Uncle Ken’s BBQ Turkey

by | Nov 13, 2010 | Entertaining, Family Traditions, Main Dishes

Somewhere along the line while self-publishing our cookbook, maybe year 9, our designer/editor recommended that we test all of the recipes since we now would be publishing the book for the public. So now we had to divvy up the 240+ recipes. We knew we couldn’t do it ourselves, so we emailed out to our family and friends all across the U.S. asking for their help, and what cooking skills they possessed. There were some difficult items: pickles, pies, chow-chow, recipes from the 1800’s, cakes, adult beverages (why didn’t I get that section?!), even rattlesnake. It just so happened that our cousin killed one in his yard, so even that was tested! I had a frozen turkey in my freezer, so I offered to test my Uncle Ken’s BBQ Turkey Marinade, his “special way” of marinating and BBQ’ing turkey. That was one of the best decisions I ever made, it took a few days but was soooooo worth it. That turkey was the absolute best I had ever eaten, the meat was so tender, hard to describe, it was like velvet, unbelievable.

We were having some friends a couple of weeks ago, and two of us had frozen turkeys, so we decided to try out one on the gas grill, one over charcoal. I have to admit, needing two gallons of wine for the recipe, I didn’t choose any of our fine Livermore Valley wines for the marinating, I went with “the box”. This time I used a large canning pot and a large roasting pan for the marinating vessels, cleared out the refrigerator in the garage and got started the process started.

Don’t be fooled by the size of the Heineken, it was a mini kegger!

We tried something a little different on the charcoal grill this round, a friend sent me up some hickory chips to smoke with the turkey, recommended using beer in the pan while we bbq’d it, and we laid strips of hickory bacon across the top during the first portion of cooking. We did baste both turkeys during the process, the charcoal bird with beer, the gas grill turkey we basted with the wine marinade. Once again, it was worth the wait, both turkeys were so moist, full of flavor and absolutely delicious! Two carcasses for soup were all that remained, and just enough white meat for two sandwiches!

BBQ turkey with hickory chips & bacon

Uncle Ken’s BBQ Turkey Marinade

I use this marinade when I cook turkey “my own special way.” Ken Calhoun

  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh sage
  • Cloves from 1 large head garlic, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 bunch fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • ½ cup salt
  • 2 tablespoons pepper
  • 1 gallon white wine
  • Juice from 3 lemons
  • 1 cup olive oil

In a large bowl, combine the sage, garlic, parsley, salt, and pepper. Mix in the wine and lemon juice, then whisk in the oil.

Ken’s Special Way

An extra refrigerator makes this easier. The turkey soaks in the great flavors as it marinates. I use a sixteen-pound turkey or smaller. A bigger bird is ok, but cooking times will be different. Depending on weight and heat, figure about twenty minutes per pound. Please don’t overcook the bird—use a thermometer to be safe. If you use a gas grill, a three-burner grill with the middle burner turned off is great. Cook at 325˚F to 350˚F.

BBQ turkey on the gas grill with wine marinade

Put a large plastic bag inside a tall plastic bucket or container. Pour the marinade into the bag. Place the turkey in the bag, pull up the sides, and tie the top, trying to submerge as much of the bird as possible. Refrigerate for 2 to 3 days, turning once a day.

When ready to cook, prepare an indirect fire on a charcoal grill. Place the bird on the grill, cover, and cook for about 3 to 4 hours. There is no need to baste the turkey while cooking. Add more charcoal as needed (about 18 to 20 briquettes every hour) to maintain an even heat. The turkey is done when your thermometer reaches 165˚F.

– Niece Nancy