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How to Barbecue a Turkey
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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
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Keyword Barbecued Turkey, Turkey, Whole Turkey
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
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.