Hickory Grill-Roasted Turkey

This image courtesy of Joseph DeLeo

Grill-roasting a turkey is a guaranteed show-stopping, big-flavored way to cook a turkey, and the hickory-smoked turkey leftovers are divine. From a practical side, 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. In addition, 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, and for those diehards who light up a grill whether it’s raining or snowing, the can-do spirit will prevail, because barbecuing a turkey is easy. Make the Applejack Giblet Gravy if you like; it is amazing with a barbecued bird. Another option is to use your favorite bottled barbecue sauce. Allow 12 to 24 hours for brining the bird before you start cooking.

This grill recipe uses a technique called “indirect cooking” or “indirect-heat 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-the heat rises and circulates by reflecting off the lid and sides of the grill. Indirect-heat grilling is used for long, slow cooking; it is the best method for barbecuing whole chickens, roasts, ribs, and turkeys. Directions are given for both a gas grill and a charcoal-burning, kettle-style grill with a vented lid.

NotesRoasting Rack:

A V-shaped steel rack, preferably nonstick, elevates poultry and roasts for faster cooking and keeps the pan dripping, away from the meat, thus promoting crispy skin, Buy one with tall, vertical handles on each end; they make the lifting much easier. Non-collapsible V-shaped racks are by far my favorite. A high-quality, medium rack costs about $20. Before you buy, make certain the rack fits inside the your roasting pan.

Serves12 to 20, depending on the size of the turkey

Cooking Methodgrilling, smoking


Total Timea day or more

OccasionFamily Get-together, game day

Recipe Coursemain course

Dietary Considerationegg-free, gluten-free, halal, kosher, lactose-free, peanut free, soy free, tree nut free



Taste and Texturejuicy, meaty, smoky


  • One 12- to 16-pound Brined Turkey made with Apple Cider and Ginger Brine
  • Olive oil for brushing the turkey (about ½ cup)
  • Applejack Giblet Gravy or barbecue sauce for serving
  • 6 to 8 cups hickory chips
  • Kitchen twine
  • Sturdy, V-shaped roasting rack (see Notes)
  • Heavy-gauge, disposable foil roasting pan large enough to hold the roasting rack
  • Heavy duty aluminum foil or a disposable aluminum plate


  1. About 1 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.

  2. Drain the soaking hickory chips. Make 3 aluminum foil pouches or use 1 disposable foil pie plate. (Skip this step if your gas grill has a smoker box, and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for using wood chips.) To make the pouches, cut three 16-inch-long pieces of heavy-duty fall. 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 poke a few holes in the top of the pouch. If using a small disposable pie plate, fill it with one-third of the chips.

  3. For a Charcoal Grill:

  4. About 45 minutes prior to grilling, prepare a hard-wood 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 side of the cooking grate away from the coals. Close the grill lid.

  5. For a Gas Grill:

  6. About 20 minutes prior to grilling, preheat the grill to high with all the burners on. When the grill is hot, turn off the burner directly below where the turkey will sit and adjust the other burner(s) to medium-high. Place the drained wood chips in the smoker 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.

  7. 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 arrange it so the leg and wing facing the fire are now facing away from it. Continue cooking, with the lid closed, for another 45 minutes.

  8. Check the wood chips and add more, if needed. Turn the turkey once again so the leg and wing facing the fire are now facing away from it. Continue cooking, with the lid closed, for another 45 minutes. At this point, check the internal temperature of the turkey by inserting an instant-read thermometer into the thickest part of a thigh without touching bone. Check both thighs. When the thermometer registers 160° to 165°F in both thighs, the turkey is done.

  9. Transfer the turkey to a carving board and cover loosely with aluminum foil. Let the turkey rest for 30 minutes to allow the juices to distribute. Carve the turkey and serve accompanied by a sauceboat of gravy or barbecue sauce.


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