How to Cook Your Turkey on the Grill and Why it is Better Than the Oven

Everyone knows to cook their Thanksgiving turkey in the oven, but what if you switched up the cooking method and wow’d your guests with a flavorful, smokey, and crispy turkey with the perfect amount of char developing on the skin.

Grill vs. Oven

Now there is nothing particularly wrong with cooking your turkey in the oven. With the right brine, marinade, and stuffing, the oven produces great results and can leave you with a nice and juicy turkey for dinner. Ovens are consistent, easy to set up, and allow you to stay inside while the cooking gets done.

A grill on the other hand, can provide the same consistency of heat, but because of the properties of the grill construction, a more smokey complex flavor can be developed on the turkey, adding to the overall flavor profile of the bird. A properly set up grill for cooking will give you that distinct “BBQ flavor” on top of the brine, marinade, and stuffing that the turkey was prepared with.

What you need:

  • Turkey (make sure it fits in your grill!)
  • A Grill
  • Soaked wood chips (to develop an extra layer of smokiness)
  • Drip Tray

Grill Set-up

The process will slightly differ depending on if you are using a gas or charcoal grill, but you want to set up the grill for indirect heat either way. For a charcoal grill this would mean igniting and moving the hot coals to one side leaving a cooking area without a heat source under it. With a gas grill, you want to switch on the burners on one side only with your cooking area being over the burners that are not on.

Close the lid and let the grill heat up anywhere from 350-425 degrees or what your usual oven temperature would be. This is where the grill can act like an oven. By providing a consistent indirect heat, this is how a grill can provide the same cooking capabilities of a traditional oven.

How we start to develop the more complex flavors is to add the soaked wood chips(your choice of water, beer, or other alcohols) to the heat source of the grill in order to start a smoking process. If you have a charcoal grill, just add the wood chips directly to the coals, but if you have a gas grill, you will need a smoker tray.

The Cooking

Take your marinated and defrosted turkey and put it on the indirect heat of your grill. You can place the turkey in a baking tray, or have it on a rotisserie as well to be able to constantly turn the turkey while it smokes.

Under the turkey you want to have a drip tray set up to catch all the drippings. Add about 2-3 liters of water for easy dripping removal and cleanup. If you plan to use some of the drippings to add to a gravy, only use about 1-1.5 liters of water in your drip tray.

Let your turkey cook with the lid closed. Be patient because everytime the lid is lifted, the grill will be losing heat. Check up on the turkey periodically until the interior temperature of the turkey is at least 165 degrees throughout.

Once the turkey is cooked to perfection be sure to let is rest for about 20-30% of the total time it spent cooking. Letting the turkey rest will allow for its juices and flavors to continue to develop and absorb into the meat leaving you with juicy cuts of turkey instead of it spilling onto the plate/cutting board with every cut.

After letting it rest you now have a great Thanksgiving turkey with that added signature “grill flavor” to set your turkey apart.