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Thanksgiving Recipes: Mesquite-Smoked Turkey

Nov 13, 2011 08:07PM ● By Anonymous

Republished with permission from “The Macy’s Culinary Council Thanksgiving & Holiday Cookbook.”


Bayless says, “For Christmas or Thanksgiving, a smoked turkey is a great way to go, satisfying the cravings of poultry and smoked ham lovers alike. All you need is a grill and some mesquite chips.”

Serves 8

1 fresh whole turkey, 12 to 14 pounds
2 gallons plus 1 cup water
1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 cup salt
1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
6 cloves garlic, crushed
1 bunch fresh marjoram sprigs or 1 tablespoon dried leaf marjoram
1 bunch fresh thyme sprigs or 1 tablespoon dried leaf thyme
10 to 12 bay leaves
1 tablespoon olive oil

Note: You will need 2 cups of mesquite chips for smoking.

To brine the turkey: If the turkey has a metal clamp on its legs, remove it. Remove the giblets and neck from the cavity and reserve for another use. (They can be used for making the broth for the Red Chile Adobo Sauce that follows.)

Rinse the bird well and pat dry with paper towels. Place 2 large food-safe plastic bags (we like Reynolds turkey-sized oven bags), one inside the other, in a large, clean, deep dishpan or plastic bucket. Add 1 gallon of the water, the sugar, salt, and pepper flakes, and stir to dissolve the sugar and salt. Add the remaining 1 gallon water and stir to mix.

Place the turkey, breast side down, in the mixture, making sure it is completely immersed in the brine. Squeeze the air out of the bags and tie them securely closed. Refrigerate for at least 12 hours or up to overnight.

To set up the grill for indirect cooking: Soak 2 cups mesquite chips in water to cover for at least 30 minutes. Preheat a gas grill to medium-high, or light a fire in a charcoal grill and let it burn just until the coals are covered with gray ash and very hot.

When the grill is ready, turn the burner(s) in the center of the gas grill to medium-low, or bank the coals to the sides of the charcoal grill. Add some of the soaked wood chips to the grill (for a gas grill, place them in a smoker box or wrap the chips in foil and poke holes in the foil; for charcoal, place them on the hot coals). For the charcoal grill, set the grill grate in place.

To prepare the turkey for the grill: Remove the turkey from the brine, and discard the brine. Pat the turkey thoroughly dry with paper towels. (If you are not cooking the turkey at this point, place it in the outer roasting bag, which should be dry and clean, and store it in the refrigerator.) Rub the turkey cavity with the crushed garlic. Stuff the herbs and bay leaves in the cavity, then tie the legs together with cotton string. Pull the skin over the neck opening and secure with a small skewer. Set the turkey on a roasting rack set inside a heavy-gauge aluminum foil pan. Brush the turkey lightly with the olive oil.

To grill the turkey: Set the turkey in the pan on the grill grate away from the fire. Pour the remaining 1 cup water into the pan, and cover the grill. To maintain an even temperature with a charcoal grill, add more coals regularly (usually a few pieces every 30 minutes or so). Keep adding wood chips as desired to give smokiness.

Check the turkey periodically. You may want to cover the wing tips and/or the whole turkey to prevent the skin from getting too brown. The turkey is done if when a thigh joint is pierced, the juices run clear, or when an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of a thigh registers about 155°F. Estimate 12 to 14 minutes per pound, or typically 2 1⁄2 to 3 hours for a 12- to 14-pound turkey. When the turkey is ready, remove it from the grill, cover loosely with foil, and let stand for 15 minutes. (The temperature will rise 5 to 10 degrees while the turkey is resting.)

Carve the turkey and arrange on a warmed platter. Serve with the warm Red Chile Adobo Sauce and the Jicama-Cranberry Relish.


America’s favorite chefs are sharing the recipes they love to prepare for the holidays in “The Macy’s Culinary Council Thanksgiving & Holiday Cookbook.” Filled with pages of stunning photographs and entertaining tips, the cookbook features more than 80 recipes from Macy’s Culinary Council’s team of acclaimed chefs including Rick Bayless, Michelle Bernstein, Cat Cora, Tom Douglas, Todd English, Marc Forgione, Emeril Lagasse, Marcus Samuelsson, Tim Scott, Nancy Silverton, Ming Tsai and Takashi Yagihashi. The book also includes a commemorative overview of the of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade® with special behind-the-scenes stories and photos from the annual event, in celebration of its 85th year as a staple of the holiday season.