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Bob Hart’s Thanksgiving Turkey


The 24th of this month is the day most Americans refer to as Turkey Day, and it’s one that is often welcomed more joyously, and by more Americans, than Christmas. It’s Thanksgiving and, despite recent developments in the US, it will be celebrated as robustly as ever. And I see no reason why we should not join the party as a turkey, large or small, is a great thing to toss onto a barbecue. Especially if you get it right.

Turkeys, which can range from around 3kg to 10kg, take time to cook. But if you buy one close to the 3kg mark and butterfly it ? or have your butcher do it for you – you will be surprised at how quickly and perfectly it will cook on a grill over gas or, better still in flavour terms, over charcoal.

Try this:

First brine your split bird by placing it in a large, resealable plastic bag, or a large bowl or bucket if you have room in your fridge, in a solution of sea salt (1 cup), brown sugar (1 cup) and water (1-2 litres) overnight.

Rinse and dry the bird, oil lightly and generously apply your favourite dry rub which, I trust, is the all-purpose rub in the front of both of my Heat & Smoke books, or one of the good ones you can buy in barbecue shops. Your call.

Try to get this on the bird a few hours before you plan to cook it, and also remove it from the fridge and return to room temperature at least an hour before you cook it.

Then, fire up your barbecue ? either gas or charcoal ? and set for indirect cooking. Medium heat ? about 180-190C ? works best.

Place the two halves of the bird, skin side up, over the indirect heat section of your grill, and drop the lid.

Cook for 20-30 minutes, and then without turning the halves over, spin them on the grill so that different parts of the bird are closer to the direct heat. Do this once or twice more and monitor the doneness of the bird with your instant read meat thermometer. You are looking for a temperature around the 80C mark, which should take an hour, or a little longer.

To finish the bird, I like to place, skin side down, over direct heat for a few minutes to color and crisp up the skin. Then remove it to a platter, ideally on a rack, and rest, loosely tented with foil, in a warm (not hot, and not inside your barbecue or in an oven) place for 30 minutes or so.

Then, carve and eat, and don’t forget the cranberry sauce.

Happy Thanksgiving!