Turkey is an ideal grilling food. From ground turkey burgers and turkey franks, turkey tenderloins and other cuts for the grill, turkey provides you with a wide range of tasty, healthy and convenient meal solutions.

During grilling, turkey cooks best by indirect heat on an outdoor covered gas or charcoal grill with a pan of water placed beneath the grilling surface to catch the dripping turkey juices. Turkey breasts, drumsticks, wings and whole turkeys are all suited for grilling. Whole turkeys that weigh 16 pounds or less are the recommended size for safe grilling. However, you will need quite a bit of charcoal or gas for a whole turkey, which can take anywhere from three to four hours to cook on the grill.

Do not stuff a whole turkey. Because cooking is at a low temperature, it can take too long for the temperature of the stuffing to reach the required temperature of 165°F. Also, smoked stuffing has an undesirable flavor.

Grilling time depends on many factors: the size and shape of the turkey, the distance from the heat, temperature of the coals and the outside air temperature. Estimate 15 to 18 minutes per pound if using a covered grill. Always use a food thermometer. The turkey is done when the food thermometer, placed in the inner thigh, reaches 165-170°F.

Keep food safety in mind before preparing any turkey and remember to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and hot water. Hands should be washed again and rinsed along with all utensils, equipment and countertops that have been in contact with any raw food (especially raw poultry) before preparing foods. It’s 20 seconds of prevention that can eliminate 90% of foodborne illness.

How to Grill Turkey

Bone In Turkey Breast

Grilling a turkey breast is an excellent way to enjoy a turkey dinner without making it a big deal. 

Prepare a barbecue grill with a rectangular metal or foil drip pan under the grates for indirect cooking. Insert a meat thermometer into the center of the thickest part of a turkey breast, not touching the bone.

Place turkey, bone-side down, on the grates directly over the drip pan. Grill turkey, covered, on medium 55 minutes.

If using a basting sauce, brush turkey with sauce and continue to grill, covered, 10 minutes. Brush again with sauce; continue to grill, covered, about 10 minutes more or until a thermometer registers 165-170 degrees Fahrenheit. Transfer turkey to a carving board; tent with foil. Let stand 10 minutes before carving.

Boneless Turkey Breast

Marinate a boneless turkey breast with olive oil, fresh herbs and garlic for at least 30 minutes or up to 24 hours. Then, preheat a grill to medium high and place a boneless turkey breast, skin side down, on greased grill grates. You’ll want to turn the grill down to medium to avoid burning the skin. After the breast browns, turn it over and cook until the temperature reaches 165-170 degrees Fahrenheit on a thermometer. Slice the turkey and serve on top of salads, with fruit or on your favorite sandwich roll.

Turkey Tenderloins

Tenderloin

Turkey tenderloins are the tender long strip of white meat hidden under the turkey breast. Because this strips of meat is an underused muscle of the turkey, it is very tender. One of the best ways to cook turkey tenderloin is with a dry rub and then grill on a hot grill.

Combine one tablespoon each of garlic powder, onion powder, dried thyme, sage, kosher salt and fresh ground pepper in a small bowl. Rub this mixture on a turkey tenderloin and wrap in plastic wrap or put in a sealed bag in the refrigerator for at least two hours (overnight is best).

Rub grill grates with vegetable or canola oil and preheat  the grill. Place the seasoned turkey on the grill and cook five minutes on each side. Check the temperature with a meat thermometer to make sure the temperature is 165 degrees F. Take the turkey off the grill and let rest for five minutes to let the juices rest back into the meat.

Turkey Legs

Rub turkey legs with a mixture of chili powder, cumin, garlic and oregano. Season with salt and pepper and let rest several hours to allow the flavors to develop. Be sure to grill turkey legs over a medium-low heat for tender crispy results. In the end, you’ll be able to pull the meat right off of the bone and enjoy as is, with your favorite salsa or smothered with spicy BBQ sauce.

Ground Turkey

How to avoid parched pucks.

Season ground turkey with your favorite herbs and spices. Since ground turkey is lower in saturated fat than ground beef, you need to add olive oil or another liquid to the mix to make a juicy healthy burger. Make sure to place burgers on a well-greased, preheated grill to prevent sticking. Cook over medium-high heat until cooked all the way through to 165-170ºF. Grill some onion slices and peppers on the side and you’ll amp up the flavor even more.

Rosemary Grilled Turkey Breast

Ingredients:

  • 5 sprigs of rosemary, chopped
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • One 4 1/2 lb. bone-in turkey breast
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Combine rosemary, garlic and olive oil in a small bowl. Rub all over the turkey breast, then season liberally with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Place a heatproof drip pan beneath the grill grates on one side of the grill and preheat to medium. Turn off the side of the grill with the drip pan. Pour about 1/4 inch of water into the drip pan, then place the turkey on the grill over the drip pan, skin-side facing up and cook over indirect heat, covered, at about (375-400°F) for 30 minutes.

Check to make sure there is still water in the pan and add more if necessary. Also, check that the grill temperature has remained constant and adjust accordingly.

Continue cooking for 35-45 minutes, then check temperature of the turkey. When turkey reads 165-170°F on a meat thermometer it is cooked through. Transfer to cutting board to rest for 15 minutes, then slice and serve. 

Red Pepper, Basil, and Turkey Roulade with Basil Aioli

6 servings

This recipe uses a combination of direct and indirect heat, which can be accomplished using a charcoal or gas grill.

If you have a gas grill, you can easily use it to roast the peppers.

Ingredients:

  • 4 medium red bell peppers
  • 1 large lemon
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh basil leaves plus 2 cups large basil leaves
  • 1 boneless turkey breast half

Directions:

Roast peppers:

Roast peppers on the grill over high heat, turning with tongs, until skins are blackened, 5 to 8 minutes. (Alternatively, broil peppers on rack of a broiler pan about 5 inches from heat, turning occasionally, about 15 minutes.) Transfer to a bowl and let stand, covered, until cool enough to handle. Peel peppers and discard stems and seeds. Chop peppers and pat dry.

Make Aioli Sauce:

Finely grate 2 teaspoons zest from the lemon and squeeze 2 teaspoons juice. Puree zest, juice, mayonnaise, garlic and the 1/3 cup chopped basil in a food processor until smooth and season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a bowl and chill, covered, while preparing roulades.

 

Butterfly turkey:

Remove and discard skin from the turkey breast, Cut turkey breast in half crosswise and chill 1 piece, covered, while working with the other.

Holding a sharp knife parallel to the work surface and beginning on a long side, butterfly turkey by cutting horizontally almost in half (not all the way through), then opening it like a book.

Place between 2 sheets of plastic wrap and, with flat side of a meat pounder, pound turkey to slightly less than 1/4 inch thick. Butterfly and pound remaining piece of turkey.

Make roulades:

Season turkey pieces well with salt and pepper and divide roasted peppers between them, spreading evenly and leaving a 1/4-inch border around edges. Top peppers with whole basil leaves and sprinkle with cheese. Beginning with a short side, roll up each turkey piece, gently pressing on filling while rolling (don’t roll too tightly, or filling will slip out of the ends) and tie roulades crosswise with string. Season roulades with salt and pepper.

Prepare grill:

If using a charcoal grill, light a full chimney of charcoal and place on one side of the grill. Charcoal will be ready for cooking when it turns grayish white, 10 to 15 minutes. If using a gas grill, light all burners.

First grill over direct heat:

When fire is medium-hot (you can hold your hand 5 inches above rack 3 to 4 seconds), place roulades on lightly oiled grill grates directly over the fire and grill, uncovered, turning occasionally, until seared on all sides, about 15 minutes.

Then grill over indirect heat:

If using a gas grill, turn off 1 side of the grill. Move roulades away from the fire and grill over indirect heat, covered, turning roulades occasionally, until an instant-read thermometer inserted diagonally 2 inches into several places on each roulade registers 165-170°F, about 15 to 20 minutes.

Transfer to a cutting board and let stand 10 minutes. Discard string, being careful not to unroll turkey, and cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices with a serrated knife. Serve roulades with sauce.

BBQ Turkey Legs

Turkey legs, seasoned with smoky, sweet-flavored barbecue sauce, taste delicious when prepared on the grill. Instead of worrying about the turkey legs sticking to the grill, cook them covered in aluminum foil. Keep the turkey legs moist in the foil by basting the meat on a regular basis with your favorite BBQ sauce. To improve flavor, brining is an important first step for turkey legs.

Ingredients:

Brining Solution

  • 1 cup salt
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons liquid smoke
  • 1/2 gallon water
  • 8 turkey legs

Directions:

In a large bowl or pan, combine the water, salt, brown sugar and liquid smoke. When salt and sugar have dissolved, add the turkey legs.

Cover and refrigerate for 24 hours. Drain brine from turkey legs, discard the brine and gently pat turkey dry with paper towels.

Preheat the grill to medium. The temperature should read between 325 and 350 degrees Fahrenheit on a charcoal or gas grill.

To brown the skin and lock in flavor, sear each turkey leg on the grill on direct heat for approximately two minutes on each side.

Baste each turkey leg with a generous amount of barbecue sauce. Make your own or use a commercial brand.

Wrap each turkey leg loosely in foil. Avoid tightly covering the drumsticks, since this can prevent heat from circulating properly around the meat.

Cover the grill and cook the turkey legs for approximately one-and-a-half hours. Baste them with barbecue sauce every 20 to 30 minutes to keep the drumsticks moist.

Check the internal temperature to determine when the meat is cooked thoroughly. The meat thermometer should read 165 degrees Fahrenheit before you remove the turkey legs from the grill.

Then add more barbecue sauce, rewrap the legs in the foil and allow the turkey legs to rest for 30 minutes before serving them.

Turkey Burgers with Barbecued Onions

One way to keep the turkey moist is to add milk  and  lightly mix them together. Overhandling the meat can make tough burgers.

4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 Spanish onions, halved, sliced thinly
  • 2 tablespoons prepared barbecue sauce
  • 1 1/4 pounds ground turkey (not lean — use a mix of dark and white meat)
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika or regular paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon each: salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 4 sesame seed buns

Directions:

Heat olive oil in a large, heavy skillet over high heat. Add onions; stir-fry onions 2 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low; cook, stirring often, until soft and starting to caramelize, about 15 minutes. Stir in barbecue sauce; cook 1 minute. Remove from heat. Cover; keep warm.

Meanwhile, prepare a grill for medium-high heat. Lightly mix turkey, milk, parsley, paprika, salt and pepper in a large bowl; form into 4 patties.

Grill until cooked through, turning once, about 8 minutes total. Place on buns and top each with onions.

Grilled Turkey Tenderloins with Peach Salsa

Ingredients:

  • Cooking spray
  • 1 1/4 pounds skinless, boneless turkey breast tenderloins
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder 
  • 1/4 teaspoon each salt and ground black pepper

Marinade

  • Juice of 1 orange
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes

Peach Salsa

  • 4 small peaches, peeled and diced
  • Juice of 2 limes, about 1/4 cup juice
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 3 tablespoons diced red bell pepper
  • 1 hot pepper, minced
  • 1 heaping tablespoon chopped parsley
  • 1 small clove garlic, finely minced
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped red onion or sweet onion

Directions:

Season tenderloins with garlic powder, salt and black pepper.

In a medium bowl, whisk together all marinade ingredients.

Place the tenderloins in a large plastic storage bag. Pour marinade over tenderloins and coat well. Seal bag and refrigerate 1 hour or overnight.

Oil grill and preheat to medium-high.

Remove tenderloins from marinade and discard the marinade.  Grill tenderloins turning frequently, about 25 minutes or until done and the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F.

While turkey is grilling prepare salsa. In a small bowl, combine all ingredients and mix well.

Slice the tenderloins into about 3/4-inch slices and spread peach salsa evenly over tenderloins.

 

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