THE BLOG
11/21/2007 02:47 pm ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

How to Barbeque a Turkey

Let's talk turkey.

The best way to cook a turkey for your Thanksgiving feast: barbeque. On your outdoor grill. Don't be a turkey by shoving it into your oven. Throw away that bag method (it's fowl). Don't wing it by deep-frying. Go cold turkey with those convection devices.

These simple directions don't require getting beat over the head with a drumstick, nor will you need to break a wishbone in order to achieve the perfect bird. This recipe is intended for those who don't happen to have the gizzard for tofu-turkey.

1. Put a drip pan BELOW the cooking grate (which means that the bird will not be placed IN the drip pan). You need a drip pan above the flame to prevent flare-ups, but the drippings, right above the heat, will get burned so that they cannot be used to make gravy (make your gravy this way instead).

2. Trot out to a barbeque store and buy a "cradle" basket for your bird (about $10). Place this directly on top of the cooking grate. No need for a rotisserie.

3. Stuff the bird with juicy items (pineapple, grapefruit, cranberries, oranges) plus some spices and seasoning (onion, sage, salt and pepper). The stuffing will be eventually discarded, not eaten (go with stove-top stuffing anyway).

4. Cover the outside of the bird with olive oil and spices.

5. This next step is the key: place the bird on the cradle basket UPSIDE DOWN. That is to say: put the breast side down, and the dark meat up.

6. If using wood, charcoal, or gas, try to keep the heat constant and relatively low--around 350 degrees. Start with a slightly higher temperature (400-425 degrees) for the first fifteen minutes--to sear in the juices--and then lower to 350 for the rest of the time. Close the cover to the grill.

7. Use three or four meat thermometers, just to be sure. The temperatures can vary from one side of the grill to the other, and from the bottom to the top. So place two thermometers on each side of the bird, one each on the lower sides, one each on the upper sides.

8. If using a gas grill, buy a smoker box (about $10) and use some nicely flavorful wood chips, perhaps wine soaked.

9. If the heat remains more or less constant, the time of cooking should be roughly equivalent to the time for a stuffed bird for that weight in a regular oven (those weight-time charts are everywhere). But above all, rely on the meat thermometers to tell when the bird is ready.

The advantages of grilling your turkey: This upside down method allows the bird to be self-basting. The juicy stuffings flow downward to keep the white meat moist, tender, and flavorful. But...the method also "dries out" the so-called dark meat on top, so that it becomes about the same consistency as white meat. No longer will that dark meat be oily and fatty, having stewed in its own drip-juices a la the oven-pan methods.

The outside skin becomes a bit crispier, even burnt in some places, but the meat inside will be supremely moist.

Grilling your bird also keeps all of the smoke and lingering smell out of the house.

After having grilled my birds for the last fifteen years or so, I just can't understand why more people don't turn their birds "upside down." Perhaps it's a legacy of racism (white on top of dark). Perhaps it's a legacy of sexism, the fascination with breasts. Perhaps it's a submissive position leftover from post-colonial oppression. I dunno. Doesn't matter: if you try my easy-as-pie method, winning over your skeptics one-by-one about the benefits of barbeque grilling will be like participating in a turkey shoot.

Anyway, enjoy your grilled bird! You'll see your guests gobbling up your delectable morsels. You can be proud and spread your plumage, but don't ham it up. The rest is gravy.