I did a post earlier about Thanksgiving plans when you are micro-sized or living in an RV. In that, I had suggested cooking the turkey in a portable roaster. That’s not what we actually ended up doing. We went a totally different direction.
We cooked the turkey in a gas grill. No, we didn’t use a rotisserie (we did those a lot when I was a kid, but I haven’t seen a rotisserie capable of handling a turkey for sale recently.) We didn’t cut it up and grill it either (I’ve done that when camping too.) We didn’t do just a turkey breast (done that camping too!)
The turkey, about 10-12 lbs, was washed and whatnot, then placed in a heavy foil pan (we used a full steam table sized foil pan) layered with a thin layer of root vegetables (parsnips & carrots) and celery and apples, all cut in moderately large chunks. We added about a half to full cup of water to prevent scorching of the vegetables in the bottom.
It went into the grill, which had been being fiddled with to get it to hover between 300-400 degrees F. and the lid was closed. This grill isn’t large–this full steam table sized pan pretty much filled the entire grill area. (There are various sizes of heavy foil roasters-just find one to fit your grill & your turkey–or use a heavy roasting pan, if you prefer.) We also used a meat thermometer to ensure we had DONE turkey, since no one was interested in doing the raw turkey thing.
The turkey was rubbed down, inside and out, with seasonings (poultry seasoning and sage) as well as having some fresh sage leaves put between the skin and the breast meat (you can separate the skin from the meat and push herbs, ice cold butter, etc. there if you like) We also injected the turkey with melted margarine, especially in the breast.
After it has cooked a while, check it to ensure its not scorching on top…or the veggies aren’t scorching beneath it. If it is over-browning, put a piece of foil over the turkey to protect it. We used a simple method of temperature control on the grill–if it got too hot, we opened the lid for a minute or two and let the heat escape.
When the turkey was deemed done by the thermometer and old fashioned probing to ensure the juices were clear, we removed it from the grill and set it to wait for carving. The grill was then pressed into service to heat other items or keep them hot for the 15 minutes the turkey had to rest before being carved.
The work was actually done by my daughter, who had never cooked one before, and she was the one who came up with our holiday solution. It worked…very well. So well, in fact, that I now have a gas grill on my “wish list” of accessories to my micro-sized life. Moving our cooking outdoors reduces the heat (important on the Gulf Coast!) as well as increases available space for the cooking project. As anyone who has ever lived in a travel trailer and really cooked knows…saying “kitchen” is really stretching it. I have exactly enough cupboard space for a slow cooker and toaster. My coffee makers are on the refrigerator.
I actually do a lot of my cooking even now outdoors. As an avid camper, I have a selection of cook stoves suited for just that, using butane, propane or liquid petroleum of some kind. For fast cooking, long cooking, or plain cheap cooking…I prefer what GM calls my “Chinese stove” (he calls it that because it is a Chinese knock off of a name brand backpacking stove) It uses any liquid petroleum product: kerosene, gasoline or white gas (I typically use white gas aka “Coleman gas”.) It is rather impressive with its flaming process, as it doesn’t truly vaporize the gas until the jet gets hot, so it spurts out a trickle of gas, I shut it off, light it, and then after it burns off that initial trickle, I begin to turn on the gas again, until the familiar sound of the vaporized gas begins and the blue flame appears. I typically set it in a battered old skillet, since I’m paranoid about that spurt of liquid gas in the initial stage. The first time I used it, it scared me half to death! A liter of fuel will typically last us 3-5 days of cooking…and a gallon of white gas runs $9-10. I buy a gallon about once every 4-6 weeks…which makes cooking on it very economical. It would likely be cheaper to use regular gasoline, but I confess…I’m paranoid about doing that. This stove’s problem is that it is very hard to control the heat for a simmer…and it tends to have hot spots when cooking with a thin pan. I really should invest in a diffuser to use with it for finer, more controlled cooking.
Flame diffusers haven’t changed in a very long time. I have seen ones like this that were sold in the 1940s…and I’ve bought ones like this in the 80s and 90s. They do tend to rust if they get wet, and the tiny holes will clog, and its impossible to wash when it gets dirty. But they are also immensely useful and work very well to prevent scorched soups, stews, etc. when cooking on a gas stove. If you don’t have one, believe me…they are worth getting.
So, cooking outdoors is definitely a viable choice when you live small, especially if you live in the South. Winter in the northern tier, well, I’d not want to be trying to cook while standing in the snow! But for Southerners, an outdoor kitchen is a definite possibility, removing the cook from the cramped inner space and preventing the cooking from adding heat to the area we all try to keep cool and comfortable.