Family, Food and Turkey, Reflections on Thanksgiving | Grilling with Rich Family, Food and Turkey, Reflections on Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving…..The Bird is the Word…but don’t forget the gravy

Posted By: Richard Wachtel
Published: October 27, 2014

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Editors Note: We would like to thank our Guest writer George Hensler who is the pitmaster of Who are Those Guys? From Street, MD.

Thanksgiving is around the corner and here is a great article about Thanksgiving!  Don’t forget to visit our BBQ and Grilling Themed Thanksgiving resource page by clicking here

Thanksgiving…..The Bird is the Word…but don’t forget the gravy

By: George Hensler

I can’t believe it is November already, the Christmas carols we have been bombarded with since the middle of October tell us the holidays are upon us and who can think about the holidays and not dream about eating turkey. The National Turkey Federation reports 88% of Americans surveyed eat turkey on Thanksgiving, which amounts to approximately 46 million birds. If you add in the 22 million served on Christmas along with 19 million for Easter and you’ve got yourself a mess of turkey, not to mention the pounds of mashed potatoes, cranberries and gallons of gravy that also occupy valuable table space. I need to apologize here, try as I might, I just couldn’t locate a source to determine a number for the gallons of gravy consumed. Apparently a National Gravy Federation does not exist, but I am here to tell you, it should.

The other day I was asked if I have ever smoked a turkey for Thanksgiving, upon reflection, I realized I have not. For the late November feast, I am more of a traditionalist and always serve our bird roasted in the oven, just like Mom used to make, the crowd has come to expect it. I have, however, cooked turkeys both in my smoker and on the grill, just not for consumption on the big fall feast.

A whole roast turkey with fresh herbs, grapes and pumpkin

A whole roast turkey with fresh herbs, grapes and pumpkin — Image by © Beisch, Leigh/the food passionates/Corbis

Upon reflection, it occurred to me that I have no real turkey procedure, in other words, no real method to my turkey madness. I usually just coat the bird with a little oil, my favorite rub, then toss it in the cooker, sometimes whole and sometimes spatchcocked or butterflied and cook until done.

I realized this after I was asked to scribble an article about one of our favorite holiday meals. It was only then that I began to poke around and see what others do to prepare their Thanksgiving feasts. Most everywhere I turned I kept being recommended or directed to the method used by one of Americas foremost turkey junkies, a bonafide turkaconis freak, Mad Max Rosen.

Max is a friend and a regular fixture on the competition BBQ circuit, especially here on the east coast. His dissertation on cooking turkey and gravy on the Big Green Egg is one of the best I have seen.

He goes into great detail with each step and also provides accompanying photos which I found to be very helpful. The procedure might be considered cooker specific, but in fact, Max tells me you can adapt the procedure to fit most any grill, smoker type set-up or even use your home oven.

There are two parts of the recipe I find very intriguing, the use of the 1 gallon zip lock bag of ice to “cool” the breasts and the gravy method which also includes the “big finish” winding up with the statement he bets it will be the “best you have ever had.” I thought at first, that was a pretty tall claim, but after reading the steps, I think he might be onto something. Max’s mantra is “a great bird with average gravy makes for an average meal, but great gravy will elevate even an average bird into great meal.”

Admittedly, I find the concept in both of the above steps very interesting and plan to implement both the next time I am called upon to cook a turkey which with the holidays coming, will probably be sooner than later.

I look forward to giving the Mad Max turkey recipe a try. In the meanwhile, I am giving this Nation Gravy Federation some serious thought. We have foundations and federations for just about everything else, why not gravy? Is there any side that is as tasty and sought after on the Thanksgiving table more than a well-made gravy? I think not. That being said, it stands to reason that there should be a National Gravy Federation. So it is without further ado, that I nominate Max Rosen to be its President and founding member, at least of the Thanksgiving chapter.

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