Note: I’ve tweaked this recipe over the years, and HERE is my definitive method/recipe.
For Thanksgiving this year I tried my hand at roasting a turkey on the grill. The resulting bird was crispy on the outside and juicy and tender on the inside, and only took a few minutes longer than roasting it in the oven. Also, adding woods chips imparts an authentic smokey flavor that really made the turkey stand out on the Thanksgiving table. Lastly, it frees up the oven for other endeavors!
Also, when grilling a turkey (or roasting it in the oven, for that matter), you want to use a v-rack (often called a roasting rack). We just started using one recently and it’s amazing how evenly it cooks the bird, since it allows air to circulate around the entire turkey. Depending on how your grill plates run, though, the v-rack may fall through the plates; to prevent this, put the v-rack on a grill pan.
(note: when making this I actually cooked two birds, so the pictures don’t reflect the ingredients list below)
one turkey (8-12 lbs), thawed with neck/giblets/etc removed
1 cup sea salt for brining
2 stalks celery
1 medium onion
4 cloves garlic
1 tbsp each fresh sage, parsley, rosemary, thyme (dried is okay in a pinch)
8 tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 tsp each salt and pepper
a few big handfuls of mesquite wood chips
When grilling a turkey, you’ll want to pick one that’s under 12 pounds. Anything bigger and the bird will start to burn on the outside before it reaches its optimal internal temperature.
A crucial step in smoking a turkey is brining it, because smoking can quickly dehydrate the bird. To brine it, place the bird in a big pot. Dissolve the sea salt into a couple cups of water, and pour it over the turkey. Continue to add water until the turkey is fully submerged in water, stirring it around to mix the salt together. Stick it in the fridge overnight. The next morning, take it out, rinse it thoroughly in cold water, and pat it dry with paper towels. Put it in the fridge (on some paper towels) and let it air dry for 30-45 minutes as you get the rest of the ingredients together.
Set the butter out to soften for 30 minutes. At the same time, soak the wood chips in water for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, drain the wood chips and set them in a smoker box or make a small container using tin foil.
Chop the veggies and herbs coarsely and place them in a bowl. Mix in 4 tbsp of the softened butter with your hands. Take the mixed ingredients and stuff them into the turkey. You don’t need to pack them in super tightly, but they should be snug. Don’t worry if it all doesn’t fit. Rub the butter all over the turkey, and be sure to sneak a little butter under the skin that covers each breast as well. Sprinkle the salt and pepper over both sides.
To properly smoke the turkey, you’re going to use indirect heat (otherwise the turkey would burn well before being cooked through). Put the wood chips over the burner that you’re going to leave on while cooking the turkey and preheat the grill by putting all of the burners on high heat. Turn all but one burner off (leave that burner on high – you’re looking for a temperature of about 300-350 degrees). Place the turkey breast-side-down on the v-rack, and place the v-rack on a grill pan, placing the turkey on the unheated side of the grill.
After an hour, flip the turkey breast-side-up. After another 45 minutes, rotate the turkey so that the opposite side is closest to the hot side of the grill (to ensure it cooks evenly). After another 30 minutes, check the turkey’s temperatures with a meat thermometer. You want a breast temperature of 165-170 degrees and 170-180 thigh temperature. If the turkey isn’t ready, check it every 10 minutes until it’s good to go.
Be sure to let it rest for 30 minutes before carving the bird. That’s it!