We have always cooked our turkey on the grill. Early on we had a couple of occasions where we were tempted to just go ahead and cook inside, but we always stuck to our guns and did the barbecue. Even after we moved from sunny California to New York we have stayed with our tradition. It isn’t just stubbornness on our part- the flavor and texture is worth the extra effort.
We try to have a 20 pound turkey to cook. We like the leftovers, so a smaller bird doesn’t seem worthwhile. More than 24 pounds and fit in the Weber becomes an issue. We don’t stuff the turkey- the cooking time gets too long and it is hard not to have over-cooked areas. While the charcoal is starting the turkey gets dried inside and out. I spray PAM all over the outside of the turkey, then sprinkle well with garlic salt. I also stick slivers of garlic under the skin all around the breast side of the bird.
The turkey gets a protective wrapping of foil in sections so that it can be unwrapped as it finishes cooking. The heat and smoke can work its way through the layers of foil, but the skin doesn’t scorch. Once the turkey is on the grill and covered, the lid goes on with the vent facing into the wind to help the heat circulation.
In warmer weather the turkey will be able to completely cook with one load of charcoal. That doesn’t happen in November in New York, however. I’m finding that it is best to start another chimney of briquettes (about 20 or so) after the turkey has been cooking about an hour. Once they are going good, split them between the two stacks that have been cooking.
When the meat temperature gets to 160° I start trying to estimate when the bird will come off of the grill. Checking the temperature change in 5 minutes gives me a rough idea how much time is left to cook- helpful to coordinate the rest of the meal. It also lets me know if the charcoal stalls, which happens with a wind or precipitation increase or the coals are burning out. I use a digital probe on a braided lead, so I don’t have to lift the lid to check the temperature- opening the lid drops the temperature and extends the time.
Once the turkey reaches 178 or so I start getting ready to pick it up. The temperature will come up a couple of degrees while the bird rests on the counter. I let turkey rest 10 to 15 minutes before carving so the juices stay in the meat. It is after 4:00, so we are running a bit late, but there are only mild complaints. The flavor of the juicy meat makes up for a delayed dinner!