Thanksgiving recipe: Smoked, Grilled Turkey and Chamorro stuffing

Thanksgiving recipe: Smoked, Grilled Turkey and Chamorro stuffing

by Annette "Annie" Merfalen
Annie's Chamorro Kitchen

Turkey doesn’t have to be served only during Thanksgiving or other holiday meal. Chamorros love to BBQ, but occasionally, we like to smoke and grill a turkey instead of the traditional BBQ fare of ribs and chicken.

Whether baking, frying, grilling or smoking a turkey, I recommend brining the turkey at least 24 hours prior to cooking. Brining not only adds flavor to the turkey, but it seals in the juices during the cooking process, yielding an incredibly moist, juicy, tasty turkey.


  • 1 turkey, about 12-15 pounds

For the Brine:

  • 2 gallons water
  • 1 cup sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons rosemary-garlic mix (or 1 tablespoon rosemary, 1 tablespoon garlic powder)
  • 1 tablespoon dried sage
  • 1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoon dried thyme leaves
  • 1 tablespoon dried parsley flakes
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 tablespoons good quality honey
  • 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon powdered chicken bouillon
  • 1 orange, sliced
  • 2 limes, sliced
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 1 gallon ice cubes


  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 2 apples, cut into wedges
  • 1 whole head of garlic

1. Make the brine.
- Place one gallon of water into a large pot.
- Add the sea salt to the pot of water.
- Add the herbs/spices and bay leaves to the pot.
- Add the honey.
- Add the brown sugar.
- Add the chicken seasoning.
- Give it a stir then bring the mixture to a boil.
- Pour the brine into a clean bucket (we bought a PBA-free bucket at Lowe’s).
- Add the sliced limes, orange and onion to the bucket. My daughter was being funny and called this “turkey punch”. ;)
- Let the brine cool completely before adding the turkey.
- Remove the giblets and neck from the cavity of the turkey. Rinse well then add the turkey to the cooled brine. I don’t think there’s a “wrong way” to place the turkey into the bucket, but I like to place it with the legs pointing up so that most of the turkey meat is submerged in the brine.  Of course, you could just add more water to the bucket until the bird is completely drowned. ;)
- Pour in the two gallons of ice cubes — about 2 pitcherfuls.
- Place the lid on the bucket (if yours doesn’t come with a lid, use aluminum foil to cover it) then place the bucket in the refrigerator.  Let the turkey soak in the brine for at least 24 hours.

2. Smoke/Grill the turkey.
- After 24 hours, remove the turkey from the brine. Chop up 2 apples and 1 onion, and peel the skin/paper off each clove in an entire head of garlic.
- Stuff the apple, onion and garlic mixture into the cavity of the turkey.
- Place the turkey in the smoker/grill. Follow the smoking/grilling directions for your smoker.  I have a Traeger smoker/grill that has automatic temperature settings. Here are the procedures for using a grill (like a Traeger) that has automatic temperature settings.
- After turning on the grill, set it to 450 degrees; let the heat build up for about 15 minutes. Turn the heat back down to the Smoke setting then place the turkey on the grill, smoking it for approximately 9 hours.

NOTE: If you want to cut down the cooking time, do NOT stuff the turkey until about one hour from being done. An un-stuffed turkey cooks faster than a cooked one. If you decide NOT to stuff the turkey, smoke it for 6 hours instead of 9.

This is what the turkey looked like after 3 hours of smoking.

After 8 hours of smoking, turn the heat up to 275 degrees and grill the turkey for one more hour or until the skin turns a nice dark brown color.

If you don’t own a smoker/grill, bake the turkey at 325 degrees using the chart below as a basic guide.

Serve with your favorite side dishes. I recommend Chamorro Red Rice, Chamorro Stuffing (see page 14) and Fina’denne’. Enjoy!

Riyenu ~ Chamorro stuffing

Chamorro stuffing, or Riyenu, is a delicious side dish usually served during special holiday meals, alongside baked turkey, ham, or roast pig.

My mom taught me how to make this a very long time ago, when I was a very young girl.  In fact, this recipe is one of the few I added to a recipe book that I made when I was perhaps 8 or 9 years old. I remember stacking small pieces of paper and gluing one side to make a spine, then creating a cover out of stiff cardboard and gluing a piece of scrap fabric with blue polka dots on it to make the cover soft and pretty. Even at that young age, I loved to cook, and I made my very own recipe book, which I still have to this day.

I’ve been asked what makes this a Chamorro stuffing. Well, I guess it’s the addition of potatoes, pimento and olives, kind of like our Chamorro Potato Salad.

A few optional ingredients that my mom sometimes puts in her Riyenu are finely diced celery and a small jar of sweet pickle relish.  I prefer my stuffing without those two ingredients, so I leave them out.

You don’t need to wait for a holiday to make this yummy stuffing. Give my recipe a try.  I think you’ll like it. :)


  • 2 medium potatoes
  • 1 cup vegetable oil, for frying
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 box Stove Top Stuffing Mix for Turkey
  • 2 small jars diced pimento, drained
  • 1 small can chopped black olives, drained
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1 can evaporated milk
  • 1/2 stick unsalted butter, melted
  • Salt and pepper, to taste


  1. Peel and dice the potatoes into small pieces, about 1/4 inch square.
  2. Place the vegetable oil in a shallow frying pan over medium heat.
  3. Fry the diced potatoes in batches; cook until the potatoes are a very light golden brown and cooked through (use a fork to test for doneness).
  4. Drain the cooked potatoes on a paper towel-lined plate. Set aside.
  5. Brown the ground beef in a medium sized pot.
  6. Add the contents of the stuffing mix (dried bread pieces and seasoning), the cooked potatoes and onions to the pot.  Stir to combine.  Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally.
  7. Add the pimentos and olives to the pot.
  8. Stir to combine. Continue to cook over medium heat for a minute or so, stirring occasionally.
  9. Add the raisins. I actually like lots of raisins in my stuffing so I tend to add more than a cup.
  10. Pour in the evaporated milk.  You can also use vegetable or chicken stock instead of milk.
  11. Add the melted butter. Cook for another minute or two. Taste, then add salt and pepper if needed (the seasoning packet from the stuffing is already quite salty, so you might not need to add more salt).
  12. Place the stuffing into an oven-safe baking dish.
  13. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.
  14. Serve and ENJOY!

This makes a wonderful side dish, served alongside my smoked/grilled turkey and brown sugar glazed ham.

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