Is the weather in your part of the country still amenable to a cookout for Thanksgiving? Have you ever thought of having your Thanksgiving dinner out-of-doors? What about a grilled turkey? If you have never grilled a turkey you are in for a delicious treat that your guests will talk about until the next time you invite them over for a grilled turkey dinner!
When you roast a turkey on the barbecue grill, your guests will know they’re in for a non-traditional dinner, but you can still provide them the mashed potatoes they love (consider twice baked, grilled mashed potatoes) and the sweet potatoes they look forward to all year (grill the sweet potatoes then grill the marshmallows as well to put on top — your taste buds will be in for a treat!
Delicious Grilled Turkey: Start A New Thanksgiving Tradition
When you grill your turkey you’re doing double duty — maybe more:
- you’re offering your guests a delicious taste sensation
- you free up the kitchen for other traditional dishes
- you can grill other traditional items on the grill rather than cooking them on the stove indoors
One of the biggest joys about cooking your Thanksgiving turkey and some of the sides outside is that you will be able to spend time with your family rather than being in the kitchen while they’re playing a game of flag football or gathering around the television you’ve set up to watch the “big game.”
Here are our best grilling tips for your Thanksgiving day dinner
Choose the best turkey for the dinner
If you don’t want a dried out turkey — and who does?! — you need to choose the best turkey for the grill.
Look for a turkey that is as natural as possible; if you have a turkey farm next to where you live, opt for a turkey fresh from the farm for the freshest, most natural turkey. If you don’t have the option of a turkey from a farm, look for a grocery store turkey that is:
- Minimally processed
- Not injected
- Not enhanced
Check the water solution percentage on the turkey’s label. Many turkeys are sold “pre-soaked” and this will help speed up the marinating process. It can also add to the weight of the turkey without bringing more “turkey to the table” so be aware of that.
This means you will be getting a turkey that is as close to free-range and organic if possible. When you get a turkey that is in its most natural state you are feeding your family a dinner that is free of artificial color, flavor and preservatives.
Look for a turkey that can be a “blank canvas” for the spices and herbs you add to the turkey to make it your own.
On the day of your Thanksgiving dinner
- Bring the turkey to room temperature. When it’s room temperature it will absorb the marinade.
- Brine it. When you brine your turkey you are infusing it with more flavor and keeping it moist and delicious. Soak the turkey in a salt solution for twelve hours before grilling. Get a food storage container that is large enough to hold your turkey so when you submerge it in the brine solution, it is fully submerged.
- Don’t run out of fuel. You will need to cook the turkey on the grill for several hours. Make certain you have enough fuel for the entire time. There’s nothing worse than trying to find an open store on a holiday so you can get a new tank. You can certainly cook the turkey in a smoker or over a charcoal grill and if that’s the case, have enough fuel for that grill as well. To add a unique flavor consider adding apple, peach or hickory chips to the grill. Soak them in water for about an hour before you add them to the grill.
- Preheat the grill. Turn it up to 375 degrees Fahrenheit and let it heat up for about fifteen minutes.
- Get the turkey ready. Take it from the brine solution and pay it try.
Cook the turkey on indirect heat; if you don’t the turkey will be charred on the outside and probably not cooked through. There needs to be enough space around the entire turkey to assure the heat circulates evenly during the cooking process.
Even though you usually may cook right on the grill because you want those grill marks, when you’re cooking your turkey you may want to put a pan beneath the bird to capture the juices for your gravy.
You may want to put the turkey on the rotisserie as this will assure even cooking. Also when you use the rotisserie you can resist the urge to keep opening the lid and allowng the heat to escape and the temperature to fluctuate.
This being said, you will still want to check the turkey occasionally. If you notice that one area is cooking more quickly — the legs or wings, for example — cover them in foil to prevent them from burning.
When cooking the turkey on the grill, don’t put your famous chestnut/cranberry/sausage inside it to cook. This isn’t recommended even if you’re cooking the turkey indoors.
The reasons include:
- The turkey’s cavity (when it’s raw) contains bacteria that can contaminate the stuffing.
- When you stuff the turkey breast you’re blocking the ability for the heat to circulate in the cavity of the turkey and lead to uneven cooking.
If you want grilled stuffing, cook the stuffing separately in a covered pan on the grill.
You’ll know the turkey is cooked thoroughly when you insert a digital thermometer into the turkey thigh and it reads between 170 and 175 degrees Fahrenheit.
Before you dig in you will want to let the turkey rest. Cover it with foil for 20 minutes to let the turkey reabsorb its juices.
While the turkey is resting you can make your gravy and put the finishing touches on the table and on the side dishes.