Get recipes and cooking tips in our e-mail newsletter

Grilling Turkey

Is there any aroma more appetizing than chicken or turkey cooking on the grill? Delicious with no seasoning other than its own natural flavor cooked over charcoal, turkey on the grill can assume an infinite variety of tastes. Turkey breasts, halves, burgers or leg-thigh combinations are frequent choices for outdoor barbecues.

Indirect Heat Grilling For Slower, Even Cooking

  • Before grilling, make sure that your grill and lid are large enough to completely cover the turkey. The turkey must be covered with a lid during indirect heat grilling to ensure safe, thorough cooking.
  • Remove the top grill rack; open all vents. Mound 50-60 briquettes in center of lower grill rack or bottom of grill and ignite briquettes. When coals become ash-gray (about 20-40 minutes), divide coals into two equal parts and position to outside edges of lower grill rack or bottom of grill. Place a foil drip pan or double thickness of heavy-duty foil between coals.
  • Lightly grease top grill rack and reposition it over hot coals. Position turkey on grill rack, directly over drip-pan, and place lid on grill with dampers open. To maintain heat, add 10-15 briquettes to both sides of hot coals every hour or as needed to maintain heat.

Direct Heat Grilling For Faster Cooking

  • Use this cooking method for smaller turkey cuts that require 25 minutes or less grilling time.
  • Remove top grill rack; open all vents. Mound 40-50 briquettes in center of lower grill rack or bottom of grill and ignite briquettes. When coals become ash-gray (about 20-40 minutes), spread them evenly over lower grill rack or bottom of grill.
  • Lightly grease top grill rack and reposition it over hot coals. Position turkey on grill rack. Turn turkey over frequently to cook evenly.

Whole Turkey Preparation

  • Remove wrapper from turkey. Release legs from oven and grill-safe nylon leg clamps; pull neck and giblets from cavities. Rinse turkey inside and out with cold water. Pat dry.
  • Do not stuff a turkey to be grilled.
  • Turn wings back to hold neck skin in place. Return legs to nylon leg clamps if desired. No trussing is necessary. Insert meat thermometer into thickest part of thighs next to body, not touching bone.

Grilling

  • Season to taste, brush lightly with oil or butter.
  • Grill turkey approximately 10-15 minutes per pound or until meat thermometer registers 180-185°F at the thigh. Begin checking turkey for doneness after 2 hours. If desired, brush turkey with glaze or sauce the last 15 minutes.
  • The turkey is cooked when the meat thermometer reads 180-185°F at the thigh, or 170-175°F at the breast. The drumstick should twist easily in its socket, and juices should run clear, with no traces of pink when pierced with a fork.
  • For easy slicing, let turkey stand 20 minutes after removing from the grill.

Turkey Grilling Timetable

Times may vary depending on temperature of coals, thickness of meat, and weather conditions. Rely on a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest portion of turkey meat to determine doneness. Breast meat is done when 170°F is reached. Dark meat is done when 180°F is reached. Use the chart below as a guideline for grilling times.


Turkey Product Weight Method Approx. Grilling Time
Breast Tenderloins 1/2 lb. each Direct Heat 15-20 mins.
Breast Half 2-3 lbs. each Indirect Heat 1-1 1/2 hrs.
Bone-in Breast 5- 6 lbs. each Indirect Heat 2-2 1/2 hrs.
Drumsticks 1/2 lb. each Indirect Heat 1-1 1/4 hrs.
Bone-in Thighs 3/4-1 lb. each Indirect Heat 1-1 1/4 hrs.
Wings 3/4 lb. each Indirect Heat 50-60 mins.
Ground Burger 1/2" thick, 1/4 lb. each Direct Heat 5-6 mins. per side
Whole Turkey 15 lbs. Indirect Heat 4 1/2 hrs.

When turkey is done, the meat just under the skin may appear pink in color. This is not a sign of undercooked meat; it's caused by the smoke from the coals.