Barbecue turkey has been a classic around my house for years. Thanksgiving, Christmas or any other time of the year, this is the way I do it. And I think it's by far the best method.
When you barbecue a turkey you get a flavor you just can't get any other way. Barbecue turkey is incredibly moist. The flesh is tender but firm, not mushy. And you can't beat the smoky flavor.
One day, many moons ago...
I was at my in-laws house admiring my Father-in-laws Weber kettle grill. I had just gotten out of the Army and hadn't done much cooking for myself yet. (I was spoiled; my Mother is a great cook and made all our meals when I was a child)
This grill was nice; it was black, looked sleek, heat and smoke were radiating from inside. I told my Father-in-law "I love you grill!" Next thing I know, he bought one for me! Wow, was I a happy camper! Thanks Dad!
Inside was a recipe book, and in that book was a recipe for cooking a turkey on your grill. I couldn't believe it!
I got right to work...
Now that barbecue turkey was really good. I added wood chunks to give it some smoke flavor, but it lacked a little bit of the smokiness you get from smoked turkey.
I also found it difficult to collect the juices from the bird as it cooked; Sometimes it can be difficult to fit a turkey, on a rack, in a roasting pan, inside a kettle grill.
If I put the pan under the grate, most of the juices would dry up. What was left had charcoal and ashes in it.
Eventually I graduated up to a barbecue pit. I think this gives your barbecue turkey the perfect amount of smoke while keeping it moist, tender and delicious.
When you barbecue a turkey, or most kinds of poultry, you cook it at a higher temperature. It's slow roasting on your barbecue pit. That's because the temperature is higher than most traditional barbecue. The temperature you want to use to barbecue turkey is 300°F to 325°F, and there's several advantages to cooking it at this temperature:
One more thing; when you cook a turkey outdoors, it frees up oven space for those tasty side dishes!
Here are some tips for selecting the perfect turkey for your holiday feast.
Now I realize that not you may not be able to easily find a turkey that's fresh and natural, especially during certain times of the year, or if you live in a small rural area. Here's some help for you, it's okay. Just find the best turkey you can.
If you buy a frozen bird, remember; it takes 1 day to defrost 4 pounds of turkey in your fridge. You should put a frozen turkey into the fridge a week before you cook it. This gives you enough time to defrost and brine the bird.
Very Important Safety Tip: Always defrost meat, fish and poultry in your refrigerator. Never at room temperature! If you defrost a turkey on your kitchen counter, the surface and cavity will be teaming with bacteria by the time the center is defrosted.
If you cannot find a turkey that is not self basting, injected or otherwise enhanced, read the label.
Kosher turkeys are also a good alternative. They're minimally processed. They are salted, so they shouldn't be brined. Kosher birds can be a little salty. If you're sensitive to salt, avoid these.
I really encourage you to find a fresh turkey that has not been injected or enhanced. Our barbecue turkey recipe calls for brining your bird to bring out the best flavor and texture. And it's well worth it!
Before I give you the recipe, I think it's important to see how the cooker is set up.
This is very specific because of the kind of smoker I use. Even if you don't have a large vertical, or upright smoker, you'll be able to understand what you're trying to accomplish.
As you can see, the turkey is on one rack. Below that is a drip pan supported by a baking sheet.
Very Important Safety Tip! If you use a disposable roasting pan, always put a cookie sheet beneath it. If you have a lot of juices or whatever in the pan, it will give out... Getting a nasty burn before the holiday feast is not what you want!
Disposable drip pans are great because you don't have to clean up! A pan from your kitchen has to be cleaned. All the smoke and grease can make it a chore. And if you muck up the wife's nice roasting pan, you might end up in the dog house!
Underneath the drip pan is the water pan. Then the smoke plate and finally the burner.
This setup works great because you can catch the turkey juices to make a fantastic gravy. The turkey is not in a pan so it doesn't get soggy and the smoke can surround the entire bird.
This is what it looks like when it's done...
Now if you don't have a large vertical smoker, you can still do this in an offset smoker.
Just remember a few things;
Note: If you purchased a kosher turkey or one that has been brined or injected, skip the brining procedure.
You'll need a container to brine the turkey in. Food grade buckets work great. They can be found at Lowes for a good price. Make sure you get a lid. Restaurants and bakeries receive food in buckets. You may be able to get a bucket for free just by asking. Wash the bucket out thoroughly before use.
Never use a bucket that contained some kind of chemical; paint, cleaners, etc...
Because of food safety concerns, I don't advise stuffing your turkey. Cook the stuffing in a separate dish.
Cook the turkey in your smoker at 300°F-325°F. Use apple, cherry or maple wood. If your smoker has a water pan, leave it in place but do not put any liquid in it.
Point the wing tip forward
Lift the wing tip up
Push the wing tip over and behind the shoulder joint
This is what it looks like when you're done
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