Grilling isn’t just for the summer. In fact, my husband grills all year long, even in not-so-favorable conditions. A couple of years ago we posted about grilling turkey for Thanksgiving (rather than baking, deep frying or even smoking one), and this year we had to revisit it!
So what’s the big deal with grilling a turkey? It’s really that good – more flavorful and more moist than any other I’ve tried. Plus, there are a couple of other perks to grilling a turkey rather than using your oven…
- It frees up the oven to bake desserts and side dishes
- Men love to grill, so give them the task for the main course
Gas vs. Charcoal Grill: You can use a gas or charcoal grill, but keep in mind that th
ough charcoal grills generally give you more flavor, a gas grill is much easier to control temperatures, especially during windy weather. Basically you will need to keep the temperature between 300 and 350 degrees with the target being 325. We’ll be trying ours on a charcoal grill with some hickory. Make sure you have plenty of coals or fuel before you start. And remember that if things go awry, don’t panic. You can always move the turkey into the oven to finish cooking. (By that time, the side dishes and pies should be done anyway.)The Basics:
- First, select a turkey that isn’t too big (10 pounds or less, though you could probably do up to a 15-pounder just fine). **Keep in mind that it takes approximately 12 minutes per pound (that’s 2 hours for a 10-pound turkey) and that you will need to keep your coals hot that entire time (if using a charcoal grill, that is).** Hopefully, you’ve already found your very own turkey and it’s already thawed out (defrosting takes about 6 hours for every pound of frozen turkey).
- Prepare your turkey by removing the giblets and neck, washing it inside and out in cold water and patting it dry. If brining your turkey is your preferred method of keeping the bird moisturized (ha!) while cooking, I hope you’ve started that day long process already. If not, no worries, you can just keep a close watch by using the old tried and true baste and inject method. (If using a brine, be sure to wash off the salt before grilling.)
- Brush the turkey with oil and lightly season the inside of the cavity and the outside the way you desire. (Hint: It’s the way you would have done it if you were baking it in the oven.)
- Prepare your grill: If you don’t have a rotisserie, make sure to oil your grate well. Set a drip pan to catch the drippings, and periodically add water to this pan to keep them from burning off. (You will be able to make gravy from the the drippings when the turkey is done.) Since you will be slow-roasting by indirect heat, set up your grill in such a way that the rather larg
- e turkey will not be too close to the fire or it will cook and dry out too fast. If using a charcoal grill, you can place the turkey in the center of the grate and arrange the coals in ring around the turkey for even heating. If using a dual burner grill, only use one burner and keep the turkey on the unheated side.
- Monitor your grill: Keep grill lid closed and monitor the temperature closely throughout grilling. (If it gets too hot, open the lid for a few seconds). Use a thermometer and add additional coals as needed to adjust the temperatures in the correct range. Keep a close watch to make sure that the outside of the turkey isn’t getting cooked faster than the inside.
- You are going to need to rotate and flip the bird to keep it from drying out and to evenly cook it (be very careful when doing this or you can get burned). Start with the turkey on its side (thigh and wing facing down towards the grate) and finish with the breast side up. The amount of time inbetween rotations and flips really depends on the size of the bird, your grill, and how you have set up the heat source. Generally, it’s somewhere between 30 minutes and 1 hour. For a 10-pound turkey in a charcoal grill, I would venture to guess it would be around 40 minutes. In these directions, I will assume you are using a 10-pound turkey.
- After 40 minutes, flip the turkey on its opposite side (the other thigh and wing) and rotate it so that its legs are pointing in the opposite direction than it started.
- Flip it again after 40 minutes so it’s on its back and rotate the legs to face the other direction.
- After only 20 minutes, rotate it so that the legs are facing the opposite direction and cook for an additional 20 minutes. The turkey’s target temperature when done is at least 165 degrees on an instant read thermometer (dark meat should be at least 170 degrees). So after about 10 or 11 minutes per pound, test several areas of the turkey to make sure they all read at or above this temperature. It’s important not to touch bone when you read the temps. Ideally, the thickest part of the thigh should read 180 degrees and the juices should run clear.
- When done, remove the bird from the grill and on to a platter, and let it rest for 20 minutes before carving. This is very important, as this keeps the turkey moist.
How about some veggies? While you’re waiting for the turkey to rest, grill some vegetables (bell peppers of various colors, onions, zucchini, yellow squash). It will make for a colorful arrangement around the turkey platter and a more healthful meal. After washing and slicing the veggies, coat them with a dash of olive oil, salt and garlic powder. For best results, use a big grill basket like this one. It cooks them more evenly, avoids the charred, over-grilled taste, it grills A LOT of veggies simultaneously (HUGE time saver) and keeps veggies from falling down through the grill grates.