Beer-Can TurkeySteven Raichlen
Use this recipe as an alternative to the famous Beer-Can Chicken.
- Advance Prep: 3 cups wood chips or chunks (preferably hickory), soaked for 1 hour in water or beer to cover, then drained
- Yield: 8 to 10 servings
- Method: Indirect Grilling
- 1 1-liter can Foster's Lager
- 1 8- to 10-pound turkey, thawed if previously frozen
For the rub:
- 2 tablespoons poultry seasoning
- 4 teaspoons kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon ground sage
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 8 tablespoons (1 stick) salted butter, melted
Step 1: Pop the tab off the beer can. Drink half the beer or pour it into the soaking water of the wood chips or chunks. Using a church key-style can opener, make 2 additional holes in the top of the beer can. Set the can of beer aside.
Step 2: Combine the ingredients for the rub in a small bowl and stir to mix.
Step 3: Remove the packet of giblets from the front and body cavities of the turkey and set aside for another use. Remove and discard the fat inside the body and neck cavities. Rinse the turkey, inside and out, under cold running water and then drain and blot dry, inside and out, with paper towels. Sprinkle 2 teaspoons of the rub inside the body cavity and 1 teaspoon rub in the neck cavity of the turkey. Brush the outside of the turkey with 2 tablespoons melted butter. Sprinkle the outside of the turkey with 1-1/2 tablespoons rub and rub it all over the skin. Stir 1 tablespoon rub into the remaining melted butter and set aside.
Step 4: Set up the grill for indirect grilling following the instructions above.
Step 5: Spoon any remaining rub through the holes in the top of the can into the beer. Don’t worry if it foams up: This is normal. Holding the turkey upright, with the opening of the body cavity at the bottom, lower it onto the beer can so the can fits into the cavity. Pull the legs forward to form a sort of tripod, so the bird stands upright. (The rear leg of the tripod is the beer can.) Tuck the wing tips behind the turkey’s back.
Step 6: When ready to cook, toss half the wood chips on the coals. (If using a gas grill, place all the chips in the smoker box or in a foil smoker pouch and preheat on high until you see smoke, then reduce the heat to medium.) Stand the turkey upright in the center of the hot grate, over the drip pan, away from the heat. Pull the legs forward to give it stability.
Step 7: Cover the grill and cook the turkey until the skin is a dark golden brown and very crisp and the meat is cooked through (165 degrees on an instant-read meat thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the thigh), 2 to 2-1/2 hours. If using a charcoal grill, you’ll need to add 12 fresh coals and 3/4 cup wood chips per side after 1 hour. Baste the outside of the turkey with the butter-rub mixture every 30 minutes. (Steady the turkey with one hand, preferably protected with food-safe insulated gloves, at the top to keep it from tipping.) If the turkey skin starts to brown too much (and it will have a tendency to do so at the top), loosely tent the bird with foil.
Step 8: Using sturdy tongs, carefully transfer the turkey in its upright position on the beer can to a platter. Let it rest for 15 minutes, then present it to your guests. (Grab the bird by the beer can just under the butt.) Let rest for 10 minutes, then carefully lift the bird off the beer can. Take care not to spill the hot beer or otherwise burn yourself. Carve the turkey and serve at once.
Some turkeys come with a wire truss that holds the legs together: You’ll need to remove this to beer can the turkey. Gently wiggle it free or cut it with wire cutters. Be sure to remove the bag of giblets in both the main and front cavities.