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How to Barbecue a Turkey

Everything you’ve ever wanted to know about how to barbecue a turkey and more.

Barbecued Turkey on Grill

Have you ever tasted turkey cooked on a Weber Kettle Charcoal Grill?

The smoky flavor is amazingly, unbelievably, over-the-top delicious. 

It’s so juicy and tender too.

We’ve made our holiday turkeys on the BBQ for a number of years and the outcome is consistently magazine-cover-ready.

I can’t even tell you how good the leftovers are with the smoky flavor.

And the gravy that’s made from the drippings is the best I’ve ever had.

I put it on everything…well maybe not the pumpkin pie.

Here’s a link for how to make this delicious gravy “How to Make Turkey Gravy from Pan Drippings“).

The reason that the outcome is so consistent is that the cooking time and number of mesquite coals used is calculated based on the weight of the turkey.

Making Sure the Turkey is Completely Cooked Through

The suggested time is 11 minutes of cooking per pound for a fresh or completely defrosted turkey without stuffing, and 13 minutes per pound for a fresh or completely defrosted turkey with stuffing.

But since there are variables associated with cooking a turkey such as, but not limited to; how hot the coals are, how much stuffing is packed in the cavity of the turkey and the amount of moisture in the stuffing, it’s very important not to completely rely on this timing for the turkey to be thoroughly cooked.

MOST IMPORTANTLY, THERE’S ONLY ONE WAY TO MAKE SURE YOUR TURKEY IS COMPLETEY COOKED…WHICH IS BY CHECKING THE TEMPERATURE.   

Here’s a helpful link that discusses how to know when your turkey is completely cooked from the Butterball (Turkey) website “HOW TO CHECK FOR DONENESS”.

Below the following step-by-step instructions is an example of how to figure out the time it should take to prep the BBQ, cook, and rest the turkey.

It’s actually very easy and the smell from the turkey cooking in the BBQ is out of this world…it actually smells like it tastes if that makes sense.

Here are more holiday side dishes you may like “Cherry, Pineapple and Mandarin Orange Ambrosia“, “Sage Sausage Stuffing (Dressing)” and “Roasted Garlic and Rosemary Mashed Potatoes“.

The following instructions were last updated on June 16, 2019.

Here’s what is needed:

FOR THE TURKEY:

A whole fresh or completely defrosted turkey, butter, salt, ground black pepper and granulated garlic

FOR THE BARBECUE GRILL, ACCESSORIES, AND 2 TYPES OF CHARCOAL BRIQUETS:

1) Weber 22.5” Charcoal Kettle Standing Barbecue 

2) 1 Bag (7.9 pounds) Mesquite Charcoal Briquetsthese Mesquite briquets are used multiple times during the cooking process.

3) 1 Bag (6.3 pounds) Match Light with Mesquite Charcoal Briquetsthese Match Light briquets are used only one time…when initially prepping the barbecue with the charcoal).

4) Charcoal Rails this is an accessory that fits onto the bottom grate that’s in the kettle barbecue; the rails keep the coals off to the sides for indirect cooking.

5) Hinged Cooking Gratethis is an accessory that is used as the top rack where the turkey is placed when cooking; it has hinged sides so that just the sides can be lifted in order to add more coals; the hinged sides on this rack need to be placed right over the sides of the “Charcoal Rack with Rails” where the charcoal is placed (picture below).  Some of the newer Weber Kettle Barbecue Grills may already come with this grate.

6) Multi-Purpose Utility Lighter with a Long Durable Wand for Lighting Barbecue Grillsthis is used to light the coals

FOR THE DRIP PAN AND OTHER COOKING ITEMS:

1) A Metal Pan (9″ x 12.5″)this rectangular baking pan is placed on the “Charcoal Rack with Rails” in between the 2 sides where the charcoal is placed.  This pan is used to catch the drippings from the turkey that is placed right above it on the “Hinged Cooking Grate”.

2) A Long Handled 2-Pronged Cooking Forkthis is used to lift and close each of the 2 sides of the “Hinged Cooking Grate” when adding the “Mesquite Charcoal Briquets” during the cooking process.

3) Sturdy Extra Long Barbecue Hot Mittsthese may be used to assist with lifting the fully cooked turkey from the grill.  After the turkey is removed from the “Hinged Cooking Grate” these mitts are used to remove the very hot “Hinged Cooking Grate” from the barbecue in order to get access to the dripping pan.  These mitts are also used to lift out the very hot metal dripping pan so that the drippings can be used to make gravy.

(The type of BBQ, grates (accessories), and equipment that is needed is also noted at the bottom in the printable recipe).

Here’s How To Make It

First, determine when you should start the cooking process (see the explanation on how to do this at the bottom of the following step-by-step instructions).

PREPARING THE GRILL:

Placing the Charcoal Rails in the BBQ:

Clip the “Charcoal Rails” onto the lower grate inside of the barbecue.

Adding Charcoal to the BBQ:

In this initial stage, only the Match Light briquets are added to the barbecue. 

THIS IS THE ONE AND ONLY TIME THAT THE MATCH LIGHT BRIQUETS ARE USED.    

The non-Match Light briquets will be added later during the cooking process.

Put plastic gloves on (for handling the briquets) and add 25 Match Light with Mesquite briquets on each side of the BBQ inside the charcoal rails.

Since the Match Light briquets are infused with lighter fluid you’ll only use them for the initial stage of getting the coals hot.

SO AFTER ADDING THE MATCH LIGHT BRIQUETS TO THE GRILL, SEAL THE BAG THAT THEY ARE IN AND MOVE THEM FAR ENOUGH AWAY FROM THE GRILL TO MAKE SURE THEY ARE NOT USED AGAIN IN THIS COOKING PROCESS. 

There will be some black colored coals and some light brown coals which are the Match Light mesquite briquets.

Stack the charcoal as evenly as possible from side to side.

Make sure that the coals are behind the charcoal rails.

What you don’t want to happen is for one of the charcoal briquets to be stacked so high that it tips over the rail and falls into the turkey drippings pan that will be placed in the middle between the 2 charcoal rails.

The drippings in this pan are used to make the gravy.

These charcoal rails are an accessory, and are so handy when making this recipe.

The hardest part of adding the coals is keeping the right count.

Oops…forgot one.

The coals added later in the cooking process will just be the regular mesquite charcoal briquets (non-Match Light briquets).

TIP – When all of the Match Light briquets have been added, close the bag and store them away so not to mistakenly use them in the actual cooking process.

Lighting the Charcoal Briquets:

Next, according to the instructions on the bag of Match Light with Mesquite Briquets, step away as much as possible and carefully light up a few of the coals with a multi-purpose utility lighter with a long wand that is used for lighting barbecue grills.

Light a few of the coals…

…on one side to get them going.

Then go to the other side where the unlit coals are, and according to the instructions on the package of Match Light with Mesquite Briquets, step away as much as possible and carefully light a few of the unlit coals with the multi-purpose utility lighter.

No need to put the lid on yet.

You’ll see some flames for just a short while.

But they should die down fairly quickly.

Let the coals get hot (about 45 minutes).

PREPARING THE FRESH OR COMPLETELY DEFROSTED TURKEY:

(do this while the coals are heating up)

While the coals are getting hot, put the turkey (a fresh or completely defrosted turkey) on a large platter or large sturdy baking pan.

Drizzle melted butter over the entire turkey (in the cavity too).

Then sprinkle the entire turkey (including the cavity) with the granulated garlic, salt, and pepper.

When preparing a turkey, the legs and wings should be compact to the bird so that it cooks evenly.

A cooked turkey also looks so pretty and professional when the wings and legs are tight to the bird.

Seasoned Turkey on Barbecue Grill

Although we haven’t gotten to the step yet where the turkey is placed on the grill, I included the picture above to point out a few things related to the preparation of the turkey.

In the picture above you can see what is called a “hock lock” holding the legs together.  The hock lock generally comes with the turkey and is either metal or plastic.

TIP – When I first started cooking turkeys I thought that I was supposed to take that off and throw it away. 

Don’t be like me and do that!  The hock lock needs to stay on the bird to secure the hind legs (or hock) of the turkey so that the turkey will cook evenly. 

TIP – If your turkey doesn’t come with a hock lock it may need to be “trussed” (or tied). 

Trussing, or tying a turkey with twine into a compact shape allows the turkey to cook evenly.  Here’s a helpful link that you may like from Epicurious.com “How to Truss a Turkey:  The Simple, No-Fuss Way” .

It’s great if your turkey comes with a hock lock, but what about the wings, they need to also be tight to the bird so they don’t burn or get too crispy and brown.

TIP – Since I generally have toothpicks on hand I use them to secure the wings to the bird like in the picture above. 

As an alternative, the wing tips can be tucked behind the shoulders to lock them in place. 

Here’s a link to a slide from the article “How to Stuff and Prepare Your Thanksgiving Turkey” on MarthaStewart.com that shows how to tuck the wings under a turkey.

After the turkey is prepared, set it aside just until the coals are ready.

PLACING THE DRIPPINGS PAN IN THE BARBECUE: 

Once the coals are hot (when they turn a gray color), using sturdy oven mitts, carefully (be careful not to touch the hot coals, rack, barbecue kettle or other hot surfaces) place the metal drippings pan on the lower rack in between the “Charcoal Rails”.

TIP – When putting the pan in the BBQ, be very careful not to get close to the hot charcoal or bump the rack that the briquets are on so that the dust from the charcoal won’t fly into the pan (since the pan will have drippings in it that the gravy is made out of).

These drippings make the most amaaaazing lightly smoky flavored gravy.

I use this old faithful metal pan.

COOKING THE FRESH OR COMPLETELY DEFROSTED TURKEY: 

Using hot mitts, carefully (be careful not to touch the hot coals, rack, barbecue kettle or other hot surfaces) put the “hinged cooking grate” in the BBQ (this is also a handy accessory).

TIP – When putting the hinged cooking grate in the BBQ, try to do it gently so not to bump, move or disturb the briquets so the very light dust on them doesn’t get into the dripping pan.

Transfer the turkey from the platter onto the cooking grate…

…and center the turkey…

…right over the pan that will collect the drippings.

Oh, and about those toothpicks that I use to hold the wings tight to the bird…

…after the turkey has thoroughly cooked, and while it’s resting, I carefully remove all of the toothpicks and the wings generally stay in place nicely.

Put the lid on the BBQ with the vent on top of the lid open.

Adding the Regular Mesquite Charcoal During the Cooking Process:

Every hour, (starting from when the initial coals were added), using a long handled 2-pronged cooking fork…open each side of the hinged cooking grate (charcoal rails) and carefully (be careful not to touch the hot coals, rack, barbecue kettle or other hot surfaces) add 10 regular mesquite coals to each side of the charcoal rails.

DO NOT USE the Match Light coals

FOR THE FIRST ADDITION OF MESQUITE BRIQUETSABOUT 15 MINUTES AFTER PUTTING THE TURKEY ON THE GRILL (this timing assumes that the turkey was put on the grill 45 minutes after lighting the briquets which would equal a total of 1 hour after the coals were initially lit), take off the lid, and using the cooking fork, open the hinged cooking grates, and carefully add 10 regular mesquite coals to each side (be careful not to touch the hot coals, rack, barbecue kettle or other hot surfaces).

Then put the lid back on (with the vent open).

Then for every hour thereafter,

…continue to use a cooking fork to open and close each side of the hinged cooking grates and carefully add 10 regular mesquite coals (DO NOT USE the Match Light coals)…

…to each side of the charcoal rails (be careful not to touch the hot coals, rack, barbecue kettle or other hot surfaces).

Here’s what the turkey looks like after about 1-1/2 hours of cooking.

Basting the Turkey:

Every ½ hour or so, use a bulb-type baster to transfer the liquid from the cavity of the turkey, to the top of the turkey (this not only adds to the beautiful golden color of the turkey but will allow the delicious juice to drip into the gravy-drippings pan that’s sitting on a rack under the turkey).

TIP – If the top of the turkey is cooking faster than the rest of the bird, put a piece of foil (just large enough to cover the brown area) on top of the turkey.

This isn’t required but if you happen to have a citrus tree in your patio or yard,

add some of the leaves to the coals…

…during the last hour of cooking for some added flavor.

REMOVING THE FULLY COOKED TURKEY FROM THE BARBECUE:

Turkey on Barbecue Grill

WHEN THE TURKEY IS THOROUGHLY COOKED…

…using sturdy oven mitts, carefully remove it from the grill onto a large platter to let it rest for 30 minutes before carving.

TIP – Removing the turkey from the BBQ is a two-person task because one person needs to hold on to the platter while the other person transfers the turkey from the BBQ to the platter (using sturdy hot mitts).

TIP – The turkey should be transferred to a large sturdy platter with edges because there will be juice that comes off of the turkey. 

So it’s NOT a good idea to transfer the turkey from the BBQ directly onto a cutting board because the juice from the turkey will run over the sides of the cutting board and make a mess.

Using sturdy hot mitts, carefully (be careful not to touch the hot coals, rack, barbecue kettle or other hot surfaces) remove the drippings pan from the grill.

TIP – THE DRIPPINGS PAN WILL BE VERY HOT SO MAKE SURE THAT THERE IS A HEAT PROOF SURFACE TO SET THIS PAN ON AFTER REMOVING IT FROM THE BARBECUE GRILL.

While the turkey is resting, use these drippings to make your gravy.

Here’s a helpful link on how to carve a turkey from the Kitchn “How to Carve a Turkey: the Simplest, Easiest Method”.

Serve the carved turkey with delicious gravy made from the drippings, and then it’s time to eat!

WHEN TO START THE COOKING PROCESS:***

A) Determine When You Want To Serve Your Cooked Turkey:

1.  Decide when you want to serve your turkey and hold that thought.

B) Determine How Long To Cook Your Fresh or Completely Defrosted Turkey (based on weight):
1.  Do the math to determine how long it will take to cook your turkey by using this calculation:
The suggested cooking time is 11 minutes per pound (without stuffing); (13 minutes per pound with stuffing)***

C) Consider “Non-Cooking Time” (BBQ prep and resting time for the turkey):
1.  Add 45 minutes for putting the starter coals in the BBQ and for them to get hot.
2.  Add 30 minutes for the turkey to rest after it’s thoroughly cooked.

D) Total Time (add “B” plus “C”):
1.  Add the amount of time to cook the turkey (“B” calculation based on the weight of your turkey), to the grill prep and heat time plus resting time (“C” which equals a fixed total time of 75 minutes).

E) Determine When To Start The Cooking Process (“A” minus “D”):
1.  Now go back to when you want to serve the turkey (“A”), and subtract the amount of total time determined in (“D”); the result should give you the cooking process start time.

Here’s an Example for a 19 Pound Completely Defrosted Turkey:***

1.  I want to serve my turkey dinner at 5 pm.

2. My unstuffed 19 pound turkey (fresh or completely defrosted turkey) should take 3.5 hours to cook***; 19 multiplied by 11 minutes = 209 minutes; 209 minutes divided by 60 minutes per hour = 3.48 hours. Which rounds to 3.5 hours.***

3.  Add 45 minutes for putting the coals in the BBQ and for them to get hot.

4.  Add 30 minutes for the turkey to rest after it’s cooked.

5.  The total time for the turkey should be 4 hours and 45 minutes (3.5 hours, plus 45 minutes, plus 30 minutes).***

6.  Subtract 4 hours and 45 minutes (total time for the turkey) from 5 pm (when I want to serve my turkey).

Answer – I’ll need to start the cooking process for my 19 pound unstuffed turkey (fresh or completely defrosted turkey) at 12:15 pm to have it ready to serve for dinner at 5 pm.***

 

***PLEASE NOTE:  The cooking times of 11 minutes per pound for a fresh or completely defrosted turkey without stuffing, and 13 minutes per pound for a fresh or completely defrosted turkey with stuffing are suggested times.

But since there are variables associated with cooking a turkey such as, but not limited to; how hot the coals are, how much stuffing is packed in the cavity of the turkey and the amount of moisture in the stuffing, it’s very important not to completely rely on this timing for the turkey to be completely cooked through.

MOST IMPORTANTLY, THERE’S ONLY ONE WAY TO MAKE SURE YOUR TURKEY IS COMPLETELY COOKED WHICH IS BY CHECKING THE TEMPERATURE OF THE TURKEY.

Here’s a helpful link that discusses how to make sure your turkey is completely cooked from the Butterball (Turkey) website “HOW TO CHECK FOR DONENESS”.

The printable recipe is below.

Thank you so much for stopping by CCC!

More Holiday Recipes You May Like:

Cheesy Scalloped Potatoes with Sage and Ham

No-Bake Cherry Cheese Pie with Helpful Hints

Homestyle Elbow Macaroni Salad

Easy Potato Salad with Egg

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How to Barbecue a Turkey

How to Barbecue a Turkey

Everything you've ever wanted to know about how to barbecue a turkey and more.
Cooking time based on a 19 pound fresh or completely defrosted turkey
Print Pin
Prep Time: 1 hour
Cook Time: 3 hours 30 minutes
(Resting Time Not Included in Total Time): 30 minutes
Total Time: 4 hours 30 minutes
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Barbecued Turkey, Turkey, Whole Turkey
Servings: 15 (Servings, Prep, Cook, Total Time Based on a 19 pound Turkey)

Ingredients

For the Fresh or Completely Defrosted Turkey (ingredients are based on a 19 pound turkey):

  • 1 whole turkey (fresh or completely defrosted turkey)
  • 4 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1 tablespoon granulated garlic
  • 1 tablespoon ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons salt

For the Equipment:

  • Weber 22.5” Charcoal Kettle Standing BBQ
  • 1 bag (7.9 pounds) Mesquite charcoal briquets these Mesquite briquets are used multiple times during the cooking process.
  • 1 bag (6.3 pounds) Match Light with Mesquite charcoal briquets these Match Light briquets are used only one time...when initially prepping the barbecue with the charcoal
  • A metal or aluminum disposable pan (9" x 12.5") for the drippings that will be used to make the gravy
  • Charcoal Rails this is an accessory that fits onto the bottom grate that's in the kettle barbecue; the rails keep the coals off to the sides for indirect cooking
  • Hinged cooking grate this is an accessory used as the top rack where the turkey is placed when cooking; it has hinged sides so that just the sides can be lifted in order to add more coals; the hinged sides on this rack need to be placed right over the sides of the "Charcoal Rack with Rails" where the charcoal is placed. Some of the newer Weber Kettle Barbecue Grills may already come with this grate.
  • Multi-Purpose Utility Lighter with a Long Durable Want for Lighting Barbecue Grills used to light the coals
  • Long Handled 2-Pronged Cooking Fork used to lift and close each of the 2 sides of the "Hinged Cooking Grate" when adding the "Mesquite Charcoal Briquets" during the cooking process
  • Sturdy Extra Long Barbecue Hot Mitts used to assist with lifting the fully cooked turkey from the grill.  After the turkey is removed from the "Hinged Cooking Grate" these mitts are used to remove the very hot "Hinged Cooking Grate" from the barbecue in order to get access to the dripping pan.  These mitts are also used to lift out the very hot metal dripping pan so that the drippings can be used to make gravy

Instructions

DETERMINE WHEN TO START THE COOKING PROCESS:

  • Please see the explanation below that discusses how to calculate the suggested total process time along with an example.

PREPARING THE GRILL:

  • For the Charcoal Rails - Clip the "Charcoal Rails" onto the lower grate inside of the barbecue.
  • Adding Charcoal to the BBQ - Put plastic gloves on (for handling the briquets). In this initial stage, only the Match Light briquets are added to the barbecue
  • THIS IS THE ONE AND ONLY TIME THAT THE MATCH LIGHT BRIQUETS ARE USED. The non-Match Light briquets will be added later during the cooking process.
  • To each side of the BBQ, inside the charcoal rails, add 25 Match Light with Mesquite briquets.  There will be some black colored coals and some light brown coals which are the Match Light mesquite briquets.  
  • Since the Match Light briquets are infused with lighter fluid you’ll only use them for the initial stage of getting the coals hot. The coals added later in the cooking process will just be the regular (non-Match Light) charcoal briquets. 
  • The bag of Match Light briquets can now be closed and stored away so not to mistakenly use them again in this cooking process.
  • LIGHTING THE MATCH LIGHT BRIQUETS - Next, according to the instructions on the bag of Match Light with Mesquite Briquets, step away as much as possible and carefully light up a few of the coals on each side with a multi-purpose utility lighter with a long wand that is used for lighting barbecue grills.
  • Let the coals get hot (about 45 minutes).  No need to put the barbecue lid on yet. There may be flames for just a short while.

PREPARING THE FRESH OR COMPLETELY DEFROSTED TURKEY (do this while the coals are heating up):

  • Set the turkey on a large platter or large sturdy baking pan.  Drizzle the melted butter over the turkey (in the cavity too).
  • Then sprinkle the entire turkey (including the cavity) with granulated garlic, salt, and pepper.  Set aside (just until the coals are ready).

PLACING THE DRIPPINGS PAN IN THE BARBECUE:

  • Once the coals are hot (when they turn a gray color), using sturdy oven mitts, carefully (be careful not to touch the hot coals, rack, barbecue kettle or other hot surfaces) place the metal dripping pan on the lower rack in between the "Charcoal Rails".
  • When putting the pan in the BBQ, be very careful not to get close to the hot charcoal or bump the rack that the briquets are on so that the dust from the charcoal won't fly into the pan (since the pan will have drippings in it that the gravy is made out of).

COOKING THE FRESH OR COMPLETELY DEFROSTED TURKEY:

  • Using hot mitts, carefully (be careful not to touch the hot coals, rack, barbecue kettle or other hot surfaces) put the "hinged cooking grate" in the BBQ.
  • When putting the hinged cooking grate in the BBQ, try to do it gently so not to bump, move or disturb the briquets so the very light dust on them doesn't get into the dripping pan.
  • Transfer the turkey from the platter onto the cooking grate and center the turkey right over the pan that will collect the drippings.
  • Put the lid on the BBQ with the vent on top of the lid open.  
  • ADDING THE REGULAR MESQUITE CHARCOAL DURING THE COOKING PROCESS - Every hour, (starting from when the initial coals were added), using a long handled 2-pronged cooking fork...open each side of the hinged cooking grate (charcoal rails) and carefully (be careful not to touch the hot coals, rack, barbecue kettle or other hot surfaces) add 10 regular mesquite coals to each side of the charcoal rails. (DO NOT USE the Match Light coals).
  • FOR THE FIRST ADDITION OF MESQUITE BRIQUETS - ABOUT 15 MINUTES AFTER PUTTING THE TURKEY ON THE GRILL (this timing assumes that the turkey was put on the grill 45 minutes after lighting the briquets which would equal a total of 1 hour after the coals were initially lit), take off the lid, and using the cooking fork, open the hinged cooking grates, and carefully add 10 regular mesquite coals to each side (be careful not to touch the hot coals, rack, barbecue kettle or other hot surfaces).
  • Then put the lid back on (with the vent open). 
  • Continue to use a cooking fork to open and close each side of the hinged cooking grates and carefully add 10 regular mesquite coals (DO NOT USE the Match Light coals).
  • If the turkey is getting too brown on the top during the cooking process, put a piece of foil (just large enough to cover the brown area) on the top of the turkey. 
  • Basting the Turkey - Every ½ hour or so, use a bulb-type baster to transfer the liquid from the cavity of the turkey, to the top of the turkey (this not only adds to the beautiful golden color of the turkey but will allow the delicious juice to drip into the gravy-drippings pan that's sitting on a rack under the turkey).
  • This is not required but if you happen to have a citrus tree in your patio or yard, carefully drop a few green leaves between the spaces on the grill on to the coals during the last hour for added flavor. 

REMOVING THE FULLY COOKED TURKEY FROM THE BARBECUE:

  • WHEN THE TURKEY IS THOROUGHLY COOKED, using sturdy oven hot mitts carefully remove it from the grill on to a large platter and let it rest for 30 minutes before carving. 
  • Removing the turkey from the BBQ is a two-person task because one person needs to hold on to the platter while the other person transfers the turkey from the BBQ to the platter (using sturdy hot mitts).
  • The turkey should be transferred to a large sturdy platter with edges because there will be juice that comes off of the turkey. 
  • So it's NOT a good idea to transfer the turkey from the BBQ directly onto a cutting board because the juice from the turkey will run over the sides of the cutting board and make a mess.
  • Using sturdy hot mitts, carefully (be careful not to touch the hot coals, rack, barbecue kettle or other hot surfaces) remove the drippings pan from the grill.
  • THE DRIPPINGS PAN WILL BE VERY HOT SO MAKE SURE THAT THERE IS A HEAT PROOF SURFACE TO SET THIS PAN ON AFTER REMOVING IT FROM THE BARBECUE GRILL.
  • While the turkey is resting, use these drippings to make gravy.

DECIDING WHEN TO START THE COOKING PROCESS***:

    A) Determine When You Want To Serve Your Cooked Turkey:

    • Decide when you want to serve the turkey and hold that thought.

    B) Determine How Long To Cook Your Fresh or Completely Defrosted Turkey (based on weight):

    • Do the math to determine how long it will take to cook the fresh or completely defrosted turkey by using this calculation:
      Suggested cooking time is 11 minutes per pound (without stuffing)***; (13 minutes per pound with stuffing)***

    C) Consider "Non-Cooking Time" (BBQ prep and resting time for the turkey):

    • Add 45 minutes for putting the starter coals in the BBQ and for them to get hot.
    • Add 30 minutes for the turkey to rest after it’s cooked.

    D) Total Time (add "B" plus "C"):

    • Add the amount of time to cook the turkey ("B"- calculated based on weight of turkey), to the grill prep and heat time, plus resting time ("C" - fixed total of 75 minutes).

    E) Determine When To Start The Cooking Process ("A" minus "D"):

    • Now go back to when you want to serve the turkey ("A"), and subtract the amount of total time determined in ("D").

    Here's an Example for a 19 Pound Fresh or Completely Defrosted Turkey:

    • I want to serve my turkey dinner at 5 pm.
    • My unstuffed 19 pound turkey (fresh or completely defrosted turkey) should take 3.5 hours to cook; 19 multiplied by 11 minutes = 209 minutes; 209 minutes divided by 60 minutes per hour = 3.48 hours. Which rounds to 3.5 hours.***
    • Add 45 minutes for putting the coals in the BBQ and for them to get hot.
    • Add 30 minutes for the turkey to rest after it’s thoroughly cooked.
    • The total time for the turkey should be 4 hours and 45 minutes (3.5 hours, plus 45 minutes, plus 30 minutes).***
    • I’ll need to start my 19 pound unstuffed fresh or completely defrosted turkey at 12:15 pm to have it ready for dinner at 5 pm.
    • ***PLEASE NOTE:  The cooking times of 11 minutes per pound for a fresh or completely defrosted turkey without stuffing, and 13 minutes per pound for a fresh or completely defrosted turkey with stuffing are suggested times.
      But since there are variables associated with cooking a turkey such as, but not limited to; how hot the coals are, how much stuffing is packed in the cavity of the turkey and the amount of moisture in the stuffing, it's very important not to completely rely on this timing for the turkey to be completely cooked through.
      MOST IMPORTANTLY, THERE'S ONLY ONE WAY TO MAKE SURE YOUR TURKEY IS COMPLETELY COOKED WHICH IS BY CHECKING THE TEMPERATURE OF THE TURKEY.
      Here's a helpful link that discusses how to make sure your turkey is completely cooked from the Butterball (Turkey) website "HOW TO CHECK FOR DONENESS".

    Video

    Notes

    TIPS:

    Barbecue Preparation

    1. Right after the Match Light briquets have been added it's a good idea to close the bag and store them away so not to mistakenly use them in the actual cooking process.
    2. When putting the pan in the BBQ, be very careful not to get close to the hot charcoal or bump the rack that the briquets are on so that the dust from the charcoal won't fly into the pan (since the pan will have drippings in it that the gravy is made out of).
    3. When putting the hinged cooking grate in the BBQ, try to do it gently so not to bump, move or disturb the briquets so the very light dust on them doesn't get into the dripping pan.

    Preparing the Fresh or Completely Defrosted Turkey

    1. When I first started cooking turkeys I thought that I was supposed to take that off and throw it away!  Don't be like me and do that!  The hock lock needs to stay on the bird to secure the hind legs (or hock) of the turkey so that the turkey will cook evenly.
    2. If your turkey doesn't come with a hock lock it may need to be "trussed" (or tied).  Trussing, or tying a turkey with twine into a compact shape allows the turkey to cook evenly.  Here's a helpful link that you may like from Epicurious.com "How to Truss a Turkey:  The Simple, No-Fuss Way" .
    3. Since I generally have toothpicks on hand I use them to secure the wings to the bird.  As an alternative, the wing tips can be tucked behind the shoulders to lock them in place.  Here's a link to a slide from the article "How to Stuff and Prepare Your Thanksgiving Turkey" on MarthaStewart.com that shows how to tuck the wings under a turkey.

    Cooking the Fresh or Completely Defrosted Turkey

    1. If the top of the turkey is cooking faster than the rest of the bird, put a piece of foil (just large enough to cover the brown area) on top of the turkey.
    2. Removing the turkey from the BBQ is a two-person task because one person needs to hold on to the platter while the other person transfers the turkey from the BBQ to the platter (using sturdy hot mitts).

    Removing the Metal Dripping Pan from the Hot Barbecue

    1. AFTER THE TURKEY IS REMOVED FROM THE GRILL, USE STURDY HOT MITTS TO CAREFULLY REMOVE THE VERY HOT COOKING GRILL FROM THE BARBECUE IN ORDER TO ACCESS THE DRIPPING PAN.
    2. USE THE HOT MITTS TO REMOVE THE DRIPPING PAN FROM THE GRILL IN ORDER TO USE THE DRIPPINGS TO MAKE GRAVY.
    3. THE DRIPPING PAN WILL BE VERY HOT SO MAKE SURE THAT THERE IS A HEAT PROOF SURFACE TO SET THIS PAN ON AFTER REMOVING IT FROM THE BARBECUE GRILL.  

    Resting the Turkey

    1. The turkey should be transferred from the barbecue to a large sturdy platter with edges because there will be juice that comes off of the turkey.  So it's not a good idea to transfer the turkey from the BBQ directly on to a cutting board because the juice from the turkey will run over the sides of the cutting board and make a mess.
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    16 Comments

    1. Idk what we did wrong but after 8 hours on the bbq the Turkey was not done. It was a 13 pound Turkey. Followed every instruction and was raw. Help me figure this out please. And now what can I do.

    2. 10 per side briqeuts charcoal or 10 total added each hour?

      • Hi Pete, it’s 10 per side added each hour.

        About 15 minutes after putting the turkey on the grill, take off the lid, open the hinged cooking grates, and add 10 regular mesquite coals to each side. Then put the lid back on. Then for every hour thereafter, continue to add 10 regular mesquite coals (not the Match Light coals) to each side of the charcoal rails.

    3. This is a great tutorial. I followed your mathematical equation and my 19 lb stuffed bird was cooked almost to the minute. 

      Cheers 

    4. Whoa. The color on that bird looks so good! I’ve never had a grilled turkey, but that might just have to change this year!

      • Hi Amy, I actually have the kettle BBQ just to make my turkey each year. Just the smell alone while it’s cooking is so amazing and of course the taste of the turkey is wonderful too. Have a great day!

    5. Great post. Turkey looks great. I bet it taste great.

    6. What a great tutorial…my kids were talking about this recently. Looks amazing!

    7. Lovely! The turkey is looking beautifully barbecued and so even in its colour. Being cooked on the bone, the turkey would have tasted delicious. Great post and thanks for step by step preparation details.

    8. Great post! I did a boneless turkey breast on the charcoal grill for my thanksgiving feast, it tasted amazing. The only thing I did different was that I soaked the breast in a salt brine the night before, that way I didn’t have to baste during the cooking process.

      • Hi Justin, what a great idea to soak the turkey in salt brine….I’m going to try that next time!