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How to cook Thanksgiving turkey outside without an oven

What is the best way to cook thanksgiving turkey outside? We take the leap and dig in to find out.

Chris Monroe / CNET

This story is part of Holiday Survival Guide 201

9 with tips on the best ways to manage the holiday season.

Most of you will cook your Thanksgiving turkey indoors, in the typical way: in the oven. But have you thought about throwing your turkey on the grill? What about frying? You make your oven free to handle side dishes and desserts. If you prepare your center point in a different way, you'll also get a handy excuse to get away from the festivities to check & # 39; the bird & # 39 ;.

There is no objectively correct way to cook a turkey outside. Some people swear that roasting your holiday bird in the Big Green Egg is best. Others say that lighting their Traeger pellet grill is the only way to go. And the really brave among us will tell you that deep-fried turkey is the ultimate Thanksgiving delicacy. And don't forget the classic Weber Kettle, which can be found in countless rural gardens.

For most of you, the correct way will be to use the grill that you happen to own. That said, we thought it would be worth trying four popular turkey cooking methods outside and presenting the results for a jury vote among the CNET Smart Home and Appliances team.

In the end, the results were quite convincing. Here's how it all went.

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Turkey cooking technology for Thanksgiving


Let's talk about turkey.

All four of the birds we cooked were basal, frozen supermarket turkeys, packed in brine and sourced from the local Kroger. They all came between 16.2 and 16.5 pounds.

I have bottled (spotted-cocked) three of our four test turkeys.

Chris Monroe / CNET

They took four days to defrost in the refrigerator, aided by a few hours of wading in a cold water bath. If yours has already thawed, even better. Then I crashed three of them (left behind) and left the bird destined for the frying pan intact.

I gave our turkeys a generous amount of spice and an individual light sprinkle of salt.

Chris Monroe / CNET

Spatchcocking brings the dark meat closer to the heat and the white meat further away. Because white meat cooks faster than dark, the arrangement helps the breast and thigh to end together.

Then I hit all the turkeys with a light dash of kosher salt and a herb rub. Kudos to amazingribs.com for this powerful inspiration for turkey recipes. I then put them in the fridge overnight, where they were until the cooking time arrived the next day.

With the Big Green Egg on temperature and the ConvEGGtor heat diffuser accessory, it's time to cook.

Chris Monroe / CNET

Turkey method 1: Big Green Egg

Kamado-style grills such as the Big Green Egg are usually made from enamelled ceramic. That is why they are excellent in retaining heat. They also keep a lot of moisture trapped in the cooking room, keeping your turkey juicy.

To start, I filled my test egg with Big Green Egg brand oak and hickory lump cabbage. I also nested a lump of applewood in the coal pile. With the fire lit, I placed the ConvEGGtor accessory (foot up) in the fire bowl. This ceramic heat shield is located between food and coal and is necessary for indirect roasting or smoking.

We have monitored the temperature of two of the three grills with thermocouples coupled to a data logger.

Chris Monroe / CNET

I also used the SmartFire barbecue pit controller. The gizmo enabled me to easily bring the fire from the Green Egg to 325 degrees Fahrenheit (163 ° C). Best of all, the egg kept humming with minimal supervision.

A thermocouple probe borrowed from our test laboratory gave heat measurements throughout the cook. My target temperature was 160 degrees and three hours later the bird hit that mark.

We carefully lowered one of our turkeys into a bowl of hot oil for frying.

Chris Monroe / CNET

Turkey Method 2: Frying Pan

Deep-frying a turkey is an intense, potentially dangerous cooking method. You have probably heard the various warnings about oil changes, among other things. Suffice it to say here that you should not undertake to deep-fry a turkey without a thorough reading or to work with someone you trust and who has experience. To do the job, we used a specially made turkey frying set. It included a large metal pot, sturdy standard and a propane burner.

When frying turkeys, special heat-resistant gloves and other protective equipment are a must.

Chris Monroe / CNET

After carrying out a movement check with the turkey and water, we then poured three gallons of peanut oil into the pot and lit the burner. After 15 to 20 minutes the oil reached a frying temperature (350 degrees). With protective clothing (heat-resistant gloves, glasses and apron), my colleague Steve slowly lowered the turkey into the oil, using the metal stand and hook that came with the frying kit.

Lowering the bird in the oil is a critical and dangerous moment. If you go here too quickly, or if your bird does not fully thaw, hot oil may splash or cause an oil burst outside the pot. Fortunately we avoided that. With the turkey successfully submerged in water we let it bake. After 50 minutes the internal temperature at the chest hit 160 degrees, our stop point.

Turkey method 3: Traeger pelletroker

I have long respected Traeger wood pellet grills, in particular the Timberline 850 that I reviewed last year. Without fail, this smoker has transformed everything I have cooked into something remarkable. I am happy to say that Turkey was no exception.

With the Traeger ready, I placed the turkey on the lower grid. I then activated the super smoke mode of the wood pellet grill.

Chris Monroe / CNET

After cleaning the seat of the fire, I lit the grill and brought the temperature to 200 degrees. I then placed the turkey on the lowest rack and put the meat probe from the grill into the bird's left breast. Then I closed the lid and activated the "super smoke" mode of the Traeger for 30 minutes. It is designed to feed wood pellets into the seat of the fire, where they melt at low temperatures for maximum smoke development. I used Traeger's own distinctive mix of pellets, consisting of a mix of hardwood from hickory, maple and cherries.

In total, the smoker needed three hours to bring the turkey to the correct temperature of 160 degrees. It took a bit because the right breast cooked faster than the left. Two thirds of the way I cooked, I turned the turkey 180 degrees. This raised the internal temperature on the left side of the bird to match the right side.

I created an indirect heat zone on the Weber Classic Kettle and then placed the turkey on the cooler side.

Chris Monroe / CNET

Turkey Method 4: Weber Classic

I first filled a charcoal chimney starter two-thirds full of briquettes. I have not used anything special, just good old Kingsford Blue. When I lit them and let them smolder, I threw the coals on the charcoal grate of the Webber Classic. Then I roughly arranged them on a pile that embraced the left side of the kettle. I picked up a piece of applewood and placed it on the carbon bed.

A large piece of applewood went directly on the coals. Chris Monroe / CNET

I then placed an aluminum drip tray to the right of the coals and filled it with hot water from the boil. Finally I lowered the cooking grid into the kettle and then carefully placed the turkey on the right side of the grill (above the drip tray).

For the record, both the lid and the bottom opening of the stove were half open. I also checked the temperature of the grill and the internal turkey temperature (breast) with thermocouples. Shortly after the Weber closed, things became hairy. From a previously stable temperature of 325 degrees, the heat level dropped to 150 degrees in 20 short minutes.

I had made a classic beginner's mistake. I left the coals in the chimney starter for too long before adding them to the pit. I also opened the lid shortly after I added the bird for a look. Now I paid the price. I saved the situation by starting a new coal chimney, which I hastily added to the Weber.

When I brought the fire back to life, the heat rose, so I had to adjust the vents several times. Bursts of flame forced me to often shift the position of the bird.

Tasting and judgment

With all turkeys cooked and off the grill, we conducted a blind taste test with 10 members of the CNET Smart Home and Appliances team. We corresponded with numbered notes and only I knew which turkey came from which outdoor cooker. The results were clear and unmistakable.

Turkey on the Big Green Egg looked good, but was not the best of the birds we tasted. Chris Monroe / CNET

4th place: Big Green Egg

This beloved kamado brand produced a nicely roasted turkey, with a good amount of color and taste. That said, our panel rated the turkey from the Big Green Egg as their least favorite. In fact, six out of ten tasters rated it as their least favorite. Personally I was not blown away by the texture of the skin. It was not as fresh as I prefer. And although the meat wasn't dry, it wasn't as juicy as the other birds I cooked. What I found most disappointing was that I didn't taste much of the smoke taste of Applewood at all.

Here is our turkey when it came from the fryer. It was golden brown, slightly greasy. Chris Monroe / CNET

3rd place: Fryer

When we removed our fried bird from the barrel, it had turned golden brown. The skin definitely had some crunchiness, but it lacked overall crunch. And when we cut open the turkey, the meat was soft but oily. It wasn't bad, it just didn't meet our fried turkey fantasies. Six out of 10 voters put the deep-fry bird in the turkey test group as the second to last.

After three hours the turkey in the Traeger was ready and looked very nice.

Chris Monroe / CNET

2nd place: Traeger Timerline 850

When I pulled the bird out of the Traeger Timberline, his skin had a nice brown color. It also had some crunchiness, although it could have had more texture and crunchiness. Carving in this turkey, however, revealed its true charm. The meat was the juiciest of all our exemplary birds. Best of all, the Traeger really brought out the natural turkey flavor and nicely balanced it with the sweet smoke in the background. Our panel agreed. Three out of 10 tasters voted this turkey as their favorite, and four out of 10 rated the Traeger bird as their second choice.

Despite setbacks and fighting the grill for the right cooking temperature, the turkey he made was fantastic.

Chris Monroe / CNET

1st place: Weber Classic Kettle

I admit that I did not expect that the Weber Classic kettle would cook something great, especially since it took some work to stabilize the cooking temperature. I certainly did not think it would be roasting a bird that was insanely good, but that is exactly what happened. The turkey came out with a thick crispy crust. It was barky, the kind of thing I expected to see on the brisket, or a boob of tasty smoked pork. The meat was also moist and soft and had a lot of smoke flavor. There was even a visible smoke ring.

The turkey cooked by Weber had a crispy, crispy, bark-like skin. The meat was also soft and had a delicious, smoky taste.

Chris Monroe / CNET

I was not the only one who felt that way. The bird that came from the Weber was also the favorite among our panel livers. Five out of 10 panel members rated it as their favorite. Three of the 10 tasters also voted in second place. Another indicator was that this was the turkey that people chose when they returned seconds and thirds.

Respect the old Weber

I now have new admiration for the old $ 109 Weber Classic kettle grill. Yes, it is inefficient and burns much more fuel than a kamado. Yes, it leaks heat and fills your back garden with a lot of smoke. And yes, it is a completely manual cooker without a Wi-Fi connection, advanced smarts or snazzy wood pellet drive system.

What it can do, I will argue, is considerably more important. It can transform a humble turkey supermarket into a thing of beauty and festive glory. That is also the reason why I will set the old Weber on fire when it is time to make Turkey this Thanksgiving. Maybe you should also consider that.

Originally published earlier this month.

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