As I previously posted, my boyfriend and I had a turkey taste-off last year at our respective family's home: We ate fried at his house and grilled at mine. I am always tweaking my family's holiday menu—luckily my mother, and the rest of my family, are up for new dishes, including messing with the main event—turkey. With my prompting, we have taken the turkey out of the oven bag and tried different basting methods as well as a rolled turkey one year. But what finally stuck was our grilled version. I became intrigued with the idea when I saw the Salt-and-Pepper Grilled Turkey recipe in the November 2007 issue of Living. So we gave the method a whirl.My dad sets up the grill with coals on either side of a long and narrow aluminum pan. We fill the pan with water and wood chips, which I guess means that our bird is also partially smoked. This grill setup differs from the method in Living as it uses a pan in the middle of the coals to catch the drippings for gravy. (My parents usually have oven-cooked another turkey before the big holiday for a church event, so we use the drippings from that bird.)
We start with a brined bird (although none of us are sure if brining makes a difference in moisture or flavor). We pat it dry, rub it all over with the salt-and-pepper rub, including in the cavities, then stuff both cavities with aromatics like lemon halves, onion, and fresh herbs. Once trussed, the turkey heads for the grill. The turkey rests on a cooking rack on the top grill rack. My father and the other men in my family monitor the grill, adding more coals as the turkey cooks to maintain heat. We use an instant-read thermometer to monitor both the grill heat and then later to check the turkey's doneness (it should reach 165 degrees when inserted into thickest part of thigh, avoiding the bone). It can take between 3 to 4 hours, depending on the size of your bird.
So the big question: How does it stack up to a fried turkey? Both methods result in tender, moist meat and yummy crisp turkey skin. But for flavor, I definitely prefer the smokiness of our grilled turkey—it really amps up the flavor of the meat and tastes great the next day with barbecue sauce on sandwiches. And while Mike did like our smoked turkey, I think he still prefers the flavor of his fried turkey. Sometimes family tradition wins out.