University of Illinois Extension

Cooking Techniques - The Good Method

Turkey on the Grill

grilled turkey

(See Wash Hands: Not the Turkey)

Grilled turkey can be a wonderful variation from oven roasted turkey. Grilling a whole turkey or turkey breast requires indirect heat and a drip pan. Start by washing and seasoning a fully thawed bird. The covered kettle-style grill and medium hot coals are recommended for grilling. Arrange hot coals on either side of the drip pan and position the turkey, breast side down, on an oiled V-rack directly over the drip pan. Use a small 8 to 14 pound unstuffed turkey.

About midway through the cooking process, turn the bird breast up. Place about 10 briquettes on each pile of hot coals every 45 to 50 minutes to maintain medium heat. For good smoky flavor, dampened wood chips and/or chunks may be added as well.

Cover the wing tips with aluminum foil and tuck them underneath the bird to prevent burning. Insert a thermometer in the thickest innermost part of the thigh. A whole turkey is safe when cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 165 °F as measured with a food thermometer. Check the internal temperature in the wing and the thickest part of the breast too. For reasons of personal preference, you may choose to cook the turkey to higher temperatures.

If the temperature under the hood is hot enough (325°F to 350°F), grilling a 12 to 14 pound turkey should take approximately 4 hours. If your grill does not have a thermometer, an oven thermometer can be used. Cooking time may vary depending on temperature of the fire, wind and outdoor air temperature.