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How To Grill A Turkey

Feeling adventurous? Try grilling your Thanksgiving turkey this year. You can use your charcoal grill. A 12-pound turkey is the largest that will fit most grills.

The Greatest Grilled Turkey

Photo by Paula Denton Coyle

Grilled Turkey Tools

To grill your turkey, you'll need:

  • Good-quality charcoal briquettes: about 20 pounds
  • Disposable aluminum roasting pan
  • Soaked wood chips, if desired
  • An accurate meat thermometer
  • Tongs and heavy-duty oven mitts
  • Recommended: a thermometer on your grill or deep-fat frying thermometer placed through the vent on the grill's lid


To add even more flavor to your turkey:

  • Try brining: while not an essential part of smoking a turkey, soaking in brine before cooking gives the meat maximum flavor and juiciness.
  • Rub bird with oil or butter for crispy and evenly browned skin.
  • Apply a dry rub just before smoking. (If you have brined the turkey, you should not use any salt in the dry rub).


Essentially, you'll be using your grill as an outdoor oven: you want a moderate, even temperature rather than searing heat. Arrange the coals on one side of the grill only--you will use the empty side for the drip-pan. When the coals are covered with white ash, add a handful of damp wood chips. Add more wood chips any time you add more charcoal.

  • Lightly oil the grill's grate. Brush the skin of the turkey with oil or rub it with butter to prevent it from sticking.
  • Set a disposable aluminum roasting pan next to the hot coals. This will catch drippings and prevent flare-ups.
  • Adjust the grill's vents so they are open halfway.
  • Many recipes suggest roasting the turkey in a second disposable pan, adding water, wine or aromatics to the roasting pan for basting.
  • If your grill is outfitted with a thermometer (or you have inserted a deep-fat frying thermometer through the vent), check it. Aim for 350 degrees F (175 degrees C), but don't get hung up on a perfect and constant reading.
  • Roast the turkey until the thigh meat registers 165 degrees F (75 degrees C). This may take two to three hours or longer, depending upon the heat of the fire and size of the turkey.
  • Avoid opening the lid; conserve heat. Rotate the turkey as necessary for even cooking.
Turkey Grilling Times
Cut Method Heat Time Internal Temp. (minimum)
Whole Turkey ---- ---- ---- ----
8 to 12 pounds Indirect Medium 2 to 3 hours 180 F (80 C)
12 to 16 pounds Indirect Medium 3 to 4 hours 180 F (80 C)
16 to 24 pounds NOT RECOMMENDED ---- ---- ----
Breasts ---- ---- ---- ----
6 to 8 ounces Direct High 10 - 15 min./side 180 F (80 C)
Thighs and Drumsticks ---- ---- ---- ----
8 to 16 ounces Direct High 10 - 15 min./side 180 F (80 C)
Boneless Turkey Roll ---- ---- ---- ----
2 to 5 pounds Indirect Medium 1 1/2 to 2 hours 180 F (80 C)
5 to 10 pounds Indirect Medium 2 to 3 1/2 hours 180 F (80 C)




Allrecipes has a whole bunch of recipes for grilled turkey.

Here are some of our favorites:

For other alternative cooking methods, see how to deep fry a turkey, and how to smoke a turkey.

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