Two-Stepping Again

I've spent a bit of time this summer singing the praises of two-step cooking when it comes time to grill. Everything from pork roasts to chicken has gotten a chance to dance this way. While the details of what goes on is targeted to what kind of item is going on the grill, the gist involves getting some of the cooking out of the way in advance in a way that helps your final product stay moist on the grill without sacrificing that fantastic smokey flavor grills can offer.

The procedure used for turkey involves a fairly traditional (except I always roast them breast side down to keep them from drying out) short oven roast that leaves it shy of completely cooked but most of the way there. Then you get to splitting your bird nearly in half a bit like spatchcocking, but it is completed after the partial roasting, sets the break line between the breast meat, and involves no removal of any bones. However, like spatchcocking, this method gives you more surface area to work with and promises a shorter cook time.

You can split the cooking into two days if you'd like. Provided you have the refrigerator space, simply refrigerate your turkey after you've completed the first partial roast of the bird (let it cool enough first or you'll crack your refrigerator shelves, make the poor appliance work too hard, or not give yourself and your family enough time to drool over the aroma of roasted bird). Then do the spatchcock-esque trick before it's time to put the bird on the grill!

The other clever technique used in grilling a turkey like this is reusing the roasting rack, but adding a layer of foil and more juicy onions to help keep the bird moist while grilling and to soften and caramelize along the way. Make sure you serve your bird with the amazing onions. They are amazing. You can also dab a little miso butter on the top of the bird to help with extra flavor. I did that and then made turkey stock out of the carcass in my Instant Pot and it was the best stock I've made to date. So yeah, turkeys aren't just for Thanksgiving!

Two-Step Grilled Turkey

  • 1 small (10-12 lb.) turkey, thawed (if previously frozen) and prepped for traditional roasting
  • 2/3 c. mayonnaise
  • 1 tsp. granulated garlic
  • 1 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. coarse salt
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 2 large onions, one sliced into generous wedges and the other sliced into many thin strips (divided)
  • Fresh herbs, as desired
  • 1 lemon, sliced into generous wedges
  • 1-2 T. miso butter, optional

Preheat the oven to 450°F and remove any racks from the oven that might be in the way while roasting a turkey.

Once your turkey is thawed and prepped for roasting (remove anything in the cavity of the bird or in the neck pocket, remove any excess skin near the opening of the cavity, remove any plastic bits holding legs together or the like, etc.), carefully set the turkey on a roasting rack set inside a roasting pan.

Combine the mayonnaise with the seasonings (granulated garlic through black pepper) and stir well to make a sauce. Using your fingers, liberally apply the sauce to the inside of the turkey's cavity as well as under the skin of the bird. Place the generously wedged onion, any herbs you've opted to use, and the lemon slices inside the turkey cavity and position the turkey on the roasting rack breast side down.

Roast the turkey until the thickest part of the breast meat reaches 155°F. I like to place a probe thermometer in that spot before placing the turkey in the oven so I don't need to open the oven door to monitor the temperature. Remove the turkey from the oven and allow to cool enough for safe handling.

When the bird is cool enough to handle, remove to a large cutting board and, using a sharp knife, cut a line just to the side of the center of the breastbone. Make sure you cut through the ribs.

Line the roasting rack with aluminum foil. Place the thin strips of onion and any of the aromatics removed from the cavity of the turkey into the bottom of the foil "boat" you've just made. Carefully place the split turkey on top of the bed of onions. If desired, dot the top of the turkey with miso butter.

Prepare a grill for indirect medium-high heat grilling. Place the roasting rack without the roasting pan on the grill and grill the turkey for another 30-45 minutes or until the meat on the bird is fully cooked and the onions in the bottom of the foil "boat" are softened and bubbly. Allow the turkey to rest before carving.

  • Yields: 1 fully cooked turkey and all the deliciousness that comes with it
  • Preparation Time: About 4 hours - it's a project, but it's worth it!