Whether a grill master or novice, you may find yourself standing by the flame this Thanksgiving with a variety of burning questions. If you plan to join the 14 percent of North American barbecue owners who will cook all or part of their Thanksgiving meal on the grill,* follow the Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association’s tips from the pros for the best techniques and safest practices for the most crowd-pleasing holiday meal yet.
Calling it the first-ever Thanksgiving Barbecue & A, Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association offers these 12 expert answers to your most common holiday grilling questions:
1. When grilling a turkey, is it best to buy it fresh or frozen? “For a slightly gamier flavor, go with a fresh bird. Avoid pre-stuffed turkeys to reduce the of risk of contamination.” – Harry Soo, award-winning BBQ competitor,www.slapyodaddybbq.com
2. What size turkey is recommended for safe barbecuing?“For first-time turkey barbecuers, it’s best to go with a 12 to 14-pound bird. Cook it in the smoker at 250 degrees until it reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees.” – Paul Kirk, Baron of BBQ, www.baron-of-bbq.com
3. What must-have tools do I need for barbecuing a turkey? “An accurate thermometer is an important tool to have on hand. The best tasting turkey will be the one which is perfectly cooked, not overdone, or underdone.” – Tuffy Stone, world champion pitmaster, www.coolsmokebarbeque.com
4. Which are the best wood chip flavors for slow cooking a turkey? “For turkey, sweeter woods that are lighter in flavor are perfect. Fruit woods such as cherry, apple, or peach will make your bird the star of the show.” – Rod Gray, BBQ national champion, www.eatbarbecue.com
5. What is your favorite seasonal produce for the grill? “Grilled Butternut Squash: Peel and cube squash into one-inch squares. Toss with BBQ rub and maple syrup and place it on a greased baking sheet. Cook it indirect on a hot grill (450 degrees) for 20-30 minutes until golden brown and tender. Drizzle with a little maple syrup to serve.” – Ray Lampe, Dr. BBQ, Hall of Famer, www.drbbq.com
6. What are the best Thanksgiving sides to make on the grill? “Lightly coat an assortment of seasonal vegetables with olive oil, salt, pepper, and other spices before tossing on the barbecue. It makes for a beautiful presentation and one less dish to crowd the oven.” – Tuffy Stone, world champion pitmaster, www.coolsmokebarbeque.com
7. Can I grill or smoke a turkey breast? “Yes, you can grill, smoke, and even fry a turkey breast! To save time, go with a bone-in turkey breast as the bone protects the tender breast meat. Soak turkey in brine for 30 minutes. Remove from brine, pat dry, and brush with marinade. Grill bone side down at 300 degrees, coating with marinated every 15 minutes. When internal temp reaches 165 degrees, remove from grill and let rest 5-10 mins before slicing.” – Brad Orrison, Pitmaster, World Grand Champion, www.theshedbbq.com
8. What are the best herbs and spices to use to flavor a turkey? “I like to use an herbed compound butter, like rosemary and lemon, and place it under the skin of the turkey to keep it moist while cooking. Herbs that pair nicely with turkey include parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme.” – Robyn Medlin, BBQ Competitor, GrillGirl.com
9. What are your tips for making pies on the grill? “Cook pies at the same temperature you would in the oven. They make take a bit longer on the grill, so be sure to test for doneness by look and feel, not just time. Rotate the pie 1/3 of a turn every 15 minutes to ensure even cooking.” – Ray Lampe, Dr. BBQ, Hall of Famer, www.drbbq.com
10. Can I grill a stuffed turkey? “It's best to avoid stuffing a turkey. When placed inside of the bird's cavity, stuffing absorbs potentially dangerous bacteria from the raw poultry, and often leads to overcooking the turkey.” – Clint Cantwell, pitmaster and BBQ expert, www.smokeindaeye.com, www.grillocracy.com/
11. What temperature does a turkey need to be cooked to? “Cooking to an internal temperature of 165 degrees in the deepest part of the breast will eliminate the risk of foodborne illness and leave you with nice, juicy meat.” – Matt Pittman, barbecue pitmaster, www.meatchurch.com
12. How can I prevent the turkey from drying out? “For best results, brine that turkey! Brining not only adds moisture to the bird, making it nice and plump, and it also helps prevent it from drying out.” – Chris Marks, BBQ world champion, www.three-little-pigs-bbq.com
Looking for more information about Thanksgiving grilling and smoking? Follow along with HPBA’s Thanksgiving Barbecue & A on Facebook and Twitter for daily answers to common grilling questions from now until Thanksgiving to help you get the most out of your grill or smoker this holiday.
*Source: 2015 HPBA Barbecue Lifestyle, Usage & Attitude Study.
About Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association (HPBA)
The 2,100-member Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association (HPBA), based in Arlington, Va., is the North American industry association for manufacturers, retailers, distributors, representatives, service firms and allied associates for all types of hearth, patio and barbecue appliances, fuels and accessories. The association provides professional member services and industry support in education, research, government relations, marketing, advertising, and consumer education.