Livefire Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is probably my favorite holiday. My family gets together as much as possible, there’s no real pressure to go to more than one house for the day, there’s usually good football and there are still three days left before going back to work!

As a food lover, the day also food. I like to try new things pretty often, except on Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving, to me, is a day to do traditional food… turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, etc. In Livefire manner, though, this year’s Thanksgiving dinner was done using nothing but outdoor cooking! That’s right… the whole meal would be cooked using nothing but charcoal and wood for heat!

I used three cookers outside: an XL Big Green Egg (BGE), a Bubba Keg Convection Grills (BKCG) and a Weber One-Touch Gold 22.5″ grill. The BGE and BKCG were used for smoking and baking, and the Weber was used as a cook top.

This year, I wanted to smoke a big turkey again, because I like leftovers! I like them so much, I can be heard this weekend on an hourly basis on Hybrid FM, Waynesville, Ohio, small town radio and on the internet talking about leftovers. I picked up a 28.5 pound naturally-raised, fresh turkey from Dorothy Lane Market, raised at the Bowman & Landes turkey farm about 30 miles from our house.

I brined the turkey overnight Tuesday night, in a brine with 3/4 cup salt per gallon of water (it took about 3 gallons), 1/2 cup Turbinado sugar per gallon, 1 cup of bourbon, about 2 tablespoons of peppercorns, 3-4 sprigs of fresh sage, 3 fresh bay leaves and a few sprigs of fresh thyme. Since the Bruno the turkey was so big, I put the brine and turkey in a good cooler, adding 16 lbs of ice to ensure it stayed cold. After 24 hours in the brine, I rinsed off the bird, cleaned out the cooler and put the bird back in after drying it off, again with 16 lbs of ice.

By bedtime on Wednesday, the turkey was kept cold; pie crusts were made and in the fridge; and fennel/sherry, onion/pomegranate juice and onion/balsamic vinegar relishes were made. 2 pounds of Bob Evans sausage had also been smoked for breakfast the next day.

Then I woke up Thursday morning, and Thanksgiving began in earnest! Both the BGE and BKCG were loaded up with charcoal, with pecan wood added to the BGE. The turkey was set out with ice on the breasts to keep the temperature down a bit compared to the rest of the bird; this is to try to get the whole bird up to 165 F at the same time when cooking. I quartered 2 onions and 2 apples and stuffed the cavity with them, along with a couple sprigs of thyme and sage. I also chopped up some thyme and sage to put under the skin of the turkey after I took the ice off of it (about 20 minutes later). I added some salt and pepper to the bird and a bit of olive oil was rubbed on the skin. Then it was time to put Bruno on the BGE at 325 F.

The 2 pounds of smoked sausage were chopped up while hashbrown casserole was baking on the BKCG. The sausage was heated up, with some bacon grease, in a cast iron skillet on the Weber. The fire was on one side of the grill to allow me to move the skillet on or off the fire as needed. I added flour to the sausage and browned it all, then added milk to cover the sausage. The hashbrown casserole got done, and biscuits were baked on the BKCG. Once the biscuits were done, breakfast was served!

With Wave 1 of Thanksgiving food done, it was time to move to the main event! I made some bread dough to let it proof, and pumpkin and apple pies were prepped using the already-made pie crusts, then put on the BKCG, one on each grate, with the pumpkin above the apple, though that wasn’t really for any particular reason. While the pies baked, sweet potato casserole was put together, along with green bean casserole.

Green bean casserole is a love it or hate it sort of thing. I happen to love the cheapo stuff with canned beans and cream of mushroom soup with the premade fried onions in a can. I would love to prefer a gourmet version of this, but I like the same old stuff! It’s one of those Thanksgiving Day traditional things, I guess.

While the casseroles were on the BKCG, the turkey got to the right doneness, so it went into the oven just to stay out of the way and keep warm. With the BGE open, stuffing went on it at 350 F. The stuffing was done from a Williams Sonoma recipe, and was made with chestnuts, Italian sausage and crimini mushrooms, and bread went on the BKCG after the casseroles were done.

Now I have to admit something… I broke form and made 2 things on the stove. On was the turkey gravy, which was Williams-Sonoma turkey base, milk and drippings from the turkey. It was really just heating up the gravy. The other thing was boiling the potatoes for mashed potatoes. These could have very easily been done on the Weber, but, by the time I needed to do these, it was raining, and I thought it better to do them inside, both to not ruin the gravy and to not get myself sick standing in the rain. So I cheated a bit there.

Finally, everything was done. After about 7 hours of work, we got through the meal in the also-traditional 30 minutes of eating.

Was it worth it? I’d say yes. My family helped out when they could, opening doors, helping put together stuffing, mashing potatoes. Everything turned out really great except the sweet potato casserole, which I burned a bit, which was okay because I don’t like it anyway. The kitchen was only used for prepping dishes, so it was a bit less congested than normal, and the outdoor cooking really does add a great flavor to dishes, even pied.

Next year, we’ll see if we do a repeat or not. Right now, all I have to worry about is how many ways can I come up with for using these leftovers?

I hope you and your family had a great Thanksgiving. It’s not really all about the food, even though food blogs make it seem that way; I hope you had friends and family to share the day.

About Curt McAdams

I guess I'm a bit of a foodie, learning to cook from my mom, then getting obsessed with outdoor cooking, competition barbecue, bread baking and just about all things food. Lately, I've been trying to upgrade my photography skills a bit, though I still have a long way to go.

19 comments

  1. We did indeed spend time with friends and had an excellent holiday
    Your feast looks amazing, and wonderful use of your outdoor cookery!…

  2. MYOTG,

    I’m glad to hear yours was a great day. The food is what we always concern ourselves with, but it’s really the people that make the day.

  3. It all looks simply beautiful! Glad you all had a wonderful time!

    My family has never done the odd one house after another thing. I cant imagine doing that.

    We all live 1,000s of miles apart so when we get together we are all together.

  4. nika,

    The nice thing about staying in one place is you just get to enjoy being with family. However, with some families, having to stay together that long can be a bad thing! :)

  5. Oh! LOL

    Yeah, thats hard to imagine. I have not seen my mom in 3 years and one of my sisters in 4 years and the other since 1999 (my dad’s funeral). Its not because we dont get along but due to financial issues.

    Some families do not know how great they have it!

  6. Very impressive. Looks like you had a great day playing with food and fire.

  7. We must grill thanksgiving next year! We only have one charcoal Weber so we might need to get a little more fire power!
    Love Dorothy Lane Market- my husband is from Dayton and we go to that market every time we visit. Wish they had one like it in So Cal.

  8. Anne Marie,

    I wish the rain had held off, but it’s always a good day when I get to play with fire!

    Beryl,

    Dorothy Lane Market is just unbeatable, I think. They’re even up for an award as the best gourmet grocery, up against Harrod’s and Dean & Deluca… you can vote for them here: http://www.luxist.com/awards-vote/food-awards

  9. Dang, Curt, you outdid yourself. Awesome spread! I like the ice breast trick. The dishes for your stuffing are great, are they le crueset? Nice prep on the turkey too. The breakfast itself was excellent looking!

    I think we can let you slide on the potatoes;)

  10. Happy Thanksgiving! I was going to cook my 20 lb turkey in the BGE, following your instructions, but it didn’t fit. It turned out well anyway, but fried turkey is still a favorite here.

  11. Chris,

    I hope it’s ok to slide on the potatoes; I didn’t want to ruin the gravy or get rained on doing the potatoes. :)

    Best leftovers so far… Stuffing done in a frittata, then gravy added on top!

    Ninette, I’ll ask how big fits right on an L BGE… You may change your mind about your favorite! I like both, but that bit of smoke from the BGE is hard to beat. I hope you and your family had a great Thanksgiving!

  12. Beautifully cooked and shot. Looks like a great day for you all.

  13. ks,

    Thanks. I didn’t really take the time to set up shots too much. I thought about doing more, but my family was getting hungry! :)

  14. never had smoked turkey before but it sounds good!

  15. chubbychinesegirl,

    Great blog name. :) I guess my turkey was more roasted with added wood flavor, as I did it at 325F. Turkey can, in my opinion, be oversmoked; my grandfather used to smoke them really slow, with lots of wood. You could almost exhale smoke!

  16. Curt,

    That is very impressive!!! Don’t know what else to say. Lots of good info too. I like that you did the pies and bread on the Bubba. They always come out good for me on that grill. Thanks for the details on your turkey brine. Sounds great :P

  17. BnB,

    It was a fun, but tiring, day… But I’d do it again. :)

  18. The best part about a smoked turkey has to be the smoked carcass that works great for stock.

    Awesome job and uhh…where was my invitation??

  19. Jeff,

    You’re welcome any time! And as to the carcass, it’s in the freezer, ready to be chopped up and made into stock very soon. It’s just too big to use wihout cutting it up a bit.

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