BBQ Turkey

Total Time

Prep: 70 min. Grill: 2 hours + standing


24 servings (1-1/2 cups sauce)

Updated: Jun. 27, 2023
I don't remember where my sister found this BBQ turkey recipe, but it quickly became a family favorite. From the zesty, flavorful sauce and crispy skin to the juicy and tender meat, it's the best Thanksgiving turkey I've ever tried. —Valerie Delano, Cascade, Montana


  • 2 large onions, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons canola oil, divided
  • 2 cups ketchup
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 1/4 cup Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon celery seed
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 4 teaspoons pepper, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 turkey (12 to 14 pounds)
  • 1 tablespoon salt


  1. In a large saucepan, saute onions and garlic in 1/4 cup oil until tender. Stir in the ketchup, water, syrup, vinegar, molasses, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, celery seed, pepper flakes, 1 teaspoon pepper and ginger. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes or until slightly thickened. Set aside 1-1/2 cups for serving.
  2. Remove giblets from turkey (discard or save for another use). Lightly oil the grill rack. Prepare grill for indirect heat, using a drip pan. Skewer turkey openings; tie drumsticks together. Rub remaining oil over skin of turkey. Sprinkle salt and remaining pepper over turkey and inside cavity.
  3. Place turkey over drip pan, breast side up; grill, covered, over indirect medium heat 1 hour. Brush with some of the sauce mixture. Grill until a thermometer inserted in thickest part of thigh reads 170°-175°, 1-1/2 to 2 hours longer, basting frequently with remaining sauce. Cover and let stand for 20 minutes before carving. Serve with reserved sauce.

BBQ Turkey Tips

When is the best time to put sauce on the turkey?

For this recipe, we recommend putting the sauce on the turkey after an hour of grilling—basting frequently for the last two hours while the turkey cooks. Basting every so often will keep the turkey nice and flavorful.

What's the difference between direct vs. indirect grilling?

Direct grilling is the traditional method that comes to mind when you think of grilling. Food is directly grilled over a charcoal or gas grill—leaving grill marks or a crispy exterior. It’s a very quick and easy technique. On the other hand, indirect grilling cooks food for longer and at a lower temperature. To grill indirectly, food is grilled on the opposite side of the heat source (for charcoal grills that means placing the hot coals on one side of the grill and for gas grills you’d use half of the burners).

How can you tell when a turkey is finished cooking?

You can tell a turkey is finished cooking when it reaches an internal temperature between 170° and 175°. Pierce the thigh with a meat thermometer to check. Make sure your meat thermometer isn’t hitting any bone (as this will give you a false high reading). Learn more grilling turkey tips!

What are some other BBQ sauce ideas?

Try one of our favorite regional barbecue sauce ideas like sweet and spicy Kansas City barbecue sauce or tangy South Carolina barbecue sauce. (Or try one of these other must-have sauces!) Research contributed by Christina Herbst, Taste of Home Assistant Digital Editor

Nutrition Facts

5 ounces cooked turkey with 1 tablespoon sauce: 355 calories, 16g fat (4g saturated fat), 123mg cholesterol, 726mg sodium, 15g carbohydrate (13g sugars, 0 fiber), 36g protein.