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Honey Brined Grilled Turkey with Giblet Cream Gravy

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This turkey recipe is a hybrid of a couple of recipes I collected at They have a world of good turkey advice over there, so if you need some ideas or advice, I’d really encourage you to go over there and take a look for yourself. They’re not paying me a dime to say that, but really, they should! I’m a loyal recipe customer of theirs, and have been scouring their site for recipes for years.

Over the years, I have tried this recipe with the generic store brand turkey, with a kosher turkey, with an organic, free range turkey, and with a Butterball turkey. I can’t really tell that after the brine, that it makes one bit of difference what type of turkey you use. If you brine your turkey, and cook it to the right temperature, it WILL come out moist and delicious. So feel free to buy a cheaper turkey, if you are looking for permission to do so.

There are two beautiful aspects to grilling your Thanksgiving turkey other than the magnificent flavor: one is that it frees up valuable oven real estate, which is at such a premium during the Thanksgiving meal preparation, and, two, if your husband is willing to oversee the grilling of the bird, that is one less thing you will be responsible for preparing on Thursday. Which is a huge plus! My brain, like my oven, only has so much available real estate. I am always grateful to be able to free it up a bit!!!

The first turkey recipe that I borrowed from,  I used chiefly for the brine, and the gravy, but I jettisoned the cooking method. It worked fine as written, but my dear husband, the Big Bison, wanted to try grilling the turkey, and we found that we liked that method even better. The first recipe I used was published in Bon Appétit magazine, and the second was originally published in Gourmet magazine, but I have altered them each so much that I am comfortable in presenting them as my own hybrid recipe. 

Honey Brined  Grilled Turkey with Giblet Cream Gravy

Yield: Makes 14 to 16 servings
1 14 lb. turkey; neck, heart and gizzard reserved for gravy
8 quarts water
2 cups coarse salt
1 cup honey
2 bunches fresh thyme
8 large garlic cloves, peeled
2 tablespoons coarsely cracked black pepper

Reserved turkey neck, heart and gizzard
6 cups water
3 1/2 cups canned low-salt chicken broth
2 carrots, coarsely chopped
1 onion, halved
1 large celery stalk, chopped
1 small bay leaf

5 tablespoons butter
5 tablespoons all purpose flour
1/4 cup whipping cream

For turkey:
I have found that it works well to make my brine on Wednesday afternoon, several hours before I need it. I warm up  a gallon of water (the recipe calls for 8 qts. of water, which is 2 gallons, so that is half the water needed, and then dissolve the honey and salt in that. That way, the honey and salt dissolve more easily! Otherwise, you’ll be doing a lot of stirring. Then, let the water come to room temperature. The second gallon of water that you add to that solution can be nice, cold water. You really don’t want to be brining your turkey in warm water. Bacteria would grow too quickly.)I brine the turkey before I go to bed on Wednesday night. 
Line extra-large stockpot with heavy large plastic bag (about 30-gallon capacity). Rinse turkey; place in plastic bag. To the honey, salt, and water solution,  add 1 bunch fresh thyme, peeled garlic cloves and black pepper. Pour brine over turkey. Gather plastic bag tightly around turkey so that bird is covered with brine; seal plastic bag. Refrigerate pot with turkey in brine at least 12 hours and up to 18 hours.

I don’t have much room in my fridge at this point in my Thanksgiving preparations, so I generally put the turkey in the cooler, add ice if necessary (depends on how cold it is outside, know what I mean?), and set the cooler outside my kitchen door. I don’t have bears who come and scavenge my yard, so that works out for me. If you live where bears or raccoons or other critters roam wild: consult your own best judgment!

For the past several years, we have made this turkey on a gas grill, so I’ll include those instructions here, because we know they work. We used a large gas grill fitted with a thermometer — and I’ve been told that it’s more labor-intensive to keep a charcoal grill at a constant high heat. You’ll need a disposable roasting pan large enough to fit the turkey on a V-rack.

How to Grill this Sucker:

1 brined turkey
1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper

Special equipment: metal skewer, if desired; kitchen string; a flat metal rack; an instant-read thermometer; a foil pan large enough to hold your turkey.


Rinse brine from turkey, inside and out and pat dry. Sprinkle pepper evenly in turkey cavities and all over skin: turkey should be plenty salty from its brine bath. Fold neck skin under body and, if desired, secure with metal skewer, then tuck wing tips under breast and tie drumsticks together with kitchen string.

Gas Grill Instructions:

Preheat burners on high, covered, 10 minutes, then turn off 1 burner (middle one if there are 3). Put turkey on oiled rack in roasting pan and add 2 cups water to pan. Set pan over turned-off burner and close lid immediately (temperature drops quickly when lid is lifted). Grill, adjusting burner or burners to maintain 450°F and rotating pan 180 degrees halfway through grilling, until thermometer inserted in fleshy part of each thigh registers 170°F, 1 3/4 to 2 1/2 hours. Time could be longer in cold weather. Avoid opening lid often because of rapid heat loss.

 Charcoal grill instructions:

You’re on your own till after Thanksgiving. LOL!

We’re going to try this this year, and we’re gonna make it up as we go along. If YOU have any helpful tips you would like to send us on charcoal grilling a turkey, we’re all ears!! Just leave them for me in the comments section!!!
This year, the BB is going to attempt to smoke/grill our turkey on his new Char Griller Charcoal Grill & Smoker,
Char-Griller 2222 Pro Deluxe Charcoal Grill & Smoker

with some wood pellets that he bought at Costco. I have no idea if this is going to work or not, but will come back and alter the recipe once we know the results.

Yield: Makes 14 to 16 servings

How to Make the Gravy:

While turkey cooks, place reserved turkey neck, heart and gizzard into large saucepan. Add 6 cups water, 3 1/2 cups chicken broth, carrots, onion, celery and bay leaf. Simmer over medium heat until turkey stock is reduced to 3 cups, about 2 hours. Strain turkey stock into bowl; reserve turkey neck and giblets. Pull meat off neck. Chop neck meat and giblets.
Melt 5 tablespoons butter in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add 5 tablespoons all purpose flour and whisk 2 minutes. Gradually whisk in turkey stock, cream and up to 1 cup reserved turkey pan juices (juices are salty, so add according to taste). Simmer gravy until thickened to desired consistency, whisking occasionally, about 5 minutes. Add chopped turkey neck meat and giblets; season to taste with pepper.
Serve turkey with gravy.

Susan in the Boonies

Saturday 27th of November 2010

Theresa: I would NOT stuff a turkey that has been brined and then grill it. The stuffing will be too salty. Save your drippings from the water pan. Boil those down. And you can use a little bit (1/4 c. or so) to flavor your gravy that you make with turkey broth or chicken broth. But I would not use too much: it's the saltiness that I'm concerned about. A little bit is like liquid gold in terms of flavor, but a little bit goes a long way.

Hope this helps!!!

Theresa in WV

Saturday 27th of November 2010

What do you think about stuffing the turkey and grilling it? I'm using your briny bird recipe and grilling it, but using the lazy spruced up Pepperidge Farm stuffing. I'll try your stuffing recipe another time!


Tuesday 23rd of November 2010

Thanks for the information. I am going to brine my turkey this year. Hubby just found out, he's not especially happy because he's concerned about the extra salt. But, he knows that I've been wanting to try for years so he did not say please don't do that.

Thanks for all your tips.

Diane Barlow

Tuesday 23rd of November 2010

I have childhood memories of the nasty parts boiling merrily away on the back of my mother's stove. Can't make good gravy without them. We (and by that I mean Chris) are smoking the turkey this year. We'll have to compare notes. Have a wonderful day Susan, love you girlfriend, so thankful for our friendship.


Tuesday 23rd of November 2010

I love your title on this one!