Barbecued Turkey with Mayan Spices

  • Active Time 15m
  • Total Time 7h 25m

Serves 12

Annatto is a rust-colored spice with an earthy flavor. For extra flavor and moistness, loosen the turkey skin and rub some of the marinade underneath it.


  • 2 small dried red hot peppers
  • 1 tablespoon annatto seeds
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 cups fresh orange juice
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • One 10-12-pound turkey; neck, heart and giblets removed

  • 4 cups mequite wood smoke chips, soaked in water 30 minutes, drained
  • Disposable 9x 6 x 1-inch aluminum broiler pans
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil


Combine the peppers, annatto seeds and 1 cup water in heavy small saucepan. Cook over medium-high heat until the peppers soften and 3 tablespoons liquid remain, about 10 minutes. Transfer the peppers and annatto seeds to a blender. Add the orange juice, lime juice, garlic, oregano, salt, cumin and pepper. Puree 1 minute. Strain the mixture into a bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper. The marinade should be very spicy. (Marinade can be made 1 day ahead.)

Rinse the turkey and pat dry with paper towels. Gently loosen the turkey skin from the body. To do so, start at the neck and tunnel fingers, then whole hand, under the skin to separate the skin from breast meat. Slide hand in deeper to loosen the skin over the thighs, drumsticks and back. Work carefully so as not to tear skin. Spoon 3 tablespoons marinade into the main cavity and 1 tablespoon into the neck cavity. Spoon half of the remaining marinade under the turkey skin. Cover the turkey and refrigerate 4 hours.


Mound lump charcoal in a barbecue and burn until light gray. Using tongs, carefully divide the hot charcoal into 2 piles, 1 pile at each side of the barbecue. Sprinkle each pile with generous 1/2 cup mesquite chips. Place an empty broiler pan between the piles. Position the grill at least 6 inches above the charcoal. Position vents on the barbecue so that chips smoke and charcoal burns (no flame).


Preheat the barbecue with all burners on high. Turn off the center burner and lower the outside burners to medium-low heat. Place generous 1/2 cup mesquite chips in each of 2 broiler pans. Set the pans over 2 lit burners. Place the empty broiler pan over the unlit burner. Position the grill at least 6 inches above the burners.

Brush the outside of the turkey with remaining marinade and oil. Tuck the wing tips under the turkey body. Tie the legs together to hold shape. Sprinkle the turkey with salt and pepper. Arrange breast-side up on grill, centering above the empty broiler pan. Cover and cook until a thermometer inserted into thickest part of thigh registers 160 degrees F, adding 1 cup mesquite chips (and 7 charcoal pieces if using charcoal barbecue) to barbecue every 30 minutes, about 3 hours.

Transfer the turkey to a platter, tent with foil to keep warm, and let rest for 10 minutes. Carve and serve.

Recipe created exclusively for by Steven Raichlen.

Recipe reprinted by permission of Publisher. All rights reserved.

RecID 4405

nutrition information per serving

762 calories; 37g total fat; 361mg cholesterol; 893mg sodium; 6g carbohydrates; 1g fiber; 95g protein

These nutrition facts are calculated according to the ingredients listed in this recipe. Any substitutions will change these facts. Although we strive for accuracy, please note that food manufacturers occasionally change their food formulas, which could affect the calculations as shown.

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