Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Big Green Egg Thanksgiving Turkey Redux

The Big Green Egg (BGE) made its debut last year in typical Shimek fashion (i.e. it was purchased immediately before Thanksgiving, thus rendering the guests as test subjects). Over the past year I've gained some experience that enabled me to make a few refinements.

One of the most interesting features of the BGE is the eclectic community of users that come with it. You'll always find helpful suggestions on the Big Green Egg User's Forum. One of its dedicated contributors is "Mad Max" who gives out his home number to run a Thanksgiving day hot line (in 2008 he took 30 calls!). His turkey-specific advice is distilled down on the Naked Whiz's ceramic charcoal cooker page. While I took my own approach on the Egg set-up, the information provided by others inspired me in both word and spirit!

The heart of the set-up is pictured above. An inverted ceramic plate setter (legs up) forms the base on which three ceramic feet support a 10 inch round baking pan that holds the vertical turkey roaster. The plate setter, which is designed to provide indirect heat, is placed on top of the fire ring (see top photo above). The airspace between the plate setter and the drip pan is key as it prevents burn-on and preserves the drippings for gravy. Look closely at the grill set-up in the Let's Talk Turkey post to see the (very rough) starting point for this eventual evolution.

As in '07 we used a Diestel Ranch American Heirloom Turkey that we reserved at our local grocery, Lunardi's. The turkey was brined overnight in a salt and brown sugar solution seasoned simply with rosemary, thyme, and bay leaf.

Upon removing the turkey from the brine it was patted dry and placed on the vertical roaster with wings folded back and legs tied together. I used a pastry fork to cut Herbs de Provence into a stick of butter and then smeared this mixture over the surface of the bird and under the skin. In the drip pan I placed a mirepoix of sorts: coarsely chopped onion, carrot, and celery along with one cup dry white wine (I used AlbariƱo) to maintain moisture in the Egg. The reduction of these aromatic veggies with the turkey drippings formed one component of the gravy.

Every 30 minutes I basted the turkey with the liquid in the drip pan. This year I pulled way back on the wood smoke using only a few apple wood chips. I've heard great things about pecan for its ability to develop a great skin color and subtle flavor, but since I didn't have any on hand that refinement will have to wait until next year!