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Barbecued turkey

Time 3 hours 30 minutes
Yields Serves 14 to 16
Barbecued turkey
(Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)
1

Wash the turkey inside and out, pat it dry and weigh it. Measure 1 tablespoon of kosher salt or the appropriate amount of a seasoned salt into a bowl for every 5 pounds the turkey weighs (for a 15-pound turkey, you’ll need 3 tablespoons of kosher salt).

2

Sprinkle the inside of the turkey lightly with salt. Salt the outside, concentrating the salt where the meat is the thickest -- on the breasts and thighs. It should look liberally seasoned but not oversalted.

3

Place the turkey in a 2 1/2 -gallon sealable plastic bag, press out the air and seal tightly. If you can’t find a large plastic bag, use a small garbage bag. Place the turkey in the refrigerator. Chill for 3 days, leaving it in the bag but turning it and massaging the salt into the skin every day.

4

Remove the turkey from the bag. There should be no salt visible on the surface, and the skin should be moist but not wet. Wipe the turkey dry with a paper towel, place it breast-side up on a plate and refrigerate uncovered for at least 8 hours.

5

On the day it is to be cooked, remove the turkey from the refrigerator and leave it at room temperature at least 1 hour. Be sure the drumsticks and wingtips are secured to the body to prevent scorching.

6

Place the wood chips in a pan and cover with water. Start the fire: Light the charcoal in a chimney and place a bread loaf pan in the center of the coal area of the grill’s firebox (fill the loaf pan with ash to prevent flare-ups). When the coals are well lighted, distribute them evenly on either side of the loaf pan and let them burn until they are coated with ash.

7

Drain the wood chips and put them on top of the charcoal. Place the grill on top of the firebox.

8

Lightly brush the turkey with oil, then place it on top of the grill, centered in line with the loaf pan. Cover.

9

After 30 minutes, check the fire. If the coals are starting to die down, add another half-dozen on both sides to maintain an even, slow heat. If you use an oven thermometer, it should read in the 300- to 325-degree range.

10

Cook, adding more coals as necessary, until a thermometer inserted in the deepest part of the thigh, but not touching the bone, reads 165 degrees, about 2 to 2 1/2 hours total grilling.

11

Remove the turkey from the grill, transfer it to a warm platter or carving board and tent loosely with foil. Let stand at least 30 minutes to let the juices redistribute through the meat. Carve and serve.

12

Orange-pepper salt: In a spice or coffee grinder, grind 2 teaspoons orange zest (about 2 oranges), one-half teaspoon whole cumin, 2 teaspoons whole black pepper, 4 whole cloves and 6 whole allspice to a fine powder. Add one-quarter cup kosher salt and grind again to distribute evenly.

13

Lemon-thyme salt: In a spice or coffee grinder, grind 2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves, 1 teaspoon lemon zest (about 1 lemon), 1 teaspoon dry mustard and one-half teaspoon garlic powder to a fine powder. Add one-quarter cup kosher salt and grind again to distribute evenly.


Russ Parsons is a former food writer and columnist at the Los Angeles Times.
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