Grill Your Thanksgiving Turkey


Turkey on the Grill - Dezene Huber/Moment/Getty Images
Dezene Huber/Moment/Getty Images

Cooking your turkey on the grill is a wonderful idea for a few reasons. First, the turkey will have a slightly smoky flavor and will be juicy and moist. Second, this method frees up your oven for everything else, from sweet potatoes to rolls. And third, this method frees up the kitchen for other recipes, since the bird will grill happily all on its own.

You can even make great gravy using this method; just put a pan under the turkey and add some water. As the turkey grills, juices and fat will drip down into the pan. 

The most important step when grilling a turkey is preparing the grill. The grill must be set up for indirect heat. That means that the coals are not directly underneath the turkey, but on each side. The drip pan goes under the turkey. The heat will circulate over the turkey, since the grill is closed while the bird is cooking, effectively making the grill an oven.

To set up a charcoal grill you can buy at for indirect cooking, Use a chimney starter (buy at to light the coals. If your grill is relatively small (there should be at lest 6" on all sides of the turkey when it is placed on the grill), put the coals on both sides or in a ring around the outside of the grill. Briquettes or coals should be stacked three to four deep. The bottom and top vents should be open just halfway to allow for air circulation and for smoke to escape. More coals will need to be added about every hour to keep the heat at a safe temperature, about 325°F. A grill thermometer (not a meat thermometer) should be placed inside the grill so you know the temperature is consistent and constant.

To set up a gas grill (buy one at for indirect cooking, turn off the center burner and place a drip pan in the center. Turn on the other burners. If there are only two burners, use one and place the drip pan on the unused burner. If you use propane to cook, you will probably need another canister.

And always check the final internal temperature of the bird before you take it off the grill. The turkey should be 170°F tested in the thickest part of the thigh. Enjoy every bite!

  • 1 (12 to 16 pound) turkey, giblets removed
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 lemon, cut into quarters
  • 1 onion, cut into eighths
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
  • Water
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 180 minutes
  • Total Time: 195 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 8 to 10

Prepare the grill as directed. Place a drip pan under where the turkey will go.

Do not rinse the turkey before cooking. Rinsing is unnecessary and will only spread bacteria around your kitchen. Pat it dry, season it inside and out with salt and pepper, and place lemons and onions inside the cavity. Rub the outside with the melted butter.

Add about a cup of water to the drip pan. Place the clean grate over the drip pan and coals or burners.

Place the turkey, breast side up, on the grill over the drip pan.

Cover the grill and cook for 2 to 3 hours, turning the bird every 45 minutes or hour, until it is done. You can baste the turkey with more melted butter if you'd like as it is cooking. Add some water to the drip pan every hour so the drippings don't burn

When the turkey reaches 170°F in the thigh, or 165°F in the breast, remove it from the grill, place it on a platter, and cover it with foil. Let stand for 10-20 minutes so the juices redistribute before carving.

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