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Idiot's Guide To Grilling a Turkey

November 17, 2016
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Butter Injected Grilled Turkey

I was thinking about making a quick post on the keys to to grilling, or baking, a Thanksgiving turkey. I wanted it to be comically simple. Like one tip simple. If there's one thing to remember when grilling a turkey it's this:

Internal temperature.

Yeah.  Internal temperature.  Don't cook a turkey over 165 degrees F as the internal temperature. If you do, it will be dry. It's that easy.

Remove and throw out the pop up turkey thermometer that comes with the turkey. Gross. And did you know it pops up at over 180 degrees F?  That's called gross and dry.

("Borrowed" this pic from the Washington Post)

Now, how do you know when a turkey is 165 degrees?  Well, honestly, not trying to make this a Thermapen advertisement, but you need a good thermometer. An accurate thermometer. You get what you pay for. A cheap thermometer might read +/- 20 degrees F. So if you are going to go cheap, at least calibrate it in a pot of boiling water (boiling water should read 212 degrees F, so you can adjust your cheap thermometer accordingly). But life is easier with a Thermapen or one of the other Thermoworks products. I review a bunch of them at this link.

Thermoworks Smoke Review
Thermoworks Thermometers

Ok, so you have the main tip:  internal temperature.  But let me squeak in three more simple tips to really make grilling your turkey idiot proof.

  1. Add any dry rub.  Seriously.  Any BBQ dry rub will work.  Or make a turkey dry rub like I did in this grilled turkey recipe post. 
  1. Dry rub for a Turkey
    Inject butter. Ok, that might be a little tricky only because you need a food injection system.  But Amazon prime can have that here in 2 days, so is it really that hard? You can use one of the injection marinades or simply melt some butter, add some salt and inject it.  I did that in this recipe post.
    Grilled Butter Injected Turkey
  1. If you are grilling, do it over indirect heat and aim for a medium heat.  If you go low heat you'll take forever. If you go high heat you'll burn the skin. So aim for an indirect heat.  That's about 350-400 degrees.  Don't add your turkey until the temperature is stable.  If it's low, add some coal.  If it's too hot, wait a little bit.  Also use a drip pan. Turkeys drip a lot, which is messy.
Indirect cooking on a Weber Charcoal Grill

So what did we learn here?  If you have to do one thing - get a good thermometer and don't cook the turkey over 165 degrees. If you can handle that one, then go ahead and rub it well and inject with butter. That adds a nice flavor pop and some extra moisture. Who doesn't love butter?

Find Grilling24x7 on Twitter on Thanksgiving day and please share your turkey pictures with me.  I can't get enough.

One last tip: if the turkey seems doable, then go ahead and make these homemade rolls. I'm not joking, they are usually better than the turkey!

Homemade Batter Rolls - Perfect Side Dish to Grilled or Smoked Turkey -

Disclaimer: I'm an affiliate for Thermoworks but without their stuff, my food would be overcooked and sad, so I just report the truth. Their stuff is the best.

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