How to Grill the Perfect Turkey this Christmas
Christmas comes with its fair share of traditions, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try going
against the grain. If you want to spice up your Christmas dinner this year, why not try bringing your bird to the barbecue? Grilled turkey is a smoky spin on the classic holiday dish that will make you the most coveted chef going into the new year. Read on to learn the different ways you can barbecue your Christmas turkey, as well as some helpful tips and tricks for making sure your main course comes out just right.
Barbecued Turkey Basics
Before turning on your grill, there are a few things you’ll need to get in order.
Brines and Rubs
Firstly, you’ll have to answer this important question: to brine, or not to brine? A properly grilled turkey will taste great on its own, but if you want to bring out a certain flavour, consider brining your bird.
For a classic, well-spiced turkey, you may want to check out this recipe from chef Traci Des Jardins of San Fancisco’sJardinère. A beer brine is another delicious option – and this recipe from Traeger Grills has got you covered.
Alternatively, you may want to add a spice rub to your turkey before cooking. This article by the Spruce Eats offers a number of different rub recipes. Make sure to always massage the spices under the turkey skin. When moisture from the bird mixes with the rub, it will add extra flavour to the inside of the turkey.
For a delicious and well-cooked turkey, you are going to need a quality thermometer to make sure your turkey reaches the perfect temperature. Since Christmas dinner is not a meal to mess with, it’s best not to take your chances with one of those pop-up thermometers that come with some turkeys. After all, your guests are counting on you. We recommend a digital probe thermometer from trusted manufacturers like Weber, Broil King, Napoleon, Traeger and Big Green Egg for maximum accuracy.
Speaking of timing, take note of how many pounds your turkey is in order to determine your cooking time. In general, a 10-16lb turkey will take 2-3 hours to grill. But the exact time will differ based on your cooking method as well as its pounds. Weber proposes the following cooking times based on the temperature of your BBQ:
- 225-250 degrees: 23-37 minutes per pound
- 275-300 degrees: 18-21 minutes per pound
- 350-375 degrees: 11-13 minutes per pound
Thawing Your Bird
If you don’t properly thaw your turkey, it won’t cook properly – which is the last thing you want on Christmas day. Keep in mind that a 20-24 lb turkey can take up to 5-6 days to thaw in the fridge, so make sure to plan ahead. This chart can help you out:
Cooking Your Turkey with a Gas Grill
Using a gas grill to cook your turkey boasts the benefits of a smoky turkey without the waiting time of using a smoker.
Start by placing a drip pan on the flavorizer bars under the spot where your turkey will go. If you’re not planning on making gravy, add 2-3 litres of water to the plan. If you do want to use the drippings as gravy, then 1 litre of water will be sufficient.
Next, set your BBQ up for indirect grilling by preheating your barbecue to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and place your turkey on the cool side of the grill when it’s ready. Indirect grilling is perhaps the most foolproof method of barbecuing your turkey on a gas grill. A turkey is not a steak: cooking a turkey over a hot flame will cause the exterior to burn while the inside remains undercooked.
Halfway through the cook time, make sure to check the temperature of the turkey, as well as three quarters of the way through. When your cook time elapses, test the thickest part of the breast and the innermost part of the thigh to make sure your turkey has reached 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
You should always let your bird rest for at least 15 minutes after removing it from the grill, no matter if you use a gas grill, charcoal grill, or smoker.
How to Grill Turkey using Charcoal
If you’ve got a charcoal grill, start by placing the coals around the exterior of your barbecue. Burn your briquettes for 30 minutes, or until gray ash forms. You can then place your drip pan in the centre in order to catch those previous juices and scatter-soakedwood chips – we recommend cherry or hickory – over the coals.
Now you’re ready to replace the grate and set the bird on the grill above the drip pan. Simply cover your grill and roast your turkey for 2.5-3 hours, adding new coals and chips every half hour.
Once your bird is done, don’t forget to check the temperature and leave the finished product to rest before carving!
Smoking your Christmas Turkey
Smoking isn’t a quick method – but it’s amazingly flavorful.
Make sure you know what kind of wood you’ll be using in your smoker. If you go with large wood chunks, you don’t need to soak them in advance – but if you’re using smaller wood chips, definitely soak them first. They should be damp, but not dripping, when they hit your smoker.
Then, on Christmas day, preheat your smoker to 225-250 degrees Fahrenheit depending on how slow of a roast you want. Just like using a charcoal grill, place an aluminum pan under the turkey to catch the drippings.
When your grill is ready, place your turkey in the smoker directly above your drip pan.
All you have to do next is close the door and watch the temperature – unless you have an offset model, that is. If that’s the case for you, you’ll need to rotate your turkey every 2 hours.
Then, grab yourself a beer, and wait till your turkey is smoked to perfection.
Article by Taylor Mitchell
- Taylor Mitchell