My Meal Planner
Tips & Information
Updated Southern Cooking:
Barbecued Butterflied Turkey
When my friend Terry called in a panic for help with his weekend cookout,
this recipe came to the rescue. It seems the person who bought the turkeys
thought they were fresh, not frozen. A nd Terry discovered this only a few
hours before the guests were to arrive.
Thaw turkey by immersing it in a sinkfull of cold water, changing the water
every few minutes. Use warm water only if absolutely necessary. When
quick-thawing in this manner, it is important that the bird be cooked
immediately after preparation, to avoid possible bacterial growth, which will
be enhanced by warm water thawing. Adding several tablespoons of salt to the
water helps, and improves the flavor of the bird, as well. The boning
technique described here is the same as the one presented in The Way to
Cook, by Julia Child, which also provides color photographs of the
Once the turkey is completely thawed, start the charcoal in a large grill.
You need a cooking surface at least two feet in width for each bird, more if
possible. While someone tends the fire, butterfly the bird as follows, using
your sharpest boning knife or butcher’s knife.
1. Cut off the tail piece. Cut out and remove the wishbone. Slit the skin
down the middle of the backbone from neck to tail.
2. Starting on one side, taking care to direct the blade always toward the
bone and away from the skin, cut the meat away from the carcass using short
slicing strokes. This takes practice, but you’ll get the hang of it in
before you finish one bird.
3. When you come to the ball joint where the thigh bone meets the carcass,
put down the knife and disjoint the thigh by twisting it toward the
breastbone until it pops out. Cut around the joint to free it and continue
to scrape the flesh from the carcass.
4. Similarly disjoint the wing at the shoulder joint.
5. Taking care to keep the edge of the knife toward the ribs, cut away the
breast meat all the way to, but not through, the breast bone.
6. Using the knife, or better, heavy kitchen shears, cut the rib cage away
from the breastbone to free the carcass. Use the carcass and any other
scraps, such as the neck and tail piece (but not the giblets) to make stock.
The bird can now be laid out flat, with each half of the breast and each pair
of limbs splayed on either side, all held together by the skin. Transfer it
to a large sheet pan. Thoroughly baste both sides of the turkey with a
mixture of 1/2 cup olive oil (not extra-virgin) and 2 tablespoons or more of
your favorite Cajun seasoning mix. (Most contain salt, paprika, onion
powder, black pepper, cayenne and garlic powder, with assorted additions,
depending upon the brand. Try concocting your own.)
Transfer the bird immediately to the hot grill, skin side down. Grill,
regulating the fire as necessary, until the skin is richly browned, basting
from time to time with the lemon juice squeezed directly from the fruit over
the bird. If necessary, baste with additional oil and seasoning mixture.
When the skin is a lovely golden color, perhaps starting to char in a spot or
two, turn the bird over, using tongs, and baste the skin with lemon juice as
before. Continue cooking until a thermometer inserted in the thickest part
of the thigh, without touching bone, reads 165°F. (This will only take about
an hour or so.) Remove the bird to a platter, using care to prevent the
wings or thigh and leg portions from coming loose, as they will be very
tender. Garnish with lemon halves and a bunch of fresh parsley.
Carving a turkey prepared in this way is simple, and can even be left up to
the guests, since this dish lends itself to a buffet presentation outdoors.
To really wow them, serve the turkey with this barbecue sauce, adapted from
the El Paso Chili Company Cookbook by W. Park Kerr. The recipe makes
two quarts, and I have modified Kerr’s proportions to better suit the
standard packaging of the ingredients, which are easy to find.
John’s Version of “Peach of the Old South” Barbecue Sauce Kerr
In a large, heavy, nonreactive kettle, such as enameled cast iron, combine
the following over low heat:
Two 28 ounce cans crushed tomatoes with tomato puree (home canned is ideal)
One 8 ounce jar Grey Poupon ® Dijon mustard (no other)
One 18 ounce jar peach preserves (something made with Southern peaches,
One half pint Southern Comfort (minus about 1 ounce to fortify the cook)
The freshly squeezed juice of two large lemons (about 2/3 cup)
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup hot sauce (I really prefer one called “Texas Pete” over that famous
brand, but suit yourself)
2 teaspoons Kosher salt
Stir well, bring to a simmer and cook over low heat, partially covered,
stirring now and then, until reduced to two quarts. It will keep at least a
month if transferred to a clean hot jar and allowed to cool to room
temperature before storing, covered, in the refrigerator. However, if you
prepare several turkeys and have a crowd in, it will all be gone and the
guests will be licking their fingers as they search for more. So will the
Serve this with traditional barbecue fixin’s, or ask everyone, as Terry does,
to bring food to share. Cold beer is the only conceivable beverage, with
sweetened iced tea for the kids and the Baptists.
John Tullock is an expert gardener and self-taught cook who likes to
develop new recipes using his own fresh produce and the best from the local
market. His interest in plants and horticulture begin in childhood, and he
holds a masters degree in biology from The University of Tennessee. He also
co-owns "Native Sons Nursery," a retail business that specializes in
rare ornamental and gourmet vegetable plants.
Featured Articles Archive
Back to Member Home