Thanksgiving throwdown: smoke vs. grill

Grill and smoke setup

UPDATED BELOW, with “turkey pr0n!”

Thanksgiving day 2010 was clear and very cold–and the sun at this time of the year never reaches into our North-facing backyard.  But Fratguy and Geoff were undeterred–they(respectively) smoked and grilled two 12 or 13-pound turkeys yesterday, and both were delicious.  On my morning run, I saw another family deep-frying a turkey in their driveway.  Parts of our town smelled smoky, although I don’t know if that was due to other grilling or smoking turkeys, or just fireplaces.  It was difficult to sort out the smoke scents.

The grilled turkey was done a lot faster than the smoked turkey, which turned out to be a big plus at 2:45 in the afternoon, when the gang was hungry and all of the sides were ready.  (Smoking stuff when it’s only 27 degrees outside makes it difficult to keep the temperature up.  One can understand why it was the southeastern United States that invented barbecue culture, and not the northern woodlands.)  I was glad to learn of the American turkey’s origins–and, finally, what a “guinea fowl” was, via this informative article by John Bemelmens Marciano!  And if you’re wondering as I did,  yes–he’s the grandson of Ludwig Bemelmens, the creator of the Madeline books.

Geoff's grilled turkey

Both turkeys were delicious, with that handsome mahogany burnish just like the Norman Rockwell painting of the Thanksgiving bird.  The smoked turkey’s breast meat was just slightly moister, although the grilled turkey’s breast was plenty moist.  I was impressed with how much the smoke permeated the big bird–it really was soaking in it!  Collecting drippings to make the gravy was a bit of a challenge, although Geoff and Fratguy managed to do it.  The drippings made an invaluable contribution to the depth and flavor complexity of the gravy:  the smoke flavor was complementary rather than overwhelming, and the hint of orange from the oranges stuffed in Geoff’s grilled turkey made a nice addition too.

And, if I do say so myself, the dressing and the pies were big hits.  Because I made a double recipe of the dressing, peeling the chestnuts (two pounds!) took for-fracking-ever, and I’m not convinced that they added much beyond the sausage, herbs, and turkey wings baked on top.  For Christmas, I’m considering leaving them out altogether or substituting pecans instead.  (Although I will say that the microwave method for chestnut-peeling is much better than boiling or baking the bloody things.  Just cut crosses in them and microwave 3 at a time for 30 seconds at full power so you can peel them while still warm.  Works like a charm.)

10 thoughts on “Thanksgiving throwdown: smoke vs. grill

  1. Several years back, while house-sitting and emptying a house whose oven had become essentially disfunctional, I smoked a turkey outdoors by literally and heavily encasing it in foil, with some other ingredients, and putting it on top of a fire-pile down the woods that had been used for nearly fifty years to burn and dispose of all manner of (hopefully) non-toxic refuse. (Archaeologists someday will call it a “midden”). The project took forever; began in mid-afternoon and went on well past dark. It was cold out there too, although probably not 27-degrees. I remember digging into it and pronouncing what a good fella am I, although perhaps more for the creativity than for the cuisinarity part.

    My Thanksgiving this year was displaced two days forward, to tomorrow, by an ice storm in the back country, when I decided that I really didn’t want to try for an Ang Lee reenactment at this point in time.

    Out West-back-here-in-the-East, alas, “fracking” doesn’t do service anymore as a polite substitute for its root word, not since the Marcellus Shale trilobites have been muscling in on the deer hunt. Anything left in that keg, and how did that part go?


  2. But Fratguy and Geoff were undeterred–they(respectively) smoked and grilled two 12 or 13-pound turkeys yesterday, and both were delicious. On my morning run, I saw another family deep-frying a turkey in their driveway. Parts of our town smelled smoky, although I don’t know if that was due to other grilling or smoking turkeys, or just fireplaces.

    It’s the smell of testosterone.


  3. Did some cooking but had to stay home due my nasty old chronic enemy.

    My innovations this year are: shredded butternut squash/carrot balls in fire roasted tomato sauce and peas/edamame pancakes.

    My youngest son smoked the turkey. Past experience was great.


  4. I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving!

    Unfortunately, I wasn’t up for pie with my black coffee this morning, and appear to be suffering acutely from a food hangover. (It didn’t feel like I was eating too much at the time!) It’s nearly 1 p.m., and I still haven’t taken any solid food yet.

    I guess I’ve developed an Old Lady metabolism already.


  5. Historiann, this is reminding me that in 1999 I finally got to Detroit, and Tiger Stadium, the year they were tearing it down. And it was the only baseball venue I ever heard of where you could enjoy a game while ripping away at a *hot* turkey drumstick, foil-wrapped, and bought at the concession stand! The only thing was, you couldn’t wash it down with a cold Vernors Ale, not for anything, not even if you threw a fit at the concession stand–which I did. The owner was a Pepsi guy and he had an exclusive “pouring” deal with Pepsi and as far as he was concerned, Vernors was sooooo Toledo, they said. Ty Cobb (who made most of his money investing in Coke in his native Atlanta) was probably spinning in his grave. Anyway, for whatever any of that is worth. And to all a good night!


  6. Pingback: Holiday round-up: Happy Cranksgiving! : Historiann : History and sexual politics, 1492 to the present

  7. Pingback: Holiday round-up: Happy Cranksgiving! | Historiann

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