing and few other great recipes, but I knew the turkey was going to have to wait.
And, well, I think this turkey was worth the wait. 🙂
The idea for making a grilled turkey came from a Thanksgiving many years ago. Before my daughter was born, we spent a few Thanksgivings in Arizona with my husband’s grandmother. And all the rest of the relatives who could make the trip! Let’s just say that’s a lot of relatives. One year we needed two turkeys but only had one, small oven. Which was already filled with a turkey.
Yeah. Perhaps you can see the problem?
Luckily, I had the idea of using the grill! I had never butterflied – or to put it properly, spatchcocked – a turkey before, though I had done chickens and the idea is the same. Do you know what’s not the same? The amount of force needed! Get some strong shears and someone with strong hands to do the cutting.
All we could find was scissors, not kitchen shears, and we broke the first pair getting that turkey open. But we persevered, spatchcocked that turkey, rubbed it with some great Southwestern herbs (it being Arizona!), and grilled it up. Yum!
Here I took that memory of Thanksgiving past and paired with the herbs and flavors I use when I’m making Tuscan roast chicken and turned it into Tuscan grilled turkey.
A few things I learned as I was testing the recipe:
- It takes a fair amount of strength to spatchcock a turkey. Strong shears and a strong hand are needed.
- Be careful when moving the turkey onto the grill and onto a platter. Not much is keeping the legs and breast together!
- Keep the temperature on the grill to between 400F-425F. This will give you the nice, browned, crispy skin you want.
- If it’s possible with your grill, keep the breast over a cool part of the grill so it will cook a little slower.
- Slice along each side of the backbone with a knife so you are just cutting through the bone with your shears.
- Don’t throw out the backbone! Make gravy with it.
– Happy Eating, Annemarie
- 12-14 lb whole turkey
- 4-6 tbsp unsalted butter
- 4 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
- 1 tbsp chopped fresh thyme
- 2 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
- 2 tsp lemon zest
- 1 tbsp olive oil
NOTE: Prep time depends on whether you need to brine the turkey or not! If you are brining, you will need to begin the day before when you rub the turkey with salt.
Butterfly (or spatchcock) the turkey by cutting out the backbone and cracking the breastbone. (See this post for photos.) Reserve the backbone and any trimmings you have for making turkey stock.
Loosen the skin over the breast and flatten a tablespoon or two of butter in between the skin and breast meat. Mix together the herbs, lemon zest, and olive oil in a bowl. Rub the turkey all over with the herb mixture and let it rest for 1 hour at room temperature.
Preheat the grill. Once the grill is hot, adjust the grill so that it maintains a temperature of around 425F. If you can, make a two level fire so that the outer parts of the grill are hotter than the middle.
Transfer the turkey to the grill so that the turkey is skin side up and the breast of the turkey is over the coolest part of the grill. Close the cover and grill the turkey until the breast reaches 150F and the thighs reach 165F. This will take about 1 hour for a 12 lb turkey. At around 20 minutes into the cooking time, melt the remaining butter and use that to baste the turkey 3 or 4 times while the turkey grills.
When the turkey is done, transfer it to a cutting board and let it rest for 15-20 minutes before carving.
Depending on what sort of turkeys you can find in the store, you may or may or may not need to brine. If you have a turkey which has been injected with a brine solution, go right onto rubbing the turkey with herbs. If you have a natural turkey, rub the turkey liberally all over with kosher salt and let it brine for 12-24 hours.
Transferring the turkey to and from the grill can be tricky since there is very little holding the legs to breast. If you have a rack you don't mind using on the grill, you can set up the turkey on the rack and just transfer the rack around. I don't have such a rack so I carefully lifted the turkey onto the grill with my hands and then used a combination of spatulas, tongs, and my daughter to help me transfer the turkey to the serving dish.
I didn't get pictures of the spatchcocking or cutting process; however I do have a link which goes through it step by step. The cutting of the breast meat in particular is useful information and the way we have been doing it for years.
I've found that using a knife to cut along both sides of the backbone before using the shears is very helpful and makes the cutting easier.