Thanksgiving BBQ – How to Grill a Turkey

November 17, 2016


How to Grill a Turkey for Thanksgiving

How to grill a turkey
Thanksgiving is just around the corner and meal planning is well underway.  If you’re like most Americans, you’ve got a full menu that includes all kinds of baked goods – stuffing, casseroles, rolls, and, of course, a turkey.

If you find yourself running low on oven space, try something new this year: cook your turkey on your gas grill.  The cooking times are about the same, you’ll have more room in your oven for side dishes, and your grilled turkey will come out moist and flavorful.


Is Your Propane Tank Ready to Grill?

First thing’s first: Do you have enough propane to cook a turkey on your gas grill for the right amount of time?  Get out that pen and paper (or a calculator) and figure out how much propane you’re going to need to last through the whole turkey-grilling process.

How to grill a turkeyYou’re going to slow roast the turkey in your grill using indirect medium heat – that’s about 350 degrees.  According to the Weber website, cooking your turkey at 350 degrees will take about 11-13 minutes per pound of turkey.  Click here for a range of cooking times and temps.

(11 minutes x pounds of turkey) / 60 = hours of propane needed

Let’s assume you have a 15 pound bird.  It would look like this: (11 x 15) / 60 = 2.75 hours

And per the CharBroil website, 1.5 pounds of propane will yield about 1 hour of cooking time (on medium).

If you’ve got a full tank of propane, you should be good to go for all your turkey grilling needs.  To figure out how much propane you have left in your tank, check out this article.  Of course, if you need to refill your propane tank, bring it on in to Plaza Shell!

Ok, math’s done!  Let’s get grilling!

Steps for Grilling a Turkey on a Gas BBQ

Now that you’ve got the propane figured out, you’ll need to preheat your grill.  Since you’re going to grill your turkey over indirect heat, you’ll only turn on one side of your grill.  Preheat the BBQ for about 15 minutes.  For video instructions about heating your grill, click here.

Once the grill is heated up, you’re going to place your properly trussed and seasoned bird on the side of the grill that is not on.  Per the Reluctant Gourmet, getting that perfectly juicy and delicious turkey is going to take some flipping and rotating.

The timing will vary depending on the size of your turkey.  (Math alert!  Get your calculator!)  Take the weight of your turkey, multiply it by 12 minutes per pound, then divide by 3.  The 15 pound turkey from above would look like this:

15 lbs x 12 min = 180 minutes divided by 3 = 60 minutes per rotation.

  • Rotation 1 – Place the turkey on its side, wings and thighs facing down, legs pointing to the back. Grill like this for one rotation (as calculated per your turkey’s weight).
  • Rotation 2 – Flip the turkey over so that the wings and thighs on the other side are facing down and legs are pointing to the front of the grill. Cook for another rotation.
  • Rotation 3 – Rotate the bird again so that the breast is facing up and the legs are facing towards the back. Cook for about half a rotation.
  • Rotation 4 – Flip again so that the legs are pointing forward with the breast still facing up. Cook for the last half of a rotation.

When the breast and thigh meat reach 165 degrees your turkey is done cooking!  Time to take it off the grill and let it rest.  Weber suggests letting your turkey rest for 20%-30% of the total cooking time before carving.

Pro Tips for Grilling Your Turkey

  • Before you buy your turkey, measure your grill to make sure you get one that will fit on your grill with the lid closed.
  • Put a pan to catch the drippings underneath your turkey. The drippings make a delicious gravy and you won’t have to clean up a huge mess!
  • Always check the temperature on your grill while cooking. Open and close the lid to cool things off or heat them up, as necessary, but keep an eye on that temp.  You don’t want a turkey that’s raw or burned to a crisp!
  • If you prefer a brined turkey, that’s a-ok for grilling! Brine away!
  • Try filling the cavity of your turkey with onions, apples, pears, and garlic. This will speed up the cooking time and make your turkey more flavorful.
  • Don’t forget to thaw! Cold or frozen turkeys will increase the cooking time by as much as 30%!

Happy grilling from Park Plaza Shell!