Juicy Grilled Turkey (How to Grill a Turkey) -a simple, step-by-step tutorial that will guide you through the process of cooking a delicious and JUICY Grilled Turkey – perfect for Thanksgiving (or any holiday meal)!
Best Grilled Turkey Recipe
Grilled Turkey is so flavorful and delicious – plus think of all the oven space you will be saving!
I know we are all used to the typical way of roasting a turkey in the oven but imagine a world where you can cook your Thanksgiving turkey in a different way and use all of the room in the oven for ALL of the amazing side dishes…. well that world is here! Have you ever cooked a turkey on the GRILL!?!? If not, you have to try it!! You will still have a moist and flavorful turkey and the oven is free for everything else. This is a game changer!
We also have a Grilled Turkey Breast if you want to try that one as well! AND we have a smoked turkey, smoked turkey breast, smoked spatchcock turkey and deep fried turkey if you are interested in other ways of getting your Thanksgiving turkey out of the oven!
Why You Will Love This Recipe
- Flavor: The flavor really is amazing – this might be my favorite way to cook a turkey!
- Versatile: You could do so many different things with this turkey (just like one cooked in the oven). Stuff it with flavorful foods, stuff it with stuffing, brine it…. so many options!
- Free up Your Oven: Think of all that free oven space you will have without a big ole turkey inside of it!
How to Prep Your Turkey for the Grill
Your preparation for grilling a turkey is very similar to your preparation for roasting a turkey in the oven:
- Thaw: Completely thaw your turkey (very important) – do not cook unless it is 100% thawed – and bring to room temperature. Learn more about thawing a turkey HERE!
- Remove Giblets + Hock Lock: Remove giblets, neck, etc. from inside. Additionally, remove any hock lock that is holding the legs in place and then secure the legs together with twine.
- Brine (optional): Complete any sort of brine you desire, if you choose (optional)
- Preheat: You will want to allow plenty of time for your grill to preheat to 450 before the turkey goes on – then we will drop the temp to 325 after the turkey goes on.
- Aluminum Tray: We highly recommend placing the turkey in 2 heavy duty aluminum pans!
- Pat dry: You will want to pat the whole bird dry. This will help it brown up nicely on the grill.
- Butter: Generously rub butter or ghee (softened) all over the turkey. This will help brown the turkey and also add the the juices that will gather in the bottom of the pan, which can then be used to make gravy later!
- Season: Use as much salt and pepper as necessary to lightly coat the turkey -the amount will depend on how big your bird is, but don’t be afraid to apply liberally. We also have a Turkey Seasoning if you want something other than salt and pepper.
- Stuffing: We stuffed this bird with an orange, lemon, onion and garlic, but feel free to use whatever you wish! If you stuff with actual stuffing, you will want to increase the cook time appropriately.
Grilled Turkey Brine Recipe
You can, but you don’t have to. A lot of people do, but it isn’t necessary for a successful Grilled Turkey. I have made plenty of grilled turkeys without brining first and they always come out delicious. Learn more about brining here + get a great Citrus Turkey Brine recipe here!
What You Will Need
Here’s what you will need (Ingredients + Equipment) in order to successfully grill your turkey:
- Turkey: ensure you turkey is thawed and the cavity is empty.
- Butter: you can also use ghee or even olive oil here, but I prefer butter.
- Salt + Black Pepper: this is the simple seasoning I recommend. Otherwise, you can try our Turkey Seasoning which is a mixture of salt, pepper, sage, rosemary, garlic powder, onion powder and thyme.
- Stuffing: – we used an orange, onion, and garlic cloves.
- Grill: feel free to use a pellet or gas grill.
- Meat Thermometer: this is the only way to really know if your turkey is fully cooked – it is a must-have for grilling and smoking meats! The best place to check the internal temperature of a whole turkey is to place the meat thermometer in the thigh – not touching the thigh bone.
- 2 heavy duty aluminum roasting pans: I used two to make sure it was sturdy enough.
- Twine: this was used to tie the legs together. It’s not required, but it looks prettier!
How Long to Grill a Turkey
Grill your turkey for approximately 11-13 minutes per pound or until it reaches an internal temp of 165 degrees F. and the juices run clear.
How to Grill a Turkey
Here are a few step-by-step photo to help you along the way:
Thaw your turkey and let it get to room temperature
Remove the hock lock and tie the turkey legs together with twine
This step is optional. This is when you would brine the turkey, if you want to.
Pat the turkey dry
Apply generous amounts of butter or ghee (softened)
Season with salt and pepper
Stuff with anything you would like on the inside for flavor. We used an orange, onion, and garlic. Tuck the wings if you want to help prevent burning or you can wrap them in a little aluminum foil.
Turn grill burners on to 325 degrees F. Place the turkey in the center of your grill and close the lid quickly to try and retain as much heat as possible. Baste once or twice either using the juices in the bottom of the pan or with additional melted butter/ghee.
Remove from grill, baste and let rest 30 minutes before carving (cover with aluminum foil).
What to do after you Grill a Turkey
- Immediately give the turkey another baste with butter.
- Cover and let rest for 30 minutes.
- When you take the turkey out of the roasting pan you will be left with some drippings. These can be used to make gravy, if you want.
- Carve – here is a great video on how to properly carve your turkey!
RECIPE FAQS + TIPS
- Clean/Check Grill: Make sure your grill grates are cleaned off and check to see if there are any upper grates on the inside that you might need to move to make room for the turkey before heating up your grill.
- Thaw + Room Temp: Make sure it is fully thawed and at room temp before placing it on the grill. If it isn’t you will need to adjust your cooking time.
- Cook Temp: Be aware that when you first open the grill to put the turkey on the temp will go down A LOT! That’s ok. You will want to keep it around 325 degrees F. for the amount of time it needs to cook. Try to keep the lid closed as much as possible to keep the heat in! You will have to refrain from peeking 🙂
- Charcoal Grill: Using a charcoal grill instead of gas – try this recipe!
- Gravy: don’t forget to use the drippings to make some delicious Turkey Gravy!
Grilled Turkey Side Dishes
- Dairy-Free Green Bean Casserole
- Giblet Stuffing
- Crockpot Mulled Wine
- Creamy Mashed Potatoes
- Cranberry Sauce
OTHER RECIPES YOU MIGHT LIKE:
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Grilled Turkey – a simple, step-by-step tutorial that will guide you through the process of cooking a (delicious) Grilled Turkey.
- 1 fresh turkey (we used a 15 pound turkey)
- 1/2 cup butter or ghee, softened
- kosher salt and ground black pepper
- 2 cups chicken broth
- fresh herbs
- 1 yellow onion, chopped
- stuffing (optional): 1 small orange (quartered), 1 small onion (quartered), 1-2 heads of garlic (cut off top)
- Preheat Grill: Preheat your grill to 450 degrees F.
- Thaw: Ensure turkey is completely thawed and at room temperature.
- Aluminum Tray: Add broth, fresh herbs and onion to bottom of aluminum tray. Place turkey on top (I actually used two for extra support).
- Dry: Pat down with a clean paper towel and get the turkey as dry as possible.
- Butter: Take butter and rub all over, getting into every nook and cranny.
- Season: Sprinkle all over with salt and pepper.
- Stuff: Stuff with whatever you desire, here we used onion, oranges and garlic. You can also add a little chicken broth to the pan if you want – about a cup or so!
- Grill: Place on top of grill grates, centered as much as possible.
- Close Grill: Close grill lid and let cook for a total of 11-13 minutes per pound or until the turkey reaches an internal temp of 165 degrees F. at the thickest part of the bird and juices run clear.
- Temp: Drop grill temp to 325 degree F. Grill temp will drop substantially after opening the grill to put the bird inside.
- Basting: Only openly grill once or twice to baste during cooking time. You can baste using additional melted butter or by taking the juices that have gathered in the bottom of your pan.
- Final Temp + Rest: Use a meat thermometer to test the internal temperature. Once turkey reaches an internal temp of 165 degrees F. at the thickest part of the thigh and juices run clear, remove from grill. Baste first with the juices in the bottom of the pan and then let rest 30 minutes while covered with foil.
- Carve: Carve and serve immediately (here is our How to Carve a Turkey tutorial!).
- Size of Turkey: Wondering how big of a turkey to cook? Just remember that you should budget for approximately 1.25 lbs per person
- Thawing a Turkey: Questions on thawing – here is a great post answering all your thawing questions!
- Brining: You can definitely brine your turkey beforehand! Here is a great Brining Turkey 101 post and here is a Citrus Turkey Brine recipe!
- Preheating Grill: We are preheating the grill extra high (higher than we are grilling it at) to account for the fact that there will be a significant drop in temp as a result of opening the grill to put the turkey inside. Once the turkey is inside the temp needs to be at 325 – it should be close to that temp anyway after opening the grill.
- Aluminum Tray: We used two heavy duty aluminum trays to hold the turkey in for grilling – highly recommend doubling for support! This will also catch your drippings so you can make gravy!
- Dry: Make sure you turkey is as dry as possible before the butter. This helps it brown up nicely on the grill!
- Butter: You can use butter or ghee (softened) – apply generously as this will help brown the turkey and also add the the juices that will gather in the bottom of the pan, which can then be used to make gravy later!
- Seasoning: Use as much salt and pepper as necessary to lightly coat the turkey -the amount will depend on how big your bird is, but don’t be afraid to apply liberally.
- Stuffing: We stuffed the bird with with orange, onion and garlic, but feel free to use whatever you wish! If you stuff with actual stuffing, you will want to increase the cook time appropriately.
- Opening Grill/Basting: Treat the grill like an oven – don’t open often or your temp will drop and it will effect the cooking time. I would recommend opening it only 1-2 times to baste, especially towards the end to of the cooking time (you will need to check internal temp towards the end anyway). Baste with additional melted butter or just with the juices in the bottom of the pan.
- Internal Meat Thermometer: Make sure you have a reliable internal meat thermometer to check the internal temp – I like this one. Your turkey should reach 165 degrees at the thickest part of the bird and the juices should run clear.
- Carving: Here is a tutorial on How to Carve a Turkey!
- Gravy: don’t forget to use the drippings to make some delicious Turkey Gravy!
- Got leftovers – try our Leftover Turkey Salad or Leftover Turkey Noodle Soup!
Keywords: grilled turkey, how to grill a turkey
Originally published November 20, 2019.