Grill roasted turkey is a great way to make a smaller turkey into something completely different from your traditional Thanksgiving bird.
Something magic happens. The gentle smoke from a charcoal grill permeates the turkey. It’s not a strong smoke like American BBQ. More like something from a wood fired oven.
BBQ turkey is too often overlooked. It’s a great way to mix things up. And it doesn’t have to be for special occasions. I don’t know where the rule that you can only make turkey at Thanksgiving came from.
But I’m not buying into it. Barbecuing a whole turkey is not hard. And it’s damn delicious.
Grill roasted turkey is easier with a small bird
It’s hard to cook a 30 pound turkey. It is actually near impossible to nail it. All sorts of tricks. Cover the breast. Baste. Put a damp sock on it.
OK. I made the last one up. But you get the picture. Here’s the secret. Start with a small bird. 10 to 12 pounds is perfect. Easier to move around. Way easier to cook evenly.
And you don’t wind up with 20 pounds of leftovers. Or enough turkey for 20 people. Which makes it perfect for smaller gatherings. I’ve been known to make barbecued turkey for six people. Why not? It’s like a really big chicken at 10 pounds.
Pick your barbecue
I like smoke. Smoke from charcoal. I find it makes a real difference. You may or may not agree. But you can make a grill roasted turkey on any type of grill.
If you have a kamodo, the ideal set up is to use your heat deflector (legs down for an egg) with a pizza stone. Use pieces of split firebricks or an extra set of big green egg feet to put an air gap between the two.
For a kettle, set up an indirect fire by banking coals on both sides, leaving space in the middle. Place the roasting pan over the middle. You will need to add fuel along the way so plan for that.
For a gas grill, set it up for indirect heat and use some wood chips to impart the smoke flavour. If you don’t use wood, you are basically making your grill an oven. No smoke, no grill roasted turkey.
Make gravy for barbecued turkey like any other gravy
There’s no secret here either. You are roasting a turkey. Barbecued turkey is the same as any other turkey. You get drippings. Add stock. Make great gravy.
The only thing to keep in mind is the gravy will pick up a bit of the smoke. But that’s perfect. It complements the turkey perfectly. In fact, add a bit of chopped chipotle in adobo for an extra bit of flavour.
Chipotles are smoked jalapeños. See where this is going?
Grill roasted turkey. Barbecued turkey. Doesn’t matter what you call it. Just make it. Soon. You won’t regret it for a second.
grill roasted turkey
- 1 turkey - 10-12 lbs
- 2 Tbsp kosher salt
- 2 Tbsp olive oil to rub the bird
- black pepper
- 1-2 Tbsp flour
- 1 1/2 to 2 cups chicken stock
Dry-brine the turkey
- Remove giblets and sprinkle salt liberally over the turkey. You don't want to skimp on the salt in this step. Maybe cut back by 1/2 Tbsp if you are super worried. But don't skip this step. This is key to the best bird you can make.
- Double bag the turkey and place it on a cookie sheet. Refrigerate for up to 3 days, turning every 12 hours.
Grill roast the turkey
- Grill roasted turkey is all about the smoke. Charcoal smoke. This works best on a kamodo grill or kettle set up for indirect heat. Get your grill somewhere around 400F and stable.
- Pre-heat your roasting pan. A low sided roasting pan works best. A high sided pan will protect the thighs and make it difficult to get the thighs cooked fast enough so the breast doesn't dry out.
- When it's hot, place the turkey, breast side up and roast for about 10 minutes per pound. Start checking internal temperature at about 7 minutes per pound. You are going for 160F in the breast and 170F in the thigh. The turkey will come up another 5 degrees as it rests.
- Remove the bird from the grill and let rest.
Make the gravy
- Spoon off all but a couple Tbsp of fat, being careful to leave any of the coloured drippings in the pan. Place the roasting pan over medium heat and add the flour. Stir to combine the flour with the drippings and cook the resulting roux about one minute. Add about 1/2 cup of stock and stir to incorporate the flour with the roux. Don't add too much liquid at once or you will get lumps.
- Add the remaining stock and bring to a boil. If you get a few lumps, don't freak out. Just strain it quickly. Easy fix.
- Serve as you would any roast turkey.