Make your Thanksgiving dinner extra special this year with a grilled turkey cooked to perfection on your barbecue.
Roasting a turkey on a barbecue grill may not be the traditional way to cook it for your Thanksgiving dinner. But it’s slowly now becoming a favorite way how to cook a whole Thanksgiving turkey.
For starters, it allows you to keep a closer eye on the bird to make sure that it comes out tasty and juicy just the way a proper Thanksgiving turkey should. Grilling your turkey also frees up the oven, so you can use this to cook other traditional Thanksgiving dinner food like baked sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, and sweet pies for desserts.
More important, grilling your Thanksgiving turkey doesn’t steal you away from your family and friends as they wait. You can take them outside with you and entertain them by the barbecue grill until it’s ready.
Here is your complete guide from start to finish to help you grill the perfect turkey to celebrate Thanksgiving with a bang.
Choose the Right Turkey
Grilling a succulent and juicy Thanksgiving turkey starts with choosing the right bird for the job. That can be easier said than done, especially as Thanksgiving fast approaches. It’s quite easy to be overwhelmed with the seemingly endless selection of turkeys available in supermarkets and butcher shops.
Natural turkeys that contain the words “minimal processed,” “not enhanced,” and “not injected” are the best ones to pick for your Thanksgiving dinner because they are more affordable than organic, free-range, and heritage turkeys. They don’t contain any artificial flavorings, colorings, and chemical preservatives. This way, you have a bird that is like a “blank canvas” so you can better control the flavor you will add later.
Another important thing to check is the water solution percentage listed on the front package label. Many whole turkeys sold these days have already been pre-soaked in a brine solution to help speed up the marinating process. Turkeys that contain a low brine solution will not interfere with the brine solution you will use.
Get it to Room Temperature
Once you get your turkey, the first step is to get this to room temperature before you marinade it. This helps it absorb the marinade much better. Store this inside your refrigerator or inside a cooler lined with ice.
It’s Brine Time!
Brining your Thanksgiving turkey does more than just give it flavor. Soaking it in a salt solution between 12-14 hours before grilling helps reshape the proteins in the meat of your turkey to prevent it from drying out when you grill it.
When brining your turkey, it’s best to use a 1-gallon food container. Aside from being able to make sure that every single part of your turkey is submerged in the brine solution, it’s a lot sturdier than those brining bags you can get in supermarkets, so you don’t have to worry about it suddenly bursting when handling it.
Make Sure You Got Plenty of Fuel
The last thing that you’d want to happen while grilling your Thanksgiving turkey is to run out of fuel halfway through the entire cooking process. Make sure that you stock up on coal or propane that will allow you to continue grilling for up to six hours nonstop. Chances are you won’t finish up all of this fuel, but it’s still better to be safe than sorry.
Prep Your Grill
Fire up your grill and get the cooking area up to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Close the lid of your grill and allow it to heat up for a good 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, get your turkey ready. Take it out from the brine solution and pat it with kitchen paper towels to dry up the skin. Otherwise, your turkey’s skin won’t go crispy while grilling. You can also throw in some wood chips like apple, peach or hickory wood chips in to give your Thanksgiving turkey added flavor. Soak the wood chips in wine, beer or water for at least 30 minutes before adding them to the grill.
Grilling Your Thanksgiving Turkey
When grilling your Thanksgiving turkey, it’s important to make sure that you use indirect heat throughout the entire cooking process. Otherwise, you will be left with a bird that is charred on the outside and undercooked in the inside.
It is also important to make sure that there is sufficient space between grill’s lid and your turkey. This will help the heat circulate inside your grill to help ensure that it cooks thoroughly and evenly.
Don’t also forget to put an aluminum foil pan underneath your turkey while it’s cooking on the grill. This will help you collect all those wonderful juices and drippings from your turkey that would make an awesome base for your gravy.
If your grill came with rotisserie accessories, now is the best time to use them. These will ensure that your turkey doesn’t come into direct heat. More important, the rotisserie would handle the job of turning your turkey for you. That way, you don’t have to keep on opening your grill’s lid which can cause the temperature to keep fluctuating.
That doesn’t mean that you will just forget your turkey as it’s grilling, of course. It is still a good idea to check it once in a while. If you notice that there are some areas, like the wings and the legs, are starting to become darker in color than the other parts of your turkey, cover these areas with aluminum foil to prevent this from burning.
Don’t Stuff Your Turkey
Stuffing your Thanksgiving turkey before roasting or grilling this is not recommended for a two reasons. First, the cavity of your turkey still contains all sorts of bacteria in it, which can contaminate your stuffing.
Second, stuffing your turkey prevents heat to circulate inside the cavity of your turkey. This will not only cause your turkey not to cook evenly, but may also cause your stuffing not to get cooked thoroughly.
If you want to present a grilled stuffed turkey to your family and friends for Thanksgiving dinner, cook the stuffing separately and then add this into the cavity of the turkey right before serving.
Allow It to Rest
You will know that the turkey is done when you insert a digital thermometer into the thickest part of the turkey’s thigh at it registers between 170 and 175 degrees Fahrenheit. Take your turkey out of the grill and place it on a plate and cover this with aluminum foil for 20 minutes to give it time for the turkey to rest and reabsorb its juices.
While waiting for it to rest, take the aluminum pan that you used to collect its drippings and use this to make the gravy.