Outside In: You Don’t Need a Kitchen to Roast a Turkey 

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Get your bird out of the house this Thanksgiving — or Christmas. Oven-roasted? How boring. There are three ways to unplug from your oven. Why not look at the trees while getting the star of the show ready for the table?


1. Frying

This is probably the most familiar nonroasting method. Initially popularized — fun fact — by Martha Stewart way back in the ’90s, it involves heating gallons of oil and carefully lowering in your bird. One big advantage is that it takes only 45 minutes or so until it’s done.

It’s also the most dangerous way to cook. But if you take care — for instance, never leave the fryer unattended — you’ll be out back drinking a beer with your relatives in no time while you all gaze into the depths of the previously mentioned bubbling hot oil and have meaningful conversations.

Most fryers use propane and are fairly interchangeable, but you should look for one with a built-in thermometer to make monitoring the cooking easiest.

The first thing you’ll need to do is set up on a level surface — a driveway is ideal and nonflammable, unlike, say, the porch or the lawn. After you fill the pot with oil, heat it to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Make sure your turkey is completely thawed and that you’ve dried it thoroughly. Oil and water do not mix. Lower the turkey into the oil carefully, using the heaviest duty oven mitts you can find and fry until the turkey’s internal temperature reaches 165-170 degrees. It should take about 3 minutes per pound to get there.


2. Smoking

This is also a familiar method, but most folks leave the smoking to others instead of doing it themselves. That’s a mistake. Most of the process is hands-off, with occasional checks to make sure the smoking temperature is consistent.

Smokers come in several styles. The fancy — and expensive — Big Green Eggs are heavy ceramic smokers based on clay ovens called kamodos. Bullet smokers are taller and have a pan of water in-between the smoldering charcoal and the meat to help keep things moist and to control temperature. Last, you can always use your good old Weber kettle if you use the offset cooking method and push the charcoal to two opposite sites with the turkey on the grill in the middle.

Start by soaking two cups of wood chips for at least an hour. Heat the smoker to 325-350 degrees. Once you have the fire settled, sprinkle the wood chips overtop. Brush the turkey with melted butter and place it on the grill. Close it up and give the fire a look every 15 to 30 minutes, stoking as needed. After two or three hours, check the internal temperature of the bird with a meat thermometer — you don’t want to go above 170 degrees. Calculate about 25-30 minutes per pound or consult the directions that came with your smoker.

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3. Solar

I bet you haven’t done this before. I know I haven’t. But it’s possible. Of course, of the three methods, it’s the riskiest. If the sun isn’t shining, you’re out of luck, friend, so make sure you have a back-up plan. One the positive side, this is also one of the easiest ways to roast a turkey.

Before you buy — or build — a solar cooker, make sure it has the capacity to hold the size of turkey you plan to cook. The kind used on “Top Chef,” Wayfair’s SolSource, is too small. You’ll want to find one that’s deeper and wider, such as the All-American Sun Oven.

Once you’ve checked the Weather Channel and compared it with what Wxrisk is saying on Facebook, take a moment to extend your gratitude to the sun, and then let the oven preheat. Brush the turkey with melted butter and slide it into one of those plastic oven bags. Put it into an oval roasting pan, cover it with a lid and put the pan at the center of the cooker.

Align the cooker with the sun. You’ll need to check it every hour or so, and rotate it to keep it in the proper position. The temperature inside should hit about 300 degrees, and the turkey should take the same amount of time to roast as it would in a conventional oven, so count on about 25 minutes per pound. And don’t forget, the magic internal number is 165-170 degrees. Safety comes first, so abandon the experiment and put the bird in the kitchen oven if you’re running out of time — you don’t want to poison your whole family, now, do you?


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