The holidays are a time for family, friends, and food! If you plan to host Thanksgiving this year, you may wonder how to cook the perfect turkey. While roasting a turkey in the oven is traditional, grilling a turkey is becoming increasingly popular. Grilling a turkey is a great way to free up oven space and give your bird a delicious smoky flavor. Plus, it's sure to impress your guests!

However, there are a few things you need to know before you fire up the grill. This blog will show you how to grill a turkey for Thanksgiving or any time of year.

The Do's and Don'ts of How to Grill a Turkey

Grilling turkey on Thanksgiving just tastes better

Grilling a holiday turkey may seem daunting, but with these instructions and practices, you can impress your guests with a delicious and juicy bird! Most of these tips apply to cooking a turkey indoors and out.

What To Do

  • Thaw your turkey completely. This is the most crucial step in the grilling process. If your turkey is not thawed completely, it will not cook evenly, leading to dry, overcooked meat. To thaw your turkey, simply place it in the refrigerator for 3-5 days before cooking it.
  • Brine your turkey. Brining is simply soaking your turkey in a saltwater solution. This helps keep the bird moist and juicy while cooking. 
  • Pat your turkey dry before cooking. This step helps ensure that your turkey doesn't stick to the grill and that the skin gets nice and crispy. 
  • Use indirect heat when grilling. Indirect heat means you'll need to place your turkey on one side of the grill and keep the coals or burner on the other. This prevents the skin from burning while the meat cooks through. 
  • Place aluminum foil under the bird to catch drips. This step helps make cleanup a breeze!

What Not To Do

  • Don't try to cook a frozen turkey on the grill. A frozen bird will not cook evenly and could potentially make you sick. As we mentioned, your turkey needs to be completely thawed before cooking.
  • Don't put the bird directly over the flames or coals. Again, indirect heat is vital when grilling a turkey!
  • Remember to baste! Brush it with melted butter or olive oil every 30 minutes. Basting helps keep your bird moist while cooking.
  • Remember to rest your turkey! Like any other meat, it's essential to let your grilled turkey rest for 10-15 minutes before carving into it. This allows all the juices to redistribute throughout the meat, making for a juicier, more flavorful bird.
Take Thanksgiving outside with the Estate Grill from American Made Grills

What Makes Grilling a Turkey Challenging?

Several challenges to grilling a turkey outdoors can make any cook apprehensive. Here are some of the most common challenges and how to overcome them:


One of the most challenging aspects of outdoor cooking is temperature control. Maintaining a consistent temperature when cooking such a large piece of meat can be difficult. Depending on your grill and fuel type, keeping a constant temperature for hours is more complicated than setting and forgetting.

To combat this, we recommend using a digital thermometer. This will help you keep track of the internal temperature of your turkey and ensure that it's cooked through.

The rotisserie is a fantastic way to grill whole birds and roasts


The other major challenge to grilling a turkey is time. Due to the elements, quality of the grill, and size, it generally takes longer to grill a turkey than to roast it in the oven. The biggest culprit to adding time to your Thanksgiving bird is often opening the grill. When the grill hood is opened, much of the heat is lost. This is especially true when grilling large cuts of meat that require hot ambient air within the firebox to finish.

When a cook has experience with their grill and its performance, they can let it do its thing without constantly opening the hood and checking on the progress. Another terrific option for smaller turkeys is using the rotisserie.


Another common challenge when grilling a turkey outdoors is dealing with the wind. If it's a particularly windy day, your grill temperature can fluctuate, making it difficult to cook your turkey evenly. To combat this, make sure you have a heavy-duty grill cover. This will help keep the heat in and the wind out.


If you're using a charcoal grill, it's essential to use enough coals to maintain a consistent temperature for the duration of the cook. This can be challenging, as you don't want to use too many coals and risk overcooking your turkey. The long cooking time will most likely require adding additional fuel halfway through the cook.

If you're using a gas grill, make sure you have a full propane tank. Nothing is worse than running out of gas in the middle of cooking!

Smoking a turkey is a favorite way to infuse deep flavor into this giant bird. Here are some tips for smoking a turkey with a hybrid grill.

Smoked turkey

Final Tips for Grilling a Turkey

It's that time of year again! The weather is getting cooler, the leaves are changing color, and football season is full swing. That can only mean one thing: it's time to break out the grill and cook up some Thanksgiving turkey!

But if you're new to grilling, cooking a whole turkey on the barbecue can be a bit daunting. Never fear! With these simple tips, you'll be grilling turkeys like a pro in no time.

Clean grill grates are a must
  1. Choose the right turkey. When it comes to grilling, bigger is not always better. A that is too large will not cook evenly, resulting in dry, overcooked meat. Aim for a turkey that is between 10 and 12 pounds.
  2. Prepare your grill. Before you start cooking, make sure your grill is clean and adequately preheated. You'll also need to ensure you have enough charcoal or propane to complete the job.
  3. Season your turkey. Just like with any other type of cooking, it's important to season your turkey before grilling. Because of the size of the bird, we recommend brining the turkey overnight and then using a rub before starting to cook. A simple rub of olive oil, salt, and pepper will do the trick.
  4. Put the turkey on the grill. Place your turkey on the grill breast-side down and cook for 30 minutes. Then, flip the bird over and continue cooking until it reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
  5. Let the turkey rest. Once your turkey is cooked, remove it from the grill and let it rest for 20 minutes before carving. This will help ensure that all the juices stay locked in, resulting in a juicy, flavorful bird.

Grilled Whole Turkey with Apple Spice Brine

Grilled Whole Turkey with Apple Spice Brine

Now that we have gone over the tips and best practices for grilling your Thanksgiving turkey, it's time to get cooking! This recipe for Grilled Whole Turkey with Apple Spice Brine is the perfect way to show off your barbecue skills this holiday season. The apple spice brine is the ideal way to add flavor and juicy tenderness to your turkey before grilling it whole. This method of cooking ensures that every bite is packed with delectable flavors.

Final Thoughts

Cooking a turkey on the grill is a great way to free up oven space and enjoy the outdoors. With a little planning and preparation, you can grill a delicious Thanksgiving turkey that your whole family will love!

Grilling a holiday turkey may seem daunting, but with these simple tips, you can impress your guests with a delicious and juicy bird! Just remember to thaw completely, brine beforehand, use indirect heat when grilling, baste often, and let rest before carving. Happy grilling!