BBQ MY WAY: Get creative with the holiday turkey

[Date:2014-11-26 11:10:58]
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BBQ MY WAY: Get creative with the holiday turkey

It's hard to believe it, but the holidays are upon us. And with the holidays come family traditions, some, if not many centered around holiday meals.

And I don’t know about your kitchen on Thanksgiving, but ours is a whirlwind of activity, especially centered around the all important oven. Casseroles, sweet potatoes, bread or biscuits — they all need their time in the oven. But wait, there’s this big bird that has to be cooked for three hours or so. Quite the oven hog, right?

Here’s the solution. Grill your turkey outdoors. Not only will you have some fun doing it, but you free up the kitchen and the stove for all those delicious side dishes. And, it’s not as difficult as you might think. Today we will cover the basics on how to grill on both charcoal and gas.

Before we get into specifics, let’s talk turkey about turkey. First, the best turkey to buy is the bird that is not frozen. If you buy a frozen bird, you will need to leave it in the fridge for a few days until fully thawed. Secondly, unless you will be presenting the whole bird for carving at the dinner table — Normal Rockwell style — grill or cook the bird breast side down. While the end product isn’t as pretty, the breast meat has a better chance of remaining moist. Third, if you have never done it, keep the giblets and the neck and try your hand at homemade gravy. It’s not as tough as you think. Google it. And fourth, wrap the wing tips in foil. Otherwise they look burned. Oh, and lastly, stuff your bird cavity with quartered apples and onions. It will keep the bird moist and add some nice flavors as it cooks.


WARNING! If you must use a gas grill, please have a spare and filled propane tank available. You would hate to run out before the Thanksgiving turkey is cooked. As you know, most gas grills have separate burners. You will need to set up the grill with indirect heat, meaning roughly one-half of the grill has flame going and the other half does not. The turkey must fit entirely on the section which is NOT directly exposed to flame. If any of the turkey hangs over the flame side, you will probably have flair ups and that part of the turkey will more than likely burn. You can place a drip pan under the grate on the side with no flame to catch the juices for the base of your gravy. Again, unless you want to make a big presentation of carving at the table, cook breast side down. A 10- to 16-pound turkey will take two to three hours. Close the lid and let her start cooking. Try not to open the grill too often as it substantially lengthens cooking time. Use an accurate meat thermometer and check the temperature of the thigh without touching the bone. At 175 to 180 degrees, it’s done. Let rest for 15 minutes or so and carve away. Use the drippings for gravy. Tex, since you do not have a charcoal grill, you can stop reading now.


Set up the grill with indirect heat. When grilling a turkey I use a mixture of two-thirds normal charcoal briquettes and one-third lump wood charcoal. The lump wood adds a bit of outdoor flavor while the briquettes burn a bit longer and not as hot. You are creating an oven environment, and your goal is to get the air temperature within the grill at 350 degrees or so.

First, place a drip pan in the middle of your grill. Using a charcoal chimney, start a full chimney of briquettes. When they begin to turn gray on the edges and you see some flames at the top, dump one-half of the briquettes on one side of the drip pan and the other half on the other side. You should have roughly 15 to 20 briquettes on each side. Now, add a few pieces of lump charcoal to both sides as well as three to five additional briquettes. Place the turkey on the grill breast side down after rubbing it down in olive oil. Don’t forget the apples and onions. Place the lid on the grill with all vents two-thirds open. You will need to add five to seven new briquettes to each side every 45 minutes or so. But, if you plan on using the drippings for gravy, be careful when adding briquettes. You don’t want charcoal in the gravy. I find a turkey prepared on a charcoal grill tends to cook a bit quicker than in an oven or on gas. They key is to not let the charcoal die.

There are some good websites on how to grill a turkey. They are as follows:




Enjoy the process, and do your homework prior to the big day. Let me know how it turns out. Happy Thanksgiving!

— Dave Lobeck is an Edward Jones Financial Advisor in Jeffersonville by day and a BBQ enthusiast on nights and weekends. He is also a Kansas City Barbecue Society judge. Liz is his wife. You can contact Dave with your BBQ or grilling questions at or at

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