Grilling a turkey is an excellent way to cook the thanksgiving bird. Great recipe for wood, charcoal and gas grills to cook using indirect grilling.

How to Grill a Turkey

Grilling a turkey on your BBQ grill is simple and so delicious! Each Thanksgiving it seems that I am always maxing out the stovetop and oven. It gets a little crazy in the kitchen with turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, veggies, sweet potatoes, casseroles and any other creative dishes I decide to make.  

The oven gets a major workout and I usually have to juggle what goes in the oven and when it is cooked. It can get challenging with different dishes cooking at different temperatures and trying to get everything ready all for dinner time.

Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to relieve the oven of some of the jobs??

Well, it is possible! Cooking the turkey on the outdoor grill is a great way to free up space and time in the oven for the many other dishes that need to be cooked. Not only can a grill cook a turkey effectively, but I actually prefer the taste of turkey done on the grill. I find that the skin is extra crispy and the breast meat is very juicy. Also, if you use a grill that is fired with wood or charcoal, the turkey has an enhanced mild smokey flavor that an oven cannot replicate.

Grilling a turkey is an excellent way to cook the thanksgiving bird. Great recipe for wood, charcoal and gas grills to cook using indirect grilling.

Below are the directions for cooking the Thanksgiving turkey on the grill. This can be done on a gas or charcoal grill, as long as you are able to do indirect grilling. If you use a charcoal grill or gas grill that does not allow you to actually set the temperature, you will need to monitor the temperature and make any adjustments necessary to keep it at (or around) 350F.


Temperature To Grill a Turkey

I found 350F to be the perfect temperature for cooking the turkey on the grill. Prep the turkey however you like. I brine the turkey overnight and then rub it down with a spice blend.

Here are a couple different spice blend options:

BBQ Turkey Spice Blend

  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 2 tbsp sugar

Herb and Garlic Spice Blend

  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 2 tsp garlic
  • 2 tsp oregano
  • 2 tsp parsley
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 1 tsp tarragon
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 2 tbsp sugar


What is Indirect Grilling?

It is important to use indirect heat when grilling the turkey. Indirect heat means that the flame is on one side of the grill and the turkey is on the other side and there is no flame under the bird. If the flame was directly under the turkey, it would burn the bottom of the bird before the top was even cooked.

I place the turkey in a pan with a rack. Place this pan on the side of the grill away from the heat. The pan helps to contain the drippings, which can be used for gravy. It is not necessary to use a pan and the bird can be placed right on the grates of the grill.

Time and Temperature to Cook a Turkey on the Grill


After each hour rotate the bird. If the turkey is in a pan, rotate the pan as well. The purpose of this is to make sure that the turkey is cooked evenly throughout. Keep it at the same spot on grill, in the indirect portion. Just rotate it in place.

Time and Temperature to Cook a Turkey on the Grill


How Long to Cook a Turkey on the Grill

The size of the turkey will determine length of the cooking time. Also, different grills hold the heat better than others, so it is not really safe to cook only according to time. Time can be helpful as a guide and planning around 15-20 minutes per pound is typically a safe bet. The timing can really vary depending on the grill and the turkey.

Instead of time, it is more important to cook according to the internal temperature. I check both the temperature of the turkey breast and the thigh. The internal temperature needs to be at a minimum of 165F. Usually it will reach the target temperature on the breast before it does on the thigh. That is why I like to check at both locations. There is nothing more frustrating than seeing that the breast is at the right temperature and then cutting into it only to find a bunch of pink meat around the back and thighs.


Once the turkey has reached the target internal temperature, take it off the grill and let it rest for about 20 minutes before carving. If a pan was used, there may drippings that can be used to make gravy.

Enjoy and have a Happy Thanksgiving!!

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