Turkey Grilling 101
Dan Phalen Corporate Executive Chef Luby's Fuddruckers NTF Advisory Board Member
There’s not a single piece of equipment in the standard kitchen that can duplicate the flavor profile you get from grilling. The char element, along with those classic grill marks, elevates your meal to new levels. Turkey is perfect for this application, and provides so many menu options for your customers beyond the standard burger. Additionally, vendors are increasingly providing more choices, including boneless single and double lobe breast that can be cut into steaks and grilled, or roasted whole. One of my favorite cuts to grill is a turkey cutlet. The combination of turkey (a lean protein) with a low or no fat cooking method (such as grilling) makes it a win-win for your guests who are looking for bold, craveable flavors as well as a healthy meal.
It’s simple. Try these turkey grilling tips in your establishment to give your customers delicious options and keep them coming back for more.
Before you grill, it’s imperative that you take some time to develop flavor. Turkey takes very well to various brines, marinades and rubs. For perfect flavor:
- Use a standard brine with a little Ancho Chile paste or Molasses for a unique flavor to add to whole bone-in or boneless cuts. Brine or marinate for 6-12 hours; the thicker the cut, the more time you’ll need.
- Rubs can go on just before grilling. For dry rubs you can use a variety of pre-made spice blends but kosher salt, pepper, garlic and smoked paprika make a flavorful rub.
- For a good Mediterranean style wet rub, combine one cup of olive oil with a tablespoon each of black pepper and chopped garlic, 2 teaspoons of kosher salt, ¼ cup of balsamic vinegar and ¼ cup of mixed dried herbs. I like the “Italian Seasoning” blend but you can use whatever proportions of herbs you prefer to create your own flavor profile. Mix well and brush on cutlets and hold refrigerated for approximately 30 minutes to soak in before you grill. This will not only add tons of flavor, but will help keep your turkey cuts juicy.
Keep it Juicy
For a perfectly juicy cutlet, I follow these simple tips:
- While grilling turkey cutlets, create hot and cool temperature zones. Sear both sides of the turkey and then finish slowly over low heat to produce a juicy product and give you the control to hit the perfect temperature.
- Since turkey is so lean, use a two-stage cooking process to keep it juicy. Mark your turkey cutlets on the grill on both sides, but not fully cooked in the middle. Next, place the cutlets on a lightly oiled sheet pan and finish in a very low oven (around 300-325F). Bake until your meat thermometer shows the internal temperature reaches 165-170º F. Turkey cutlets should always be cooked to a minimum internal temp of 165 º F, but not above 175 º F. Again, important to use a meat thermometer.
- Let items rest for 5 minutes before cutting. This allows the juices to settle back to the center of the product and remain in the meat instead of running out onto the cutting board.