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Grilled Thanksgiving Turkey
Cooking Techniques,  Food,  Recipes

Thanksgiving Grill Recipes: How to Make the Best Grilled Turkey

Looking for Thanksgiving grill recipes? Here is one recipe for how to make the best grilled turkey to add to your Thanksgiving menu and impress your guests!

In the United States, Thanksgiving is a special occasion to gather family and friends, and of course, indulge in amazing food.

Take your Thanksgiving feast to the next level this year by grilling your turkey! Grilling a turkey can be easy and delicious – you just need a great recipe. Check out this Thanksgiving grill recipe for the best way to grill your whole turkey. Your guests will love it as the centerpiece of your main course!

How to Grill your Thanksgiving Turkey on a Charcoal Grill

If you’re looking to grill your turkey this Thanksgiving, there are a few things you need to know. You can use a pellet grill or a gas grill to cook your turkey, but these directions are for a charcoal grill.

First, you’ll need a charcoal grill that’s big enough to fit your bird standing up.

Grill Guru's Secret Weapon in pursuit of the perfect steak dinner

Then you’ll need to have charcoal, a charcoal chimney, newspaper or lighter fluid, aluminum foil, a disposable roasting pan, and an instant-read cooking thermometer.

If you don’t want to grill your bird in an upright position, you can use optional instructions to grill your bird laying down.

Once you have your grill set up, it’s time to start cooking!

First, light the charcoal in the chimney and let it heat up for about 15-20 minutes.

While the charcoal is heating up, place the prepared turkey on a disposable roasting pan on the grill standing up with a tall boy beer can inserted in the cavity.

You can also leave the beer can out and lay the turkey down breast side up. But if you are going to lay the turkey down, make sure you have a drip pan or disposable roasting pan at the bottom of the grill and place the turkey on the grill rack.

Carefully pour in the charcoal and grill for about one undisturbed hour before checking it. Add charcoal as needed and recheck your bird about every 30 – 45 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

Once the turkey is cooked through, remove it from the grill and let it rest for about 20 – 30 minutes before carving. Enjoy the delicious smokey flavor of grilled turkey this Thanksgiving!

Grilled Turkey for Thanksgiving with cranberry sauce

How Long Does it Take to Grill a Turkey?

Many people ask how many pounds per minute will my turkey take to cook? 

According to Weber, you need to know a couple of things in order to determine how long it will take to grill your turkey.

For a general rule of thumb for how much time it takes to grill your turkey you first need to know how much it weighs. The second thing you need to know is the temperature you intend to use for grilling. Is your approach low and slow or will you use higher temps to roast your bird?

Here’s a quick chart from Weber.

225-250 degrees     23-27 minutes per pound

275-300 degrees     18-21 minutes per pound

350-375 degrees     11-13 minutes per pound

Adjust by about 3 minutes per pound if it is cold – below 40 degrees F – outside.

You can also use these time guides if you are cooking a turkey breast.

When Is Your Turkey Done?

Your turkey is done when an instant-read thermometer registers 165 degrees F. Check the temperature on the innermost part of the thigh or dark meat, and the thickest part of the breast before removing your bird from the heat source.

Initially, check the temperature of your turkey about halfway through the cooking process. Then again about three-quarters of the way and then when you think it is done. Intermittent temperature checks will make sure you are on the right track. This will help you monitor the turkey and make sure you don’t overcook it! No one will be impressed by a dry turkey.

I pull my turkey from the grill when it registers 160 degrees F as it will cook a little longer and the temperature will continue to rise as it rests.

Checking temperature of poultry meat with instant read thermometer

And resting your bird is very important! A general rule is to let it rest for 20 – 30% of your total cooking time. When it comes to turkey I let mine rest a minimum of 30 minutes before I even think about carving. Just loosely cover the turkey with a piece of aluminum foil while it is resting to keep it a little warm and protected from nibblers.

Tips to Grill the Perfect Turkey for Thanksgiving

Here are some tips and ideas for this Thanksgiving grill recipe to help you grill the perfect Thanksgiving turkey:

  • Make sure your turkey is thawed completely before grilling.
    • The USDA recommends thawing your turkey in the refrigerator. It will take 1 day per every 4 – 5 pounds of weight. So, if your turkey weighs 15 pounds it should thaw out in about three days.
  • Think about brining your turkey.
    • The length of time depends on the recipe but opinions range from 8 hours to up to 3 days. I typically brine my turkey for 24 hours or overnight at the very least. I also use a dry brine as it takes up a lot less room in my refrigerator.
    • Check out Your Ultimate Guide to Dry Brine a Thanksgiving Turkey for more great tips.
  • Season your turkey with a flavorful rub or marinade or compound herb butter.
  • When grilling, use indirect heat to cook the turkey slowly and evenly. Just arrange the charcoal on the side of the grill instead of below your bird.
  • Baste your turkey frequently with juices or melted butter to keep it moist. Or in this recipe put the butter under the skin and let the turkey self-baste – which is critical when you’re grilling the turkey!
  • If using a charcoal grill, make sure to light the coals well in advance so they have time to get hot.
  • Place the turkey on the grill away from the direct heat of the coals.
  • Cover the grill to help trap in heat and cook the turkey evenly.
  • Check the temperature of the turkey halfway through the cooking process with your thermometer. Then again three quarters of the way and finally when you think it is done. This helps keep you on the right track to hitting 165. This will help you monitor the turkey and make sure it is not overcooked!
  • When the turkey is cooked through, remove it from the grill and let it rest for at least 20 – 30 minutes before carving.

Should I Cover My Turkey on the Grill?

Absolutely! You need to cover the grill with the lid to help trap the heat in your grill. This helps the turkey cook evenly. Be patient and don’t open the lid except about ½ way through, ¾ of the way and then when you think the turkey is done.

Should I Cover My Turkey with Foil on the Grill?

It isn’t necessary as you keep the lid closed on the grill. However, some say you can put foil on the breast of your turkey to prevent it from overcooking.

If your turkey is lying down you can do this. But we found with the beer can method and additional butter paste in this recipe the foil is not necessary.

If you decide to use foil on the breast of your turkey, then wait to add it until after the first hour of grilling so the skin can crisp up a bit.

How Do you Keep a Turkey from Drying Out on the Grill?

Basting the turkey is the best idea. This recipe uses the liquid in the beer can to keep moisture in the turkey. Also, the butter paste helps baste the turkey as it cooks.

If the bird is lying down, then another source of moisture will be necessary. I often use a whole onion cut in half or quarters stuffed inside the cavity of the bird while lying down.

Ingredients for Beer Can Grilled Turkey Recipe

Cooked turkey from the grill

Here are the ingredients for this amazing Thanksgiving grilled turkey recipe.

  •          1 x 14 – 15 pound turkey
  •          1 ½ tbsp fresh sage
  •          10 sprigs fresh thyme
  •          4 sprigs fresh rosemary
  •          5 – 6 cloves garlic
  •          3 tsp Montreal Chicken Seasoning
  •          1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  •          4 – 5 tbsp butter, room temperature
  •          Kosher salt
  •          1 “tall boy” can of your favorite beer
  •          Medium onion

How to Make this Thanksgiving Grill Recipe for Beer Can Grilled Turkey

For this recipe, we’ll use a Kettle grill and focus on the grilling technique for roasting at about 350-375 degrees.

Do you Grill Turkey on Direct or Indirect Heat?

For this recipe, set up your grill for indirect heat. Open all vents and remove the top grate from your grill.

We use a chimney starter to avoid having to use lighter fluid. It is a very effective way to get your charcoal lit quickly. We recommend lighting a chimney starter that is filled about halfway with charcoal (40 – 50 briquettes) and waiting until the charcoal has gray ash all over. About 15-20 minutes.

How to Prepare Turkey for Grilling

Leg truss on turkey
Remove Truss Before Grilling – OK in the Oven

First, prepare your turkey by removing the plastic truss and pop-up timer and clear the cavity. Rinse with water and pat dry with paper towels. If you dry brined your turkey using Your Ultimate Guide to Dry Brine a Thanksgiving Turkey, there is no need to rinse the brine, but you can if you want.

Set the prepared turkey on a sheet pan or rimmed baking sheet to make it easy to transfer it to the grill.

Make the Butter Baste

Strip the leaves from the thyme and rosemary. You should have a little over a tablespoon of each. Mince the leaves along with the sage.

Mix the sage, thyme, rosemary, garlic, 2 tsp Montreal Chicken seasoning, and ½ tsp black pepper in a small bowl. Add the butter and mix into a paste.

Seasoning for the Turkey

With your fingers or a wooden spoon handle, carefully loosen the skin of the turkey and rub the butter paste all under the turkey skin. Season the outside of the turkey with the remaining ½ tsp black pepper and 1 teaspoon Montreal Chicken seasoning or Kosher salt. If you brined your turkey, skip this extra salt.

You can also add lemon or orange slices to the breast meat under the skin for seasoning and moisture.

Stand your Turkey Up in the Grill for Thanksgiving Grill Recipe

First, open the beer and drink or pour out 1/3. With a can opener, remove the entire top of the beer can. Place enough onion in the beer can to bring the liquid to just below 1 inch from the top. Place the turkey cavity over the beer can and slide the turkey, legs down, onto the beer can. Slide the legs forward to balance the turkey creating a tripod.

Whole turkey on a beer can ready to grill

Next, loosely tent the turkey with aluminum foil to help protect the turkey from ash when pouring your lit charcoal around the turkey. 

Then, place a medium disposable aluminum pan in the bottom of your grill and fold it to fit under the turkey. Place turkey, legs down, inside the aluminum pan and make sure the turkey is steady.

Now carefully pour lit charcoal on either side of the aluminum pan into two even piles. Then, remove the aluminum foil tent from the turkey.

How Long to Cook your Turkey on a Weber Charcoal Grill?

Place the lid on the grill and begin with the top and bottom vents about halfway open. You can control the temperature throughout the grilling process by opening the top vent more to increase the temperature or closing it a little to lower the grill temperature. It’s all about the flow of oxygen over the burning coals!

Next, after closing the lid, cook the turkey undisturbed for 1 hour.

After the first hour, remove the lid and add 5 – 6 charcoal briquettes on each pile of burning coals. Close the lid and cook for an additional 45 minutes. The more you open the lid, the longer it will take to cook so be patient, relax and go watch some more football.

In case it is going to be cold – below 40 degrees F – where you live, which it won’t be in Texas, your turkey will take few extra minutes per pound to cook.  Depending on the outside temperature use an extra two or three minutes per pound as a planning guide.

Next, remove the grill lid and check the turkey temperature. Your turkey should be about half done, but it could be farther along depending on the charcoal heat. Add five more charcoal briquettes per side and replace the lid. Check it again in 30 – 45 minutes depending on the temperature reading you noted. It can take less time to get to 160 degrees the closer you get to that number. Go watch the football game, check out the Food Network, or mingle with your guests.

What Temperature is The Turkey Done Cooking?

You’ll remove the turkey from the grill when the instant-read thermometer reads 160 degrees F. This should be about 2 – 3 hours total cooking time. Don’t worry. The temperature will increase a little as your turkey rests.

Thermometer in Thanksgiving Turkey

Turkey is cooked through when the temperature reads 165 in the innermost part of the thigh or the thickest part of the breast meat.

For best results, let the turkey rest a minimum of 30 minutes before carving and serving.

Benefits of Grilling your Thanksgiving Turkey

Thanksgiving is a time for family, friends, and of course, amazing food. If you roasted your turkey last year, why not take your Thanksgiving feast to the next level this year by grilling your turkey?

Also, I think Thanksgiving is the perfect time to try out new recipes, and grilling your turkey is a great way to add some variety to your feast.

If you’re looking for a juicier, more flavorful Thanksgiving turkey, look no further than the grill! Grilled turkey is easy to make and always comes out delicious. Just follow our simple Thanksgiving grill recipe, which is one of our best Thanksgiving recipes, and you’ll be serving up a Thanksgiving feast that everyone will love.

Delicious Thanksgiving Grill Recipe for Turkey

Why Grill Your Turkey Instead of Roasting it in the Oven?

Here are a few reasons:

1. Grilled turkey is juicier. The high heat of the grill seals in the turkey’s natural juices, resulting in a moist, juicy bird. Even more so with the herbed butter under the skin! It bastes the turkey while it cooks.

2. Grilled turkey is more flavorful. Roasting can sometimes make turkey taste bland and dry. The smoky flavor of the grill adds an extra dimension of flavor to your turkey.

3. Grilling is faster than roasting. Thanksgiving is all about spending time with family and friends, not being stuck in the kitchen all day. Grilling your turkey frees up valuable time so you can enjoy the holiday.

4. Grilled turkey looks impressive. Thanksgiving is a time to impress your guests, and there’s nothing more impressive than a beautifully grilled turkey.

Good News — Grilled Turkey Frees up Oven Space

Overall, one of the best things about grilling your Thanksgiving turkey is that it frees up valuable oven space. This means you can make all of your side dishes in the oven without having to worry about overcrowding. Plus, it’s one less pan you have to wash! So why not give grilling a try this Thanksgiving? Your guests will be impressed, and you’ll have more time to enjoy your holiday meal.

All the Thanksgiving foods on a table

Now that the turkey is out of the oven consider a few Thanksgiving side dishes that are perfect for the oven:

1. Roasted vegetables: Roasted root vegetables are a Thanksgiving staple. They’re easy to make and always delicious. Simply toss your favorite veggies with some olive oil and herbs, then roast in a preheated oven. Brussels sprouts are great cooked this way. Simply toss them in a large bowl with some parmesan cheese after roasting. For me, the best Brussels sprouts are grilled as the crispy smokiness of the sprouts tastes great.

2. Green bean casserole: This classic Thanksgiving side dish with green beans is always a hit. It’s creamy, flavorful, and can be made ahead of time. Simply prepare the casserole according to your recipe, then pop it in the oven when you’re ready to serve.

3. Sweet potato casserole: Sweet potato recipes are oft considered a family tradition in parts of the United States at Thanksgiving. Making a sweet potato casserole is a perfect way to enjoy them. It’s sweet, savory, and can be made ahead of time. Simply bake the sweet potatoes, then mix with the other ingredients and bake the casserole.

4. Thanksgiving pies: No Thanksgiving feast is complete without pumpkin pie. This classic dessert is easy to make and always a hit. Simply bake your favorite pie crust, then fill it with a mixture of pumpkin puree, eggs, and spices. Bake until the filling is set, then enjoy! Apple pie with rich vanilla ice cream is also a favorite fall dessert. If you are a sweet potato fanatic, make a sweet potato pie! You can never have too much pie at Thanksgiving!

5. Mashed Potatoes: Ok, you won’t make these in the oven, but they are an important part of any Thanksgiving menu. Try this recipe for Slow Cooker Mashed Potatoes with Roasted Garlic.

Don’t forget your cranberry sauce to round out your holiday meal!

So don’t wait – fire up the grill and get cooking! Your Thanksgiving feast will thank you.

You can Season Grilled Turkey in so Many Ways

When it comes to grilling your Thanksgiving turkey, there are endless possibilities. Get creative and experiment with different herbs and spices to find your perfect flavor combination. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

1. Rosemary: Rosemary is a classic Thanksgiving herb. It pairs well with other Thanksgiving flavors like sage and thyme.

2. Sage: Sage is another classic Thanksgiving herb. It has a slightly earthy flavor that goes well with turkey.

Grilled Turkey on a Platter sliced to serve

3. Thyme: Thyme is a versatile Thanksgiving herb. It can be used in stuffing, gravy, and even pie!

4. Garlic: Garlic is a great way to add flavor to your turkey. Simply rub a clove of garlic on the turkey before grilling.

5. Lemon: Lemon is a bright and flavorful addition to Thanksgiving turkey. If you’re not grilling the turkey standing up on a beer can, simply add a few slices of lemon to the turkey cavity before you throw it on the grill while it’s grilling.

6. Pepper: Black pepper is a classic seasoning for Thanksgiving turkey. It adds a bit of heat and a whole lot of flavor.

7. Salt: Salt is a necessity for Thanksgiving turkey. It helps to keep the turkey juicy and adds flavor. But don’t add salt if you brined your turkey before cooking or if you bought a pre-salted turkey.

Finally, don’t be afraid to experiment! Thanksgiving is the perfect time to try out new flavors.

Wine Recommendations for Thanksgiving

Looking for the perfect wine to go with your Thanksgiving dinner? Check out this post for Fabulous Budget-Friendly Wines You Need for Thanksgiving.

Get Ready to Wow your Guests with this Thanksgiving Grill Recipe for Turkey

Turkey slices closeup

Thanksgiving is a time o gather the whole family, and friends, and of course, amazing food. This year, spice up your Thanksgiving feast by grilling your turkey instead of roasting it. Grilled turkey is juicy, flavorful, and perfect for a holiday feast. Plus, it’s easy to make!

Just follow our easy recipe instructions and tips, and you’ll be serving up a delicious Thanksgiving turkey in no time.

So what are you waiting for? Try this Thanksgiving Grill Recipe as part of a deliciously good holiday menu. Enjoy your holiday season!

Cheers Y’all!

Grilled Thanksgiving Turkey

Grilled Beer Can Turkey

A delicious whole Thanksgiving turkey from your grill.
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 25 mins
Cook Time 3 hrs
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Servings 12
Calories 234 kcal

Equipment

  • Rimmed Baking Sheet
  • Charcoal Grill
  • Disposable Aluminum Pan
  • Instant Read Cooking Thermometer

Ingredients
  

  • 1 (14 – 15 pounds) turkey
  • 1 ½ tbsp fresh sage minced
  • 10 sprigs thyme
  • 4 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 5- 6 cloves garlic minced
  • 3 tsp Montreal Chicken Seasoning divided
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper divided
  • 4 – 5 tbsp butter room temperature
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 “tall boy” can of your favorite beer
  • Medium onion quartered

Instructions
 

  • Set up your grill for indirect heat. Open all vents, remove top grate from your grill, and light between 1/2 and 2/3 of a chimney of charcoal.
  • Prep your turkey by removing the plastic truss and pop-up timer and clear the cavity. Rinse with water and pat dry with paper towels. Set on a rimmed baking sheet to transfer to the grill.
  • Strip the leaves from the thyme and rosemary. You should have about 1 1/2 tablespoons of each. Mince the leaves along with the sage.
  • Mix the sage, thyme, rosemary, garlic, 2 tsp Montreal Chicken seasoning, and ½ tsp black pepper in a small bowl. Add the butter and mix into a paste.
  • With your fingers or a wooden spoon handle, carefully loosen the skin of the turkey and rub the butter paste all under the turkey skin. Season the outside of the turkey with remaining ½ tsp black pepper and 1 teaspoon Montreal Chicken seasoning or Kosher salt.
  • Open beer and drink or pour out 1/3. With a can opener, remove entire top of beer can. Place enough onion in the beer can to bring the liquid to 1 inch from the top. Place beer can on rimmed baking sheet. Place the turkey cavity over the beer can and slide turkey, legs down, onto the beer can. Slide legs forward to balance the turkey creating a tripod. Loosely tent the turkey with aluminum foil to transfer to the grill.
  • Place a medium disposable aluminum roasting pan in the bottom of your grill and fold to fit under the turkey. Place turkey, legs down, inside aluminum pan and make sure it is steady. Pour lit charcoal in grill on either side of aluminum pan. Remove aluminum foil tent from the turkey.
  • Close the lid and cook turkey 1 hour. Remove lid and evenly add 1/3 chimney unlit charcoal on top of lit charcoal. Close lid and cook 45 minutes. Remove lid and check turkey temperature. Remove from grill when temperature reads 160 degrees F. About 2 – 3 hours total. Temperature will increase as turkey rests.
  • Turkey is cooked through when temperature reads 165 in the innermost part of the thigh or thickest part of the breast meat.
  • Let rest 30 minutes before carving and serving.

Notes

Fill the charcoal chimney with about 50 briquettes for 1/2 to 2/3 full.
Adding lit charcoal to the grill before placing the turkey can cause burns. When adding the lit charcoal, the aluminum foil tent keeps ash off your turkey.
Nutritional values vary depending on the type of turkey meat and whether you eat the skin.
Keyword grill, poultry

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