Beer Can Turkey in The Big Easy oil-less infrared turkey fryer
I’ve cooked hundreds of beer can chickens over the years. And it was always a pretty simple process. Open a beer, sample it to perform necessary quality control, place a rinsed, dried and seasoned whole chicken over the can (inserted into empty cavity) and set on a small tray to stabilize – then put it all on the grill or in the oven for about an hour at 400F degrees.
When The Big Easy came along – beer can chicken was one of the first meals I cooked in it. And nearly every week since. Last year sometime I began using the Char-Broil Chicken Roaster and now prepare chicken with a variety of flavored liquid infusions.
The premise is pretty basic: The chicken is cooked from the outside by indirect heat of the grill, or direct infrared energy in The Big Easy, and the heat also warms the liquid in the beer can or Chicken Roaster . The warming liquid slowly steams into the cavity of the chicken – imparting flavor, adding moisture and helping to cook the bird. Simple and tasty.
So why on earth have I never thought to prepare a ‘Beer Can Turkey?’
Last week I did – and I gotta tell you the results were just excellent! I prepared an 11.5 pound turkey in The Big Easy – but you could just as easily prepare it in your grill – if you set it up to accommodate the height of the bird and use indirect heat. I think The Big Easy makes it less difficult – but I don’t want to limit your creativity!
First I thawed the 11.5 pound turkey in my fridge for a day and a half. Then I removed the wrappings, took out the giblets and neck (to make a flavored stock for gravy) and placed the bird in a very basic brine mixture of about 1/2 cup kosher salt and enough water to cover the bird along with a dash of apple cider vinegar. (Want to know more about brining and the why’s and wherefores? CLICK HERE) I use my largest stock pot for this brining process. Since I generally never cook a turkey much larger than 12 pounds, it works just fine for this purpose.
“Why never cook a whole turkey much larger than 12 pounds you ask?” Younger birds, in my opinion, are more tender. And in my experience two 12 pound birds deliver more meat than one 24 pound bird – plus they are easier to manage in my oven or smoker or grill or Big Easy – take less time to cook and less chance of meat drying out.
Sometimes I’ll place smaller birds in seal-able plastic bags, but still place them in the pot for insurance against leakage.
I stored the pot with the brining bird in my refrigerated cooler.
Later that afternoon I removed the bird from the pot and rinsed it. While you can certainly brine for up to 24 hours – I’ve found that I get good results in as few as 8 when cooking this size bird.
After rinsing and drying off with paper towels I placed the bird on a platter in the regular fridge for about an hour to ‘air dry’ a bit. Remember one of the rules of roasting and grilling:
“Wet = Steam.
Dry = Crisp & Brown.”
Next step was to lightly rub the exterior of the bird with some neutral flavored oil. When cooking in The Big Easy I add just a light coat of peanut or canola oil to the surface of a turkey or chicken prior to roasting. You don’t have to but I like to. I didn’t add any salt to the skin because brining adds a bit of salt to the meat so I don’t think it needs extra. Some folks like to add a rub to the surface of the turkey, even under the skin. If that’s your style of preparation – you may not need to apply oil on the skin.
The next steps are pretty simple. Place the turkey cavity over a half can of beer -I used a 32 oz. size – and place the bird in the cooking basket. I use the Easy Out Hinged Basket and find that is makes the task very easy. The cooking part is pretty easy.
- Set the basket with the turkey in The Big Easy oil-less infrared turkey fryer.
- Turn on The Big Easy.
- Plan on cooking for about 10 minutes per pound.
I’m not suggesting you take a nap or watch the game on TV when preparing food in The Big Easy. You should always be attentive to any outdoor cooking appliance – but cooking in The Big Easy is not anywhere as worrisome as using a hot oil fryer.
When cooking a large roast on your grill, smoker or in The Big Easy – I always recommend you use an oven safe meat thermometer inserted into the roast so the tip of the temperature probe is in the center of the meat and away from bone (bones conduct heat a bit faster than meat – so your readings can be off). The only way to know something is cooked, without cutting into it and looking, is using a reliable thermometer. I place the meat thermometer in the breast meat so it is easily viewed from the top of the cooker when the chicken or turkey is roasted in a vertical position. And I set the timer for about 60 minutes.
An 11 pound turkey will cook in The Big Easy at a rate of approximately 10 minutes per pound and that added up to approximately 110 minutes. I wanted to keep ‘abreast’ of what was going on in the bird so set the timer to remind me to go check on it. I did and it was still way below 150F degrees. No worries – another 15 or twenty minutes I says to myself. I go back to the kitchen and continue prepping the rest of the meal. I can see the cooker through the kitchen window and it’s a boring site. BUT I forgot to set the timer. I realize it’s been nearly a half an hour since I went outside! YIKES!
In my mind’s eye there is a picture of this crispy blackened bird, the meat all dry. And having to go to the store and get another so I can write this story – but not tell a soul that I messed up! Using the hook that comes with the cooker I lift the basket and the thermometer in the breast meat is registering 175F degrees. Insert the instant read digital thermometer in the thigh and it reads 180F degrees. OH MAN~! A turkey of this size will continue to cook from internal heat and potentially raise in temperature anywhere from 5 – 10 degrees. I generally cook until the breast meat reads just a tad more than 165F degrees.
Well…thank goodness I brined the bird (more moisture to begin with) and because of the 8oz of beer that heated up and steamed inside the bird it was not over cooked at all. In fact it was perfectly done and so very moist. I’ll let the pictures tell the story.