Turkey is consumed by 91 percent of Americans each Thanksgiving -- a total of 675 million pounds. The image of a crisp, roasted turkey fresh from the oven is indeed a classic. But cooking your turkey in the kitchen is not necessarily a prerequisite to the ideal Thanksgiving meal. Grilling the bird outdoors, on a rotisserie, introduces a whole new dimension to its flavor -- and gives you a good excuse to step outside on a bright fall day.
A rotisserie turkey can be grilled over wood, which enhances its taste. If you choose apple or hickory for extra seasoning, use only a small amount at the beginning of the process, placing a few wood chips directly on top of the coals. The extra smoke that comes from using wood will produce a layer of pink between the skin and the meat; this does not mean that the turkey is undercooked. Wrap the turkey tightly with butcher's twine to keep the wings and legs from burning. And before adding more charcoal, tap lightly on the burning coals with a pair of tongs to keep the ashes from suffocating the fire. You can use the drippings for the gravy if you're careful not to get any coal in the pan. One advantage to grilling, besides the added flavor, is that you won't need to baste.
When choosing a turkey, organic is best. Not all free-range turkeys are organic. To choose a bird free of insecticides, herbicides, fungicides, and fertilizers, select one that has been raised on organic feed in humane conditions, without synthetic hormones. It should also be eviscerated (gutted) by hand instead of by a machine; machine evisceration bruises the turkey, affecting its tenderness, flavor, and even its color.
A few tips for grilling safety: Grill only outdoors, in an open area away from the house, trees, or anything remotely flammable. Never barbecue in high winds, don't leave a hot grill unattended, and keep children and pets at a distance. Refrain from using gasoline or other volatile fluids as a charcoal lighter; do not add liquid starter to coals that are already hot.
Make this recipe for Rotisserie Turkey on the Grill.
Betty Hughes, Director of Consumer Affairs