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Eastern Carolina Turkey Barbecue

Follow our step-by-step, photo illustrated recipe to roast up some mouthwatering Eastern Carolina Turkey Barbecue, in the oven. We’re turning that same old turkey and gravy, into turkey barbecue and sauce for a nice twist on your holiday meal. Prep the turkey a day ahead of time, and take the pressure out of getting a big meal on the table in a rush. Printable recipes for our rub, sauce and roasting the turkey are included.

Turkey BBQ, slider

Eastern North Carolina Turkey Barbecue Recipe

Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by OXO, maker of Award Winning Cooking Tools and Housewares. While I didn’t receive any financial compensation for doing this post, OXO did provide me with the tools listed in this post. They also are allowing our readers to register to win one of the same set of tools for their personal use. All comments regarding my experience working with these tools are my own whether in favor of, or against the products shown here. All food items were purchased by me and not part of the promotion. This contest has ended.

Originally posted: November 14, 2014

Several weeks back, I was asked if I’d like to participate in a special promotion being sponsored by OXO, maker of Cooking Tools and other Housewares. I’ve been familiar with the name of OXO for many years, and know they produce some good quality products. Thus, I jumped at the chance to join in.

In exchange for my creating a special recipe to go along with the promotion, I was asked to try out some of the OXO brand tools, and to give my honest evaluation of them here on Taste of Southern. OXO was going to send me 5 or 6 selected tools for working up a Thanksgiving meal, and they also were going to offer the same set of tools to you, our readers, during a special giveaway that would run here on Taste of Southern.

As mentioned, I jumped at the chance to participate and signed right up.

Within a few days I received my package of kitchen tools, and some further instructions for the promotion. I’ve got a picture of all the tools that I received, and the tools that YOU could win, if you’re selected the special winner in this OXO sponsored promotion.

As a blogger, I’m required to share this information with you and to let you know that I did not receive any financial consideration from OXO, but I did receive, and get to keep, the tools that are pictured just a couple of photos down. OXO made no requirements on what I was to write about their products, only asking for a fair evaluation.

I’ll go ahead and tell you that I was very pleased with all of the products I received. I used all but one of the products, and I’ll tell you more about my thoughts and results with working them as you go through this recipe. You’ll also find out how you can enter our giveaway at the bottom of this post.

As for our Eastern North Carolina Turkey BBQ Recipe, I do hope you’ll try it. It’s not the standard turkey and gravy type of dish, but I believe it will be a surprising switch to your family should you decide to give it a try.

YES, it tastes a lot like the pork barbecue known here in the South, and is the EASTERN style of vinegar based bbq, as compared to the Western North Carolina style of a tomato based sauce. I may be a bit prejudice, but I think Eastern is much, much better.

Turkey BBQ would be a great recipe to cook up for someone that can’t eat much pork, or just doesn’t care for pork. (If such a person actually exists that doesn’t like pork.) I know a good number of people that shy away from pork for fear of it raising their blood pressure. This would be a great substitute for them.

One really good thing about the recipe, is that you can do all of the prep work for roasting the turkey, the day before you need to cook it. That’s going to save you a lot of work and take off a lot of the pressure of preparing a Thanksgiving, Christmas, or special holiday meal.

I do hope you’ll try the recipe, and I hope you’ll try some OXO tools in your own kitchen. You can order them online, or find them about anywhere kitchen tools and appliances are sold.

So, if you’re ready, lets get in the kitchen and get working on this bird. In other words… Let’s Get Cooking!

Turkey BBQ, ingredients.

Eastern Carolina Turkey BBQ recipe: You’ll need these ingredients to roast the turkey.

Turkey BBQ, rub ingredients.

Steve’s Butt Rub: You’ll need these ingredients to make our special butt rub.

The really nice thing about this recipe, is that you can do most of the prep work a day ahead of time. Follow the steps below, to keep yourself from being bogged down in the kitchen on the big day.

Turkey BBQ, place butter in mixing bowl.

Let’s Get Started:

We’ll begin by making up our Butter and Butt Rub to coat the turkey with. Place the room temperature butter in a small mixing bowl.

The OXO Stainless Steel Butter Dish keeps your butter covered in the refrigerator, and looks great enough to display on the table as needed. They also offer a plastic version. Both have stoppers inside to help hold the butter in place while slicing. Butter stays in the dish, so the lid doesn’t touch it and get messy.

Turkey BBQ, add the butt rub.

Add TWO Tablespoons of the Butt Rub recipe you’ve mixed up. Be sure to store any leftover rub in a container with a tight fitting lid to keep it dry. It’s also good on pork and chicken.

Turkey BBQ, add the mustard.

Add the Yellow Mustard.

Turkey BBQ, add Worcestershire sauce.

Add the Worcestershire Sauce.

Turkey BBQ, add liquid smoke.

Add the Liquid Smoke.

I realize liquid smoke isn’t available everywhere. It can be ordered online if you can’t find it locally and would like to try. It’s one of those optional ingredients that you don’t actually have to use, it’s just up to you. It does add a smokey taste to foods, but you must use it sparingly because of it’s strong flavor.

Turkey BBQ, mix well.

Mix it up well. If your butter is at room temperature this shouldn’t be hard to do. Stir it up with a fork really good, making sure all the spices are mixed in well. Sit this aside for now.

Turkey BBQ, remove giblets.

Prepare the turkey:

Now, let’s get the turkey ready for roasting. I normally just do all of this in the sink. I see no need to touch any more surfaces with raw poultry than need be, and it makes for easy cleanup afterwards.

Remove the turkey from it’s packing, saving any special instructions that might be printed on the wrapper.

Remove the neck bone, and any giblets that might be on the inside of the turkey. Be sure to check the neck opening as well, as some companies will stuff the giblets in this area. Place these pieces in a Ziplock type bag and refrigerate them for later. They’ll make some great giblet gravy for those mashed potatoes. You could also just freeze them until you need them later.

Turkey BBQ, rinse well.

Rinse the turkey really well under cold running water. You’ll also want to check the skin for any pin feathers that might have been overlooked. Be sure to rinse the bird inside and out, scrubbing any areas by hand that might need it.

If your turkey comes with one of those Pop-Up-Timers, as this one did (red dot) just leave it in. They are better than nothing when it comes to determining when the turkey is done, but a thermometer will be much more accurate. If you remove it, you’ll just have a nice little hole for the juices to run out of. Leave it in.

Turkey BBQ, pat dry.

Pat the turkey dry with some folded paper towels after you’ve rinsed it well.

Turkey BBQ, place butter under skin.

With the turkey all clean and dry, insert a big spoonful of the butter rub underneath the layer of skin. You’ll need to run your fingers under the skin covering the breast once the turkey is dry. Don’t use force, just gently work them around to lift the skin away from the breast meat. Once you’ve done that, you can slip some of the butter rub under the skin.

I used about a Tablespoon on each side of the breast. Place the butter under the front part of the skin, then use your fingers to spread the butter all up under the skin up towards the neck area. Watch for most of it to slip down the side and into the leg area, but push it back up to the top so it stays up high on the breast. I knew this was going to get messy, so I reached for the gloves. Looks like a delicate surgery of some sorts doesn’t it? (Smile)

It did get messy indeed. Thus, I didn’t take a bunch of photos of this part. You’ll see it a little better in just a moment. I used about half on the inside, and the rest was spread all over the outside of the turkey after it was trussed up securely.

Turkey BBQ, foil lined pan.

I don’t have a roasting pan, so here’s a little trick that works just as well. I lined one of my sheet cake pans with heavy duty aluminum foil. Then, I rolled up a couple of more pieces of the foil and use them as a rack inside the pan to place the turkey on. It works great, and the foil makes cleanup a lot quicker as well. You can thank me later.

Turkey BBQ, oxo poultry lifter.

Here’s where the OXO Poultry Lifter came in really handy. I wondered about this particular item, thinking that it was something that wouldn’t get used very much, and just another gadget tossed in a kitchen drawer. But, as you can see, the butter all over the outside of the turkey made for a slippery mess. I didn’t have to get my hands into that again with the lifter.

The Poultry Lifter is curved, as you can see above. You hold the black handle and insert the bottom part of the lifter inside the chicken or turkey you’re working with. Although I didn’t get a good picture of it, the bottom end is forked and curves up. This helps grab the turkey and makes lifting it more secure. I liked the one hand operation it provided.

Nice part of this tool is that you can use it during preparation, and again when lifting the HOT bird out of the pan once it’s cooked.

Turkey BBQ, poultry lifter.

Maybe this will give you a little better idea of how it works. Just work the forked in inside the cavity… and lift. Cool huh?

OK, as you can see the butter is covered about as good as I could get it with the butter rub. I’ve worked about half of the stick of butter up under the skin, and coated all over the outside of the bird with the rest.

I have also trussed the bird with kitchen twine to secure the legs and the wings while the bird is roasting. Most turkeys these days, come with a plastic or metal band around the legs to hold them in place while cooking. You can leave this in unless the package says they must be removed. And, many places also use the skin from the tail section of the turkey to bind the legs together.

Trussing the bird with kitchen twine, allowed me to tie the legs, and secure the wings up close to the body for roasting. It’s a bit more detailed than I had time to get into here. Maybe we can do that at a later date.

Turkey BBQ, oxo twine dispenser.

Normally, I have a small ball of kitchen twine stashed at the back of some kitchen drawer. It always comes unraveled to some extent. I really liked the OXO Perfect Cut Twine Dispenser that I received. It even came with a spool of kitchen twine, so it’s all complete. The twine is securely inside the plastic dispenser. Just twist the clear lid to open or close it, and to replace the twine.

The twine comes off the spool, goes down in the top of the spindle, and comes out the bottom. It has a handy little slot that holds the cut end of the twine so you aren’t fumbling around to find it when your hands are covered with butter butt rub. You slip the twine in the cutter and with a flick of the wrist, you’ve cut it. See that black cap on top of the cutter? You can remove the cutting blade from the stand when you’re finished trussing up your bird and use it to trim the ends. I’ll definitely be leaving this out on the counter top for future projects. I like the way the domed cover will keep the twine clean no matter what I start slinging around in the kitchen.

Turkey BBQ, ready to roast.

You might be able to see the twine wrapped around the ends of the legs, and across the middle of the wing section. It starts around the bit of remaining neck bone, wraps around each side of the breast, around each leg and is then pulled tight. The bird is flipped upside down, and the wings are hooked with twine and then back up to the feet area where it’s tied off and trimmed. See, that would have taken another 10 photos to do, so please don’t hold it against me for not covering that here.

The turkey is now fully prepped and ready for roasting on the big day. Since we’ve don all this work ahead of time, we will not have to spend all morning trying to get the turkey ready for the oven or grill.

Turkey BBQ, wrap securely.

Tear off another large section of aluminum foil, and wrap it around the prepared bird. Secure the edges of the foil all around the pan so the aromas from the spices don’t permeate any other things you may have stored in your refrigerator.

Normally, I’d just salt down the outside of the skin and place the turkey uncovered in the refrigerator overnight. Doing it this way, the skin will dry out a bit more and will be crispy when roasted. You can read more about that process in my post on How To Roast A Turkey here on Taste of Southern.

Turkey BBQ, refrigerate overnight.

Place the covered turkey and pan in the refrigerator and let it sit overnight and about one hour before time to place it in the oven.

It’s the big day. It could be Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, any special day at all. You’re so happy that you did all this prep work yesterday, and now it’s time to roast the turkey. Well, almost time.

You’ll need to figure in enough time with your roasting, to let the turkey just sit out on the counter top for ONE HOUR before it needs to start cooking. Take the aluminum foil off and sit it aside for later. As you can see, some of the butter rub will stick to the foil, but that’s not a problem. We’ll use this same piece of foil to tent the bird once it’s started browning some in the oven. The butter on the foil will melt off once it gets warm enough and drip right down on the top of the turkey.

One hour is all you need here, so don’t go much beyond that if at all. This will allow the turkey to start coming back up to NEAR room temperature before we place it in the oven and start roasting it. It cuts down on some of the cooking time once it’s in the oven, so don’t skip this part.

Turkey BBQ, preheat the oven.

Please don’t miss these steps.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. We’re ONLY going to let the turkey cook for 30 minutes at this high temperature.

Once the oven is hot enough, place the turkey, UNCOVERED, on the lowest rack in the oven.

Turkey BBQ, 425 degrees for 30 minutes.

ONLY bake at this high temperature for 30 minutes.

REDUCE THE HEAT TO 350 DEGREES. (Oops, that says 325, it should be 350 though)

Turkey BBQ, baking time and temp.

Bake the turkey at 350 degrees until it’s done.

Once I reduced the heat, I placed the tent of aluminum foil over the turkey so it wouldn’t burn on top. It stayed on until the turkey was done because it had browned pretty quickly at the 425 degree mark. If your turkey isn’t browning properly, you could remove it towards the end of it’s baking time so it can brown more evenly.

Turkey BBQ, test for doneness with a thermometer.

This turkey cooked in about two and a half hours. As mentioned, it weighed 14 pounds to begin with.

It was at 178 degrees when I opened the oven door to check on it and test the temperature. The popup thermometer had done it’s thing already as you can see here. Another 10 minutes and I’d be overcooking this one. Oven temperatures will vary, so it’s very important to keep a close check on the roasting bird once it nears the approximate time it should be done.

Turkey BBQ, the roasted turkey.

Here’s my turkey straight out of the oven.  I never basted the turkey, because I didn’t want to keep opening the oven. You lose heat each time the oven door is opened, so none of that for me. I didn’t have a lot of juices in the bottom of the pan any way, but you could certainly baste yours if you desire to.

The turkey needs to REST now for 30-45 minutes before being carved up. Just keep this resting time both before and after cooking in mind as you determine what time you want to start roasting your own. Better to be on the safe side and allow a little more time than needed instead of having a bunch of hungry folks sitting around the table waiting for the main part of the meal.

Turkey BBQ, tent the turkey while it rests.

Place the tent of aluminum foil loosely over the bird and just let it rest on the counter top for about 30-45 minutes before attempting to carve it. This will help the juices inside to settle back down, and should provide you with a moist turkey. Patience… you need patience.

Turkey BBQ, lifting the turkey.

Once again, the OXO Poultry Lifter came in really handy in transferring a still hot turkey from the roasting pan to a cutting board. Kept my hands clean too. I placed the roasted turkey on my cutting board so I could slice it up.

Turkey BBQ, pulled turkey.

Once I had carved away the breast meat and saved the legs, I pulled the remaining meat away from the bones. This can be a bit of a task and is best done while the meat is still slightly warm. Save as much meat as you can, being careful to remove any of the cartilage, tendons, and gristle from the legs and other pieces that are too tough to chew.

Place this in a large bowl and break the pieces up into smaller bite sized pieces. Now, add a cup or so of our Eastern Carolina Vinegar Based BBQ Sauce to the meat and give it a good mixing. You may want to add more of the sauce, depending on your taste buds, just be sure to mix everything well.

This “pulled turkey,” will make some great sandwiches, and will be a close second to some good old pulled pork.

Turkey BBQ, drain the drippings.

Next, I drained the pan drippings into the OXO 4 cup Fat Separator. The cup is in three parts. You’ve got a measuring cup. plus the gray strainer you see in the picture. The strainer will keep any pieces of meat from getting added to the liquid. It was very handy, but after working with it a bit, I wondered why OXO didn’t come up with some way for the strainer to “snap” together with the cup. Perhaps they could have made the handles on both pieces somehow snap together. This would make it much easier to store the parts together when you’re finished with it. Just a thought.

Turkey BBQ, stopper.

Did you notice the bright red stopper in the spout to the cup?  With most cups, when you pour the drippings in, the liquid goes up into the spout as well. This could include some of the fat that you’re trying to strain off. With the OXO, the stopper keeps any liquid from rising in the spout. That way, once the fat becomes a solid, you can easily pour the remaining broth out and then discard the fat that’s left in the cup. How cool is that?

Once it cools, I’ll remove the fat from the top and freeze the remaining liquid for later. As for the bones from the turkey, they could be used to make a very tasty broth if desired.

Turkey BBQ, enjoy.

When ready to serve, you’ve got several options. I sliced off both halves of the breast. One side is left whole as seen on the far right. I sliced the other one which you can see in the middle. Remove the turkey legs if you’d like to serve up some dark meat. This sliced turkey can then be drizzled with the BBQ Sauce as desired.

Additional barbecue sauce can be served on the side, in case anyone wants to add more. Start off light, you can always add more if needed, but taking it off can be a bit of a problem.

Remember, turkey shouldn’t be left out for very long. Once the meal is finished, refrigerate the leftovers right away.


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