Barbecued Turkey

This image courtesy of Joseph DeLeo

There are lots of great reasons to barbecue a turkey. If you are a one-oven household, barbecuing your Thanksgiving bird is the best way to free up oven space for all those pans of stuffing, sweet potatoes, and gratin that need to be baked. It is, guaranteed, a showstopping and delicious way to cook a turkey. There is no messy roasting pan or grease-splattered oven to clean up. It is a delightful cooking method for those living in a warm climate (but, hey, there are always those diehards who light up a grill whether it’s raining or snowing). The hickory-smoked turkey leftovers are divine. And, barbecuing a turkey is easy. Make the giblet gravy if you like; it is delicious with the barbecued bird. Another option, simpler and still delicious, is to use your favorite bottled barbecue sauce and serve it warm alongside the bird. Be sure to allow 12 to 24 hours for brining the bird before you start cooking.

CARVING A TURKEY If you are a confident turkey carver, place the turkey on a large serving platter and carve it at the table. For the majority of us, carving the turkey in the kitchen is a safer bet. Place the turkey on a carving board, ideally one that has a moat and well to catch the delicious poultry juices. Untie the bird and remove all skewers. Using a sharp carving knife and meat fork, cut down between the thigh and body until you feel bone. Twist the leg and thigh a little until you see the thigh joint. Now cut through the joint to separate the thigh from the body. Cut the joint where the leg meets the thigh. Repeat on the other side. Now you have legs and thighs ready for a warm platter. To carve the breast meat, start at the keel bone that runs along the top of the breast. Angle the knife and cut thin slices of breast meat from one side of the breast. At this point you should have plenty of meat for serving. Lay slices of breast meat in an overlapping fashion down the center of the platter. Place the legs and thighs along the side. If a guest wants to have a wing, pull back the wing until you see the joint between the wing and the body, cut through that joint, and add the wing to the platter. Cover the rest of the turkey loosely with aluminum foil and remove the meat from the carcass later for some fine leftovers.

Cooking Methodbarbecuing, brining, grilling


Total Timea day or more

Make Ahead RecipeYes

Kid FriendlyYes

OccasionCasual Dinner Party, Family Get-together

Recipe Coursemain course


Five Ingredients or LessYes


Taste and Texturesavory


  • 1 Brined Turkey (12 to 16 pounds) made with Apple Cider Brine
  • Olive oil for brushing turkey (about ½ cup)
  • 1 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • Turkey giblets (neck, tail, gizzard, liver, and heart)
  • 1 small yellow onion (do not peel), quartered
  • 1 medium carrot (do not peel) cut into 2-inch chunks
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 4 sprigs fresh parsley
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 6 black peppercorns
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 8 cups hickory chips
  • Kitchen twine
  • Sturdy V-shaped raosting rack
  • Heavy-gauge, disposable foil roasting pan (large enough to hold the roasting rack)
  • Heavy-duty aluminum foil or a disposable aluminum pie plate


  1. This grill recipe uses a technique called “indirect cooking” or “indirect grilling.” This simply means that the food is not set directly over the coals or burners as it cooks in a covered grill. Essentially, this is grill roasting—heat rises and reflects off the lid and sides of the grill, circulating the heat. Indirect grilling is used for long, slow cooking; it is the best method for barbecuing whole chickens, roasts, ribs, and turkeys. The directions are for a gas grill with more than one burner, or a charcoal-burning, kettle-style grill with a vented lid.

  2. One hour before you are ready to grill, place the hickory chips in a large bowl, cover with cold water, and soak. In the meantime, secure the legs of the turkey with a 1-foot length of kitchen twine by bringing the legs together, wrapping the string around the ends (knobs) of the legs, and then tying the string with a knot. Trim any extra length of string. Rub or lightly brush the turkey with olive oil. Place the bird, breast-side down, on the roasting rack, and set it inside the disposable roasting pan.

  3. Drain the soaking hickory chips. Make 3 aluminum foil pouches or use the disposable foil pie plate. (Skip this step if your gas grill has a smoker box, and follow the manufacturer’s instruction for using wood chips.) To make the puches, cut three 16-inch-long pieces of heavy-duty foil. Fold each in half to make a pouch about 8 inches long, and fill with one-third of the wood chips. Crimp the edges together to seal, and then poke holes in the top of the pouch. If using a small disposable foil pie plate, fill it with one-third of the chips. (The pie plate will be refilled twice as the chips burn down.)

  4. FOR A CHARCOAL GRILL: Forty-five minutes prior to grilling, prepare a hardwood charcoal or charcoal briquette fire. When the coals are covered with a gray ash, mound them on one side of the grill. Place 1 pouch or the pie plate of wood chips directly on the coals. Place the roasting pan on the cooking grate near, but not over, the coals. Close the grill lid.

  5. FOR A GAS GRILL Twenty minutes prior to grilling, preheat the grill with all burners on high. Turn off the burner directly below where the turkey will rest, and adjust the other burner(s) to medium-high. Place the drained wood chips in the smoky box, or place 1 pouch or the pie plate of wood chips directly on the heat source. Place the roasting pan on the cooking grate on the side of the gas grill that has been turned off. Close the grill lid.

  6. Grill-roast the turkey for 1 hour. Open the grill lid. Add more wood chips if needed. With a wad of paper towels in each hand, turn the turkey, breast-side up, and arrane it so the leg and wing that were facing the fire are now facing away from it. Continue cooking, with the lid closed, for another 45 minutes. While the turkey is grill-roasting, begin the optional Giblet Gravy by making the stock (recipe follows).

  7. Check the wood chips and add more, if needed. Turn the turkey once again so that the leg and wing that were facing the fire are now facing away from it. Continue cooking, with the lid closed, for another 45 minutes. Using an instant-read thermometer, check the internal temperature of the turkey by placing the thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh. Check both thighs. When the thermometer registers 165 F, the turkey is done.

  8. Transfer the turkey to a carving board or serving platter, and cover the breast loosely with aluminum foil. Allow the turkey to rest for 15 to 30 minutes before carving to let the juices set. While the turkey rests, finish making the Giblet Gravy.

  9. Carve the turkey (see Note). Serve, accompanied by the sauceboat of gravy or barbecue sauce.

  10. TO MAKE THE GIBLET GRAVY Begin the gravy by first making a stock out of the giblets. In a medium saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Sauté the giblets until brown on all sides, about 5 minutes. Remove the liver and cool for 10 minutes; then cover and refrigerate. Add the onion, carrot, thyme, parsley, bay leaf, peppercorns, and 6 cups of cold water to the pan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, and then turn the stock to low. Skim any brown foam that rises to the top. Simmer the stock, until it reduces by half, about 1 hour. Pour the stock through a fine-mesh strainer set over a small bowl or 4-cup glass measure. Set aside the neck, gizzard, and heart until cool enough to handle. Discard the rest of the solids. Set the stock aside, and when the fat rises to the top, skim it. Shred the meat from the neck and add to the stock. Finely dice the gizzard, heart, and reserved liver, and add to the stock. Transfer to a small saucepan and set aside.

  11. Bring the stock and chopped giblets to a simmer over medium heat. Place the flour in a 1-cup measure, add a small amount of simmering liquid, and blend until smooth. Slowly pour this into the gravy and whisk until thickened, about 3 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer to a small bowl or sauceboat when ready to serve.



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