Barbecue that turkey! Or, less beaten by ovens.

Smoked Turkey

Updated with results: 11/28/2017

Why barbecue turkey?

A quick apology for the lag in new content, now on to the main event, TURKEY! Several years back, we decided we wanted to try and cook our turkey on the BBQ. Having lived a few years in Dallas, I realize there is a religious separation of grilling versus barbecuing. So I will clarify, we decided to cook our turkey on our Weber grill.

I’m a big fan of Alton Brown and I’ve seen every episode of Good Eats. What I like about the show is it teaches you a lot about the how and why of cooking as opposed to just watching someone make a dish. He’s got his own turkey recipes including brining and frying. I’ve done the brine and sometimes, you just don’t have the time to do all the longer-prep phases of things. What I did do, is use knowledge from the show and some creativity to develop my own recipe.

First, why the barbecue (or grill)?

Growing up, I remember the oven being a critical resource on thanksgiving. There’s pies, green bean casserole, brown and serve rolls, and if you swing that way, sweet potatoes. Oh, and then there’s the bird that needs a few hours of oven time too. If you don’t have a second oven (we don’t), you might have a grill. Getting that turkey outside can free up precious oven time. It also provides an opportunity to add something else… smoke!

A-maze-N smoke tube
A-maze-N smoke tube

In the past, I have soaked wood chips and put them in foil pouches to add smoke to the barbecue. This year, on recommendation, I picked up an A-maze-N pellet smoke tube. This uses wood pellets like you would put in a Traeger barbecue and lets you burn more for added smoke. A lot of people will use these to increase the smoke in their smokers, but there’s no reason you can’t put it on your normal grill either. Since I only have wood chunks/blocks on hand, I picked up a 20# sack of hickory pellets as well.

The grill adds one more convenient point, it works like a convection oven. There’s a lot of heat flowing in and out of the barebecue. That movement transfers the heat to the turkey more efficiently, allowing you to cook it quicker without burning it.

One last tool..

Wireless Digital Thermometer
Wireless Digital Thermometer

The other thing I use is a wireless digital thermometer. Just tuck it in the turkey breast and then go back in side and keep an easy eye on dinner. I personally am a little nuts about undercooked poultry so this gives me a great piece of mind. If you’re like me and live in a rainy climate, you can easily put the outside transmitter in a ziplock bag to protect it from the elements.

The materials

So it falls short of being a full recipe, its more of a cooking method. You can adjust this to suit your needs. Here’s the suggested ingredients and equipment:

Turkey prep

The prep is simple:

  • Take out all the nasty things you aren’t going to eat, the giblets, neck, etc.
  • Rinse the entire turkey and pat dry with paper towels (watch for ice in the main body cavity
  • Trim loose skin around the neck optional.
  • Put the turkey on the lifter.
  • Rub the skin with canola oil.
  • Salt & Pepper the bird.
  • Stuff as much of the poultry herbs as will fit into the body cavity (no need for chopping)

Cooking the turkey

Time for the big show

  • Pre-heat the grill to 350, try to use only one burner, you want to cook the turkey using indirect heat, you’re not grilling a burger.
  • Start your smoke.
  • Put the turkey (still on the lifter) onto the cold section of the grill.
  • Put the probe(s) into the turkey breast.
  • Close the lid.
  • Turn on the wireless thermometer.

You’ll want to monitor the temperature of the grill and the smoke output during cooking. You want to stabilize the temperature around 350. Too hot and the outside will burn before the inside is done. You may also need to add more fuel to your smoke solution. You can use the remote unit of the thermometer to watch the cooking speed. The higher the temperature gets, the quicker it goes. I’ve found a 14-16lb turkey cooks in about 2.5 hours. When the breast hits 165-170, pull it off the heat for the traditional ~30 minute resting period then carve.

That’s It!

Sit back while someone else cooks the last minute panicky dishes. Grab a beer and enjoy your Thanksgiving, Christmas, or whatever other day you decide to cook a turkey. How about you? How do you cook your turkey? Tried this, let me know how it works. I’ll come back after tomorrow and update how the A-maze-n smoker tube works.

Here’s the turkey mid-smoke:
…and done:

Post Mortem

So the turkey looked great, but it was a little under done. How can that be? My thermometer didn’t have dual probes like the one I linked to above. I also was cooking a turkey on my Weber Spirit E-310 Natural Gas Grill for the first time; my previous grill was bigger. I put the bird on the far right and had the heat on the far left. While the smoke worked great, the heat distribution was uneven. I had the probe on the left side of the turkey as you can see above. The direct heat got to only one side of the turkey. Next time, the turkey will go in the middle of the grill and the heat on either side will be lower than I had the total heat on the left of the grill. That should give a more even heat distribution and a better done turkey. That said, the meat that was done, was delicious!

Image Credits: woodleywonderworks