Whole Roast Turkey with Sun Dried Tomato Pesto and Bacon

One of the most popular sandwich creations I came up at my previous job was the inspiration for this turkey recipe. I would combine sliced smoked turkey breast, sun dried tomato pesto, bacon, avocado and Havarti cheese and serve it on sourdough bread. This version puts the sun dried tomato pesto and bacon up under the skin of the turkey before it is roasted and then slowly bastes the bird with the flavors during the cook. Recommended equipment: ice chest lined with a clean unused trash bag, sharp knives, roasting pan with a rack, dual probe thermometer, jelly roll pan or large roasting pan to cook the bacon, aluminum foil, A-Maze-N Tube Smoker

Whole Roast Turkey with Sun Dried Tomato Pesto and Bacon


November 7, 2016

  • Prep: 30 mins
  • Cook: 3 hrs


For the turkey:

1 Turkey- The one I used was 12 pounds

1/2 tablespoon kosher salt

1/2 tablespoon cracked black pepper

4oz package of fresh oregano

4oz package of fresh thyme

4oz package of fresh rosemary

1 pound thick cut bacon

8oz jar sun dried tomato pesto

1 fresh orange cut in 1/4’s

1 large onion cut into large pieces

2 carrots, peeled and cut into large pieces

6 stalks of celery, cut into large pieces

4oz wood pellets, I used the Jack Daniels variety

For the brine:

3 cups kosher salt

3 cups brown sugar

1 1/2 gallon cold water

1 1/2 gallon ice cubes



1With the turkey out of the packaging remove the giblets and neck from the interior cavity of the bird, reserve for later. Cut away any excess skin from the top of the breast where the neck would have been as well as around the large opening between the legs and discard. Cut the wing tip off both wings and reserve with the giblets (these will only burn and are more useful for your gravy).

2Prepare your brine by simply whisking the salt, brown sugar and water in the cooler- add the ice cubes last. Place your turkey in the brine for at least 8 hours adding additional ice as needed to keep the temperature of the liquid below 40F.

3While the turkey is in the brine cook your bacon about 3/4 the way so it is still semi soft in a 400F oven, about 8 minutes. Remove bacon from pan and cool. Once the bacon has cooled chop it finely and combine with the sun dried tomato pesto, refrigerate for later. Remove turkey from brine and rinse with cold water inside and out, pat dry. Working from the top of the breast, gently pull the skin away from the meat of each breast creating pockets. Take the bacon-pesto mixture and begin to spoon it up under the skin and work it down towards the base of the breasts, repeat until there is a nice even layer on both breasts. Rub any of the remaining bacon-pesto mixture onto the skin. Place the carrot, onion, celery, giblets and neck and half of the fresh herbs into your turkey roasting pan along with the roasting rack. Place the turkey on the rack and season with kosher salt and cracked black pepper. Put the remaining fresh herbs along with the quartered orange into the cavity of the turkey. Wrap the exposed bone of each leg with aluminum foil.

Grilling Procedure:

1Pre-heat your grill to 325F-350F, a two zone set up would be ideal. Fill and light your tube smoker. Probe the thickest part of the breast with the meat thermometer being careful not to touch the bone. Attach the grill thermometer to the roasting rack. Place the roasting pan onto the cooler side of your grill and insert the probe wires to the thermometer. Blow out the flame on the tube smoker and lay flat on your grill. Add about 4 cups of water to your roasting pan and close the lid to your grill. Relax, monitor your temps keeping the grill below 350F. Add more liquid to the roasting pan as needed. The turkey is finished when the temperature inside the breast reaches 160F. Remove the roasting pan from the grill and pull your turkey, rack and all out of the pan- remove the foil from the legs. What you have left in the pan will make a super flavorful gravy or jus depending what direction you want to take it- simply strain the veggies and giblets and skim the fat. I like to puree the giblets and even some of the onion into my gravy. Everyone has there own way of carving a turkey but I recommend cutting the wings off first, then the legs and thighs. Cut each breast from the carcass by cutting along the keel bone (the bone between the breasts) and following the contour of the bones below. What you end up with will be much easier to slice and you can slice against the grain for an even more tender result.