Let’s all be honest about something for a moment. Cooking Thanksgiving dinner is stressful. Sure, it’s fun to hang with the whole family in the kitchen, but there are often too few burners and too little space in the oven to cook everything you want. Every year, I end up juggling side dishes and cooking things ahead of time, extending the day into two full days of cooking (and, ugh, cleaning).
It’s time for a change to the usual Thanksgiving menu. Put the turkey on the grill! It not only cooks up tender and juicy (thanks to our incredible marinade), but it also frees up the oven for your other favorite Thanksgiving dishes. Plus, the heat of the grill infuses the meat with extra smoky flavor, especially if you’re cooking on a charcoal grill.
How to Grill a Turkey
This Thanksgiving turkey recipe comes from Ken Churches in Hawaii. It makes about 12 servings, so you’ll need to scale things up if you’re buying a turkey over 14 pounds. It’s a good idea to double-check that a larger turkey will fit on the grill first, too.
- 2 cups water
- 1-1/2 cups chicken broth
- 1 cup reduced-sodium soy sauce
- 2/3 cup lemon juice
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1-1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 2 large oven roasting bags
- 1 turkey (12 to 14 pounds)
Step 1: Mix the marinade
This is one of our favorite turkey marinades because you don’t have to heat any of the ingredients. That also means you don’t have to wait around for them to cool! Simply combine the water, chicken broth, soy sauce, lemon juice, minced garlic, ground ginger and black pepper in a large bowl. Set one cup aside for basting.
Step 2: Marinate the turkey
We use oven roasting bags to keep cleanup nice and easy. To make sure the bags don’t leak, you’ll want to place one oven roasting bag inside the other. Then, put the turkey inside the inner bag and pour in the marinade. Seal the bags, pressing out as much air as possible, and turn them once or twice to coat the turkey. Place the bags in a shallow roasting pan—just in case it leaks anyway. Refrigerate the bird overnight, turning the bag a few times to evenly distribute the marinade.
Step 3: Prepare the grill
Prepare your grill for medium heat—somewhere between 325° and 350° F. On a gas grill, this is as easy as turning the burners halfway open. When the grill is preheated, turn off the burners on one side to create indirect heat.
A charcoal grill requires a bit more preparation, but you’ll benefit from extra smoky flavor. Place 50 to 60 briquettes in the grill and light them until they are covered in gray ash, about 30 minutes. Then, arrange them into an indirect heat pattern.
Editor’s Tip: Don’t forget to clean your grill thoroughly before you begin. Built-up crud can give your turkey an off flavor, and it’s also the number one culprit of causing food to stick.
Step 4: Ready the bird
Remove the turkey from the oven bags and discard the marinade. Pat the bird as dry as possible and tuck the wings under the turkey to help it cook evenly.
When the grill is preheated, place the turkey breast side down on the indirect heat side of the grill. Cover the grill, leaving the vents open to promote airflow. Cook the bird for one hour.
Editor’s Tip: If you want to catch the drippings to make gravy, position a drip pan in the center of the grill underneath the grill grate. Line the hot charcoal briquettes lengthwise on each side of the pan and place the turkey over the drip pan.
Step 5: Turn and baste
After an hour, turn the turkey so it’s breast side up and baste it with some of the reserved marinade. Add ten briquettes to the grill and replace the cover, cooking for another 1-1/2 to 2 hours. Set a timer to remind yourself to add ten additional briquettes every hour to maintain the heat. For best flavor, we also recommend brushing the turkey with the reserved marinade every 30 minutes.
Step 6: Let it rest
Use a thermometer to check the temperature of the turkey; which it reaches 170° F, the turkey is finished. Remove it from the grill and tent it with foil. Let stand for at least 20 minutes before carving.