Thanksgiving is in a few short weeks and it’s our favorite food holiday!
Every family has all of their own wonderful traditions and favorite dishes. The great thing about owning a pellet-fueled grill, besides fueling it with Griller’s Gold Premium Hardwood Pellets, is that with the precision temperature control these grills provide, they can serve as an additional oven for your kitchen, fueled with delicious smelling and tasting hardwood!
Many traditional thanksgiving foods will really benefit from the “kiss” of wood smoke flavor that you’ll get when cooking on your pellet-fueled grill. And of course, not every item is compatible.
So in this post, we’ll cover making an OUTSTANDING turkey on your pellet grill and then ideas for sides that work well with being cooked in a wood-fueled environment. On to the bird!
Fantastic Wood-Roasted Turkey
Making a turkey on a pellet grill does not have to be complicated in any way.
In fact, you can go as simple as:
- Buy a turkey
- Thaw it
- Remove the packaging and the giblets package
- Fire your grill up to 350F
- Season it with salt and pepper
- Put the turkey on the grill
- Close it up
- Take it off when the breast meat is 165F in the center.
- Rest it for 30-45 minutes tented with foil
That’s as easy as it can be and it’s delicious that way. We will frequently do this super-simple method on a Sunday when we want to make food to feed the family for the week. It’s just so easy.
But, we’re here to talk about a fantastic bird, so here’s how you kick that up several notches!
Choosing the Turkey
Our turkey journey starts with the bird. We have tried a variety of different turkeys – all natural/minimally processed, fresh, frozen, free range, you name it. We have found that the “big brand” bird that everyone knows is also the most consistent in terms of quality, cutting, preparation and ease of cooking. These birds come pre-brined, so that step isn’t necessary.
If you do like to use minimally-processed turkeys, they really benefit from an overnight brining. If you’re not sure how to do it, visit YouTube or Google – there’s tons of resources.
Seasoning Your Thanksgiving Bird
We like to season the turkey with barbecue blogger Meathead Goldwyn’s “Simon and Garfunkel Rub”. We mix up a big batch of it – it is thyme, parsley, rosemary, oregano, basil, bay leaves and sage all ground up together!
To season, start by rubbing the skin overall with a few tablespoons of cooking oil or olive oil and then sprinkle the rub generously over the turkey along with salt and pepper. Be sure to season the cavity too! Then we tie the legs and wings close to the body with butcher string.
We like to roast the bird in a foil roasting pan and to raise the bird off the bottom of the pan so the air can circulate, we put a bunch of chunky-cut aromatic veggies across the bottom of the pan – quartered up onions, large pieces of carrot and celery do great for this. Those vegetables can then be used to flavor up your gravy with the pan drippings that land in the pan from the bird.
When cooking a turkey on the pellet grill, we don’t stuff it. We have found that by the time the stuffing is cooked to a safe temperature that the breast meat is overcooked, so we’ll do the stuffing in a side dish pan while the turkey rests. See below.
On to the grill!
Preheat your pellet grill using your favorite Griller’s Gold Natural Hardwood pellet flavor – for turkeys we use Competition Blend the most – to 225 degrees F. We’re going to start low and slow as pellet grills put out more smoke flavor at lower temps, then we’ll boost the heat and roast as usual.
Let your grill preheat at least 15 minutes at this lower temp and then load up the bird into the grill. If you have a temp probe, insert it deeply into the breast meat, but don’t hit the ribs in the center of the bird.
Close up the grill and go watch some football for 90 minutes.
In that time, the turkey skin will absorb a nice kiss of that delicious wood smoke. At the 90 minute mark, head back to the grill and turn up the temperature to 350F, and give the bird a 180 degree turn to the opposite direction. At this point, total cook time is dependent on the size of your bird, but the average size turkey (15 to 16 lbs) should take about 2 to 3 hours more time to finish up.
We like to check on the bird and give it turns about every 45 minutes for even cooking. The bird is done when your probe thermometer reads 165 degrees in the deep part of the breast meat. Check it in several places. The legs should be about 185 in the deep part of the drumstick and thigh.
Key Tip – RESTING the turkey
Now for the most important part: RESTING!
Bring the bird into the kitchen, lift it off the vegetable bed in the pan and put it on a platter or sheet pan. Put a “tent” of heavy duty foil over it and leave it alone for at least 30 minutes while you’re getting the rest of the meal on.
In fact, Gordon Ramsay recommends resting turkeys a full hour! There is a lot of thermal mass there, and it will stay hot and ready to serve, but the rest really lets the bird finish cooking and redistribute the juices for moist meat and flavor.
And that’s it – after the rest, carve and serve! It will be fantastic and the skin will be out of this world – that’s the chef’s treat for cooking and carving it.
Thanksgiving side dishes
As promised, here’s a list of sides you can also do in your pellet-fueled grill:
You made your bird in a roaster with a bunch of aromatic veggies – that pan will have lots of tasty drippings in it. Dump a quart of either turkey or chicken stock over the veggies to “rinse” the drippings off, then pour off into a large measuring cup or gravy separator.
Simmer your roasted veggies with the stock for 10-15 minutes to extract flavor and also concentrate the stock. Skim or separate the fatty drippings from the stock and use those to make your roux for your gravy. Your gravy will have a wonderfully smokey flavor.
After the bird comes off, put a baking dish with your stuffing in it out on the grill and bake it for about 30 minutes while the bird rests. It will pick up a little smokey flavor from the grill and be extra tasty.
Grilled vegetables on the pellet grill are outstanding! Have a look at our Farmstand Vegetables post for ideas!
Wood grilled fruit cobblers and “brown bettys” are outstanding when baked on a wood-fired oven, and your pellet grill, fired by Griller’s Gold pellets is exactly that – a wood-fired oven. Bake at the same temp and time as in your recipe but do it on your pellet grill for extra flavor!
Smoked Old Fashioned Cocktail
Yeah, we went there! Before your holiday guests arrive for the day, pour a bottle of your favorite bourbon into a shallow large baking dish like a lasagna dish. Fire up your pellet smoker at the lowest setting and use the “smoke” or “super smoke” setting if you have it. Put the pan of bourbon on the grill and close it up, and smoke your bourbon for 20 minutes. It will pick up a wonderful smokey flavor and aroma. Use it to make bourbon Old Fashioneds!
Happy Thanksgiving everyone!