Preparing the perfect Thanksgiving turkey

By Chef Tom Jackson | All Things Barbeque

Thanksgiving turkey can be intimidating. Even seasoned cooks struggle to produce a perfectly moist, crowd pleasing, nap-inducing turkey. The good news is, we're here to help.

There are essentially three ways to prepare your turkey for cooking: spatchcocking, cooking it whole, and breaking the bird down to parts. We prefer spatchcocking, which is to say we remove the backbone from the bird and lay it flat to cook. This gives you a more evenly cooked turkey and makes carving off the meat just as easy as cooking it whole.

Spatchcocking is simple. Place the bird breast side down and cut along both sides of the backbone with good poultry shears. Flip the bird over once the backbone is removed and press down to make it sit flat on your cutting board.

Our next step to the perfect turkey is brining the bird. Brining is the process of submerging meat in a salt solution, often in combination with other flavoring agents like herbs, chiles or aromatics, to give your meat the best shot at staying moist while cooking. Brining the turkey can take a couple of hours to overnight. Each product will recommend different brining times. Be careful not to over brine your bird as this can lead to mushy, overly salted meat.

Sweetwater Spice makes a great product in this category. Their Lemon Thyme Turkey Bath brings a citrusy element to your brining process, much like a marinade would. When you brine your bird you'll want to have either a large plastic brining bag or a purpose built product like The Brining Bucket which is a 22 quart food grade plastic container that features a locking plate to keep the bird submerged while brining. No more weighing down the turkey with plates or pans, just lock the plate in place, put the lid on and set it in your fridge until you're ready to cook.

The final element to perfect turkey is a good rub. Our go-to rub paired with the Lemon Thyme Turkey Bath is Oakridge BBQ's Santa Maria Seasoning. To season the bird you'll pull it from the brine, pat it dry with a paper towel to remove any excess moisture and then gently pull the skin back from the meat. This will allow you to season the bird where it really counts. Once you have a nice coating of rub under the skin, lay the skin back and lightly season the outer skin with your rub.

Now we're ready to cook!

Place the bird in your smoker, grill or oven set to 350 degrees on a foil lined pan to help keep things clean. Using an instant read thermometer, cook the turkey until it is 165 internal.

For more turkey and Thanksgiving recipes visit

November cooking classes

Thanksgiving Dinner on the Grill
Thanksgiving dinner, start to finish, paired with wine!
Friday, Nov. 18 at 6 p.m.

Holiday Turkey and Ham
A little turkey, a little ham, a lot of happiness!
Saturday, Nov. 19 at 10 a.m.

Blue Ribbon Brisket
A little something different for the holidays.
Saturday, Nov. 19 at 2 p.m.

For full menus and to sign up visit

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