Grill-Roasted Turkey


  • 1 (12 to 14 pound) whole turkey, completely thawed
  • 4 to 6 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 6 cups mesquite or hickory wood chips (optional)
  • Good quality charcoal briquettes
  • 22-inch kettle-style or other covered charcoal grill


  1. Place wood chips or chunks in a large bowl, cover with cold water and soak for 30 minutes to 1 hour. Drain and set aside.
  2. Apply a thin coating of vegetable oil to the clean grill grate. Set bottom grill vents to the fully open position.
  3. Place 70 charcoal briquettes on one side of the grill and ignite. Place a drip pan on the opposite side, and place the oiled grill grate into position.
  4. Allow coals to develop a light coating of gray ash - about 25 to 30 minutes.
  5. While the grill is heating, prepare the turkey. Remove the giblet package and neck from inside the bird. Check both the neck cavity and body cavity for giblets; often these are stored in both places.
  6. Pat the turkey dry both inside and out with paper towels. If desired, the turkey may be rinsed inside and out with cold running water before patting dry.
  7. Trim the excess skin and fat around the neck and body cavities, so juices may drain freely. The tail may also be removed, if desired.
  8. Brush the skin generously with vegetable oil.
  9. When the coals are ready, place the turkey, breast-side-down, directly on the grill grate. The turkey should be on the side opposite from the coals and directly over the drip pan.
  10. Sprinkle 3 cups of the soaked and drained wood chips directly over the hot coals.
  11. Place the lid on the grill, position the lid vents over the turkey, and open them halfway. Copious amounts of smoke will soon be pouring out of the vents. Don't open the lid - this is normal.
  12. At the 1-hour mark, remove the lid from the grill. With a thick wad of paper towel in each hand, grasp the turkey, flip it breast-side-up, and turn on the grill grate so that the leg and wing that were facing the coals are now facing away.
  13. Add 15 briquettes to the hot coals, and sprinkle the remaining half of the soaked and drained wood chips over the fire.
  14. At the 2-hour mark, remove the grill lid. Using thick wads of paper towel, as before, turn the turkey again so that the leg and wing that were facing the fire are now facing away. The turkey remains breast-side-up.
  15. Insert an instant- read thermometer into each thigh. If thigh is close to target temperature (175 to 180 degrees), cover the grill, continue roasting, and check again in about 15 minutes.
  16. If the temperature is still well below target (145 degrees or lower), add another 15 briquettes to the coals, cover the grill, and continue roasting for another 45 minutes before checking for doneness again.
  17. When internal temperature of both thighs reaches 175 to 180 degrees, remove the turkey from the grill, tent loosely with foil, and let rest for 20 minutes before carving. Expect the finished turkey to be a deep mahogany brown.

Grill Roasting Tips:

  • Get the right turkey - one that weighs no more than 12 to 14 pounds. A larger bird will produce burnt skin and undercooked meat. The shape of the turkey is almost as important as the weight. A turkey that is broad and flat will fit better under the covered grill top than one that protrudes too high in the breast area. There should be at least 1 inch of space between the turkey and the lid.
  • Don't stuff the turkey - this will also lead to burnt skin and undercooked meat. Don't truss the turkey either; leave both the body and neck cavities open so juices can drain.
  • Placement of the turkey on the grill is crucial - hot coals go on one side and the turkey goes on the other side, strategically placed over a disposable drip pan.
  • Avoid opening the lid or turning the bird any more than instructed. Substantial heat is lost each time the lid is opened.
  • Use a thermometer to check for doneness! Smoking can give the meat a pink tinge, which makes it close to impossible to tell if the meat "looks" done. An instant-read thermometer is great if you have one.
  • Total cooking time is about 2 1/2 to 3 hours, but could take longer if the weather is cold, windy or rainy.
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