The Main Menu: Cooking a turkey outside on the barbecue an option for this year’s Christmas dinner

Barbecued turkey is a great option for this year's Christmas dinner, writes food columnist Jan Main.


There is no doubt about it. With COVID-19 lurking in the background, our Christmas feasting and gathering of the past has to change for this year.

It won’t be the usual crowd of friends and family around the dining table. That could be a recipe for disaster.

Instead, we may have to move our celebrations outside to the patio if allowed. We must all follow the most current public health guidelines regarding the number of people allowed to gather and where they are from. Those rules are changing even as this column is published and COVID-19 case numbers continue to be reported. So be careful and follow the rules.

Barbecued turkey, cooked outside, might be an answer to the Christmas menu for this year.

As good luck would have it, this recipe for barbecued turkey (equally good with whole roasting chickens, or Cornish hens, whichever you prefer) has been a family staple for every Thanksgiving and Christmas.

I hope you enjoy it as much as we do! Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Barbecued, Herb Roasted Turkey

Once you have prepared your turkey using this no-fuss method, you are a convert. It cooks in double-quick time, leaves your oven free for vegetable casseroles and you can throw out the foil pan. Clean – up is a breeze. Best of all, the turkey is tender, juicy and delicious!

1 fresh turkey (12-16 lbs (5.5 kg to 7 kg)
1 onion
1 celery stalk
2 tbsp [ (25 mL) olive oil
1 lemon, washed and rind grated over turkey, juice squeezed over
2 tsp (10 mL) each, dried thyme and rosemary
Salt and fresh black pepper to shake over the turkey
2 bay leaves

Pre-heat barbecue to medium-high. Spread liquid dishwasher detergent on outside of roasting pan (this facilitates clean-up) or use disable foil roasting pan and throw out!

Remove neck and giblets from turkey (if there are any). Rinse bird under cold running water and pat dry with paper towels.

Arrange turkey breast side up on rack in roasting pan, tuck wings under back; you don’t need to truss (stuffing is separate).

Place onion and celery in cavity. Drizzle olive oil over bird. Squeeze lemon juice evenly over bird and sprinkle with lemon rind. Sprinkle thyme, rosemary, salt and pepper evenly over bird. Pour 2 – 3 cups (500 mL- 750 mL) water or chicken stock into pan with 2 bay leaves.

Cover completely with heavy duty aluminum foil and fold foil over edge of roasting pan crimping edges together tightly. Place on barbecue grill; close lid. Cook for 2 – 2 ½ hours replenishing liquid as needed (check once or twice) Cook until meat thermometer registers 170 F (77 C). Remove from barbecue and let stand, covered 15 minutes before carving.

Make Ahead Turkey and Gravy

If you wish, turkey or chicken may be cooked a day ahead of serving.

Slice meat and arrange in overlapping layers on oven proof serving plate. Sprinkle with about 1-2 cups (240 mL) pan juices to keep moist. Cover with foil and refrigerate. Re-heat turkey in a 350F (180 C) oven. While re-heating, make gravy.

Turkey Stock for Gravy or Soup

1 turkey or chicken carcass
Cold water to cover
1 each, onion chopped and carrot peeled and chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
4 sprigs fresh parsley
2 bay leaves
1 tsp (5 mL) thyme

In Dutch oven or stock pot, add carcass, cold water to cover (cold water used to draw flavour from carcass), onion, carrot, celery, parsley, bay leaves and thyme. Bring to boil; reduce heat and simmer 1 to 1 ½ hours.

Strain through sieve; cover and refrigerate. Once stock is chilled; remove fat and discard. Makes about 8 cups stock. Use to make gravy or as a base for soup.


1/4 cup (50 mL) butter
1/4 cup (50 mL) flour
3-4 cups (1 L) reserved turkey or chicken stock
1 tsp (5 mL) salt
1/4 tsp (1 ml) fresh black pepper

In saucepan, melt butter. Stir in flour and cook a few minutes until pale brown and drawing away from pan.

Gradually stir in reserved turkey stock and cook whisking until desired thickness and smooth. Season with salt and pepper.

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