Montgomery. AL — Besides loving to grill, cook and create great barbecue, I really enjoy American history, and Thanksgiving is steeped in history.
When most of us visualize the founding of Thanksgiving, images of European pilgrims and Native Americans feasting on a bountiful harvest cross our minds, and for the most part, this is accurate.
Our pilgrim ancestors arrived in December of 1620, and almost half of them died that winter. With the help of Native Americans, our ancestors recovered and experienced a huge harvest the following autumn, resulting in a feast that lasted three days, which all shared.
The term “turkey” was used to identify any sort of wild fowl, and Thanksgiving became an official holiday in 1863, when President Lincoln declared the last Thursday of each November a day of “national thanksgiving.”
It wasn't until 1941 that Thanksgiving was recognized by Congress as an officially sanctioned national holiday. Leave it to Congress to be almost 80 years late.
In an effort to create a somewhat authentic Thanksgiving main course, consider preparing the turkey outdoors on your kettle grill. It's easy if you follow the following steps.
1. First, realize that if your kettle grill is set up properly, you basically have an outdoor oven. You will set it up with indirect heat, meaning the charcoals are set to one side of the grill and the turkey will not be exposed to direct flames or heat.
2. Use hickory or mesquite chips. Simply sprinkle a handful on the hot coals. When the flaming is done you are ready to go. It adds a great outdoor flavor.
3. Season the bird with your favorite rub or spices, and stuff the cavity with quartered onions and apples. The onions and apples impart flavor and also help keep the bird moist during the cooking process.
4. Monitor the temperature. Your goal is to keep the temperature inside your kettle grill hovering around 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Use a thermometer that you can place in one of your vent holes so you don't have to keep taking off the lid. You will occasionally need to add additional briquettes.
5. Use a drip pan to catch the juices. This allows you to make some really tasty gravy once the turkey is cooked.
6. Do not trust those pop-out thermometers. They do not work, unless you enjoy turkey jerky.
Your bird will be done when the thigh registers 180 degrees Fahrenheit when a meat thermometer is inserted. If the thermometer is touching the bone your reading will not be accurate. A turkey will take roughly 20 minutes per pound at 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
7. If this will be the first time you do this, try a test run with a large chicken or a small turkey. Thanksgiving turkeys are not a good experiment. Trust me on this one.
8. Before doing anything, watch my video on grilling your turkey on a kettle grill. Go to www.YouTube.com/BBQMyWay.com and search for “turkey on the Weber grill.”
9. Get your friends and family involved. If you have kids or grandkids, show them what you are doing and most importantly, how to do it. Pass down the tradition.
I hope you, your family and friends have a wonderful Thanksgiving. Email me and let me know how your turkey turned out.
Dave Lobeck is a barbecue chef from Sellersburg, Ind., who writes a column for CNHI News Service. Visit his website at www.BBQMyWay.com.