Steven Raichlen's Barbecue! Bible


Spit-Roasted Turkey Adobo

By Steven Raichlen

Here’s a adobo-marinated, mojo-sauced, Latino-inflected bird from Miami that broke me out of my New England mindset—cooked by a method that may not yet be in your repertory: spit-roasting on the grill.


  • Yield: 4 to 6 servings
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For the adobo marinade:

  • 8 cloves garlic, peeled and rough chopped
  • 2 teaspoons salt, plus more for seasoning
  • 1 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more for seasoning
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 cup sour orange juice (naranja agria) OR 1/2 cup fresh lime juice plus 1/2 cup fresh orange juice

  • 1 8-pound turkey or 6- to 7-pound whole turkey breast
  • 4 tablespoons salted butter, melted

  • 2 cups Mojo for serving (see step 6)

Step 1: The day before serving, prepare the marinade: Mash the garlic and salt to a paste in a mortar and pestle. Pound in the cumin, oregano, pepper, cilantro, and last of all, the lime and orange juice. If you don’t have a mortar and pestle, puree the ingredients in a blender or mini food processor.

Step 2: Remove the giblets, if any, and any lumps of fat from the front and main cavities of the turkey. Season the inside of the turkey with salt and pepper. Loosen the turkey skin from the meat. Start by worming your finger into the neck cavity between the skin and the breast meat. Insert one finger, then two, then three, then your whole hand, gently loosening the skin from the meat to create an air pocket. (Work gently: you don’t want to tear the skin.) While you’re at it, slide your hand down to loosen the skin from the thighs and drumsticks. The process will feel very weird at first, but it becomes old hat with a little practice. It’s worth mastering, because you can also use it to marinate chickens, ducks, and game hens.

Turkey Skin

Step 3: Add 1/4 cup of the marinade to the main cavity and 1 tablespoon to the front cavity. Stand the turkey upright in a deep bowl and pour most of the remaining adobo under the skin. Transfer the turkey to a large plastic bag, such as a large resealable plastic big or turkey roasting bag, with any excess marinade, including the stuff that gathers in the bowl. Place the bag in a bowl and marinate the turkey overnight in the refrigerator, turning it several times to marinate evenly.

Step 4: Set up your grill for spit-roasting according to the manufacturer’s directions. Preheat to medium (325 degrees).

Step 5: Remove the turkey from the bag and drain off the marinade. (Discard the marinade.) Slide the turkey onto the spit, securing it between the two spit forks. Drizzle a little melted butter (about 1 tablespoon) over the breast and spread it over the skin with your fingers. Insert the end of the spit into the motor and place a drip pan under the turkey. Spit-roast the bird until cooked, 2 to 2-1/2 hours. (Use an instant-read meat thermometer to test for doneness—the turkey is ready when the thigh meat is 165 degrees.) Continue basting the outside of the turkey every 30 minutes or so with the remaining butter and any juices that accumulate in the roasting pan. If the skin starts to brown too much, tent the bird with foil.

Step 6: Meanwhile, make the Mojo.

Step 7: To serve, transfer the turkey on its spit to a cutting board. Carefully remove the spit—it will be very hot—and let the turkey rest for 15 minutes. Carve and serve with the Mojo on the side.

Tips:

If working on a charcoal kettle grill, mound the coals on the sides with a drip pan in the center. If you want additional flavor, toss a handful of soaked hardwood chips on each mound of coals.

On a gas grill, you want a gentle heat for several hours so you cook the meat through without burning the skin. Set the rotisserie burner itself on low or medium. For additional firepower, particularly if you have a 4 to 6 burner grill, set the outside burners on medium.

If the skin starts to brown too much before the turkey is cooked through, loosely wrap the outside of the bird with foil.