How to Cook Turkey on A Charcoal Grill?

19 minutes read

Cooking a turkey on a charcoal grill can be a delicious and flavorful alternative to using an oven. While it requires patience and attention, the end result is often worth the effort. Here is a general guide on how to cook turkey on a charcoal grill:

  1. Preparation: Start by selecting a turkey of suitable size, preferably between 10-14 pounds. Thaw it completely in the refrigerator if frozen. Remove the giblets and neck from the turkey cavity. Rinse the turkey thoroughly under cold water and pat it dry with paper towels. Season the bird inside and out with salt, pepper, and any desired herbs or spices.
  2. Charcoal Setup: Prepare the grill for indirect heat by placing an equal amount of charcoal briquettes on each side. Light the charcoal using a chimney starter or lighter fluid and let it burn until covered with white ash. Once ready, push the hot charcoal to opposite sides of the grill, leaving an empty space in the center for the turkey.
  3. Adding Aromatics: Add wood chips or chunks of your preferred flavor (such as apple, hickory, or mesquite) to the charcoal. Soak the wood beforehand to prevent excessive smoke. Place an aluminum foil tray or drip pan filled with water in the center of the grill. This helps to maintain moisture and catch the drippings.
  4. Grilling the Turkey: Place the turkey directly above the drip pan, breast-side up, on the center of the grill grate. Cover the grill and adjust the vents to maintain a temperature of around 325°F (163°C). It's essential to monitor and maintain a steady temperature throughout the cooking process. Rotate the turkey every hour to ensure even cooking. Use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature of the turkey. Once the thickest part of the thigh reaches 165°F (74°C), it's cooked through. This may take around 12-15 minutes per pound of turkey.
  5. Resting and Serving: Once the turkey reaches the desired internal temperature, carefully remove it from the grill using oven mitts or long tongs. Let the turkey rest for about 20-30 minutes before carving. This allows the meat juices to redistribute and ensures moist and tender meat. Carve the turkey and serve it with your favorite sides and gravy.


Remember, cooking times may vary depending on the grill's size, the turkey's weight, and the outside temperature. It's crucial to safely handle raw poultry to avoid any foodborne illnesses. Follow standard food safety practices and enjoy your tasty grilled turkey!

Best Charcoal Grills of May 2024

1
Royal Gourmet CC1830SC Charcoal Grill Offset Smoker with Cover, 811 Square Inches, Black, Outdoor Camping

Rating is 5 out of 5

Royal Gourmet CC1830SC Charcoal Grill Offset Smoker with Cover, 811 Square Inches, Black, Outdoor Camping

  • 811 Square Inches: Includes 443 sq. in. porcelain-enameled steel wire cooking grates, 184 sq. in. chrome-plated warming rack and 184 sq. in. offset smoker.
  • Tasty Smoke Flavors: The offset smoker is firmly attached to grill to ensure good circulation of heat and smoke. Easy to open side door to add charcoal and remove ashes; air vent stokes fire instantly.
  • Adjustable Pan: 2-level height-adjustable charcoal pan creates better heat control and holds up to 4.4 lbs. of coal.
  • Temperature Monitor: Lid-mounted thermometer gauge helps check and monitor the cooking temperature and you can cook with great confidence.
  • Grill Cover Included: Made of heavy-duty fabric, the cover protects your grill from elements and withstands the harshest weather.
  • Ample Space: Front and side tables offer workspace for seasonings and grilling tools. The bottom shelf provides extra storage space and holds up to only 20 lb. accessories when they are evenly distributed.
2
Weber Original Kettle 22-Inch Charcoal Grill

Rating is 4.9 out of 5

Weber Original Kettle 22-Inch Charcoal Grill

  • Stay true to the modern version of the kettle that started it all—the Original Kettle, invented by Weber’s founder, and loved around the world. Its ultra-durable, porcelain-enameled lid and bowl retain heat, while the damperseasily adjust for precise temperature control. With a One-Touch cleaning system for easy cleanup after a long day of grilling, the Original Kettle will always be the grill built for everyone
  • Holds up to 13 burgers made with a Weber burger press
  • One-Touch cleaning system provides hassle-free ash cleanup.Removable, aluminum ash catcher
  • Porcelain-enameled lid and bowl Retain heat, and won’t rust or peel
  • Use the lid hook to avoid placing the lid on the ground while grilling
  • Dampers allow you to easily control the temperature inside your grill
  • 3D interactive assembly instructions for this product are available through the free BILT app.
3
Char-Griller E1515 Patio Pro Charcoal Grill, Black

Rating is 4.8 out of 5

Char-Griller E1515 Patio Pro Charcoal Grill, Black

  • CHARCOAL GRILL - Barrel style BBQ Grill with heavy duty steel construction and powder coating finish, the perfect grilling solution for small decks, backyards, and patios
  • LARGE COOKING AREA - 250 square inch total cooking area delivers exceptional taste and charcoal flavor
  • BARBECUE GRILL FEATURES - Thick Cast Iron Cooking Grates, Bottom Storage Rack, Heavy-Duty Steel Construction, Side Air Vent, Stay Cool Wood Handle, Wheels for Easy Mobility, and Side Shelf Workstation with Barbecue Tool Storage Hooks
  • EASY TO ASSEMBLE & CLEAN - Assembles easily and quickly cleans up after use with the Easy Dump Ash Pan
4
Royal Gourmet CC1830 30 Barrel Charcoal Grill with Side Table, 627 Square Inches, Outdoor Backyard, Patio and Parties, Black

Rating is 4.7 out of 5

Royal Gourmet CC1830 30 Barrel Charcoal Grill with Side Table, 627 Square Inches, Outdoor Backyard, Patio and Parties, Black

  • 627 Smoking Space: 443 sq. in. porcelain-enameled steel wire cooking grates with 184 sq. in. chrome-plated steel wire warming rack offer enough space to cook.
  • Heat Control: Close the side air vent completely that cuts off the oxygen flow to help extinguish coals and adjust the smoke stack for extra heat control.
  • Adjustable Fire Grates: 2-level height-adjustable fire pan ensures more controlled cooking and holds up to 6 lbs. of coal.
  • Temperature Monitor: Lid-mounted thermometer gauge helps check heat fluctuations for confident grilling.
5
Royal Gourmet CD1824M 24-Inch Charcoal Grill, BBQ Smoker with Handle and Folding Table, Perfect for Outdoor Patio, Garden and Backyard Grilling, Black, Medium

Rating is 4.6 out of 5

Royal Gourmet CD1824M 24-Inch Charcoal Grill, BBQ Smoker with Handle and Folding Table, Perfect for Outdoor Patio, Garden and Backyard Grilling, Black, Medium

  • Spacious Cooking Area: 384 sq. in. porcelain-enameled steel wire cooking grates and 106 sq. in. stainless steel warming rack provide a total of 490 sq. in. cooking space respectively, serving up to 10 people.
  • Height-adjustable Charcoal Pan: The crank handle controls the distance between the charcoal pan and food for fine-tuning temperature and regulating heat. The charcoal pan holds charcoal up to 4.5 lb. for each use.
  • Convenient Access Door: Front charcoal access door with heat-resistant spring handle provides more convenience for adding charcoal and controls heat loss to a minimum during cooking.
  • Built-in Thermometer Gauge: The lid-mounted thermometer indicates the temperature changes precisely in real-time.
  • Air Flow: Two adjustable air vents control air circulation to enhance sufficient burning of charcoal for efficient smoking.
6
Royal Gourmet Barrel Charcoal Grill with Front Storage Basket, Backyard BBQ Party and Outdoor Cooking Grill on Clearance Prime with Wheels, Black, CC1830T

Rating is 4.5 out of 5

Royal Gourmet Barrel Charcoal Grill with Front Storage Basket, Backyard BBQ Party and Outdoor Cooking Grill on Clearance Prime with Wheels, Black, CC1830T

  • Additional Cooking Options: The charcoal grill can meet your versatile cooking demands by slow smoking or grilling ribs, veggies, lobster tails, or other preferred ingredients.
  • Ample Cooking Area: To accommodate 23 hamburgers at once, there are 443 sq. in. porcelain-enameled steel wire cooking grates and a 184 sq. in. chrome-plated steel wire warming rack as a secondary heating area.
  • Impressive Storage: Store seasonings in the front basket, hang some cooking utensils on the integrated hooks, place plates and other food on the side tables, and meanwhile put your charcoal on the bottom storage shelf.
  • Adjustable Charcoal Pan: Easily control the distance between food and fire with the lifting handle to regulate cooking temperature, which also saves fuel in the meantime.
  • Heat Control: Customize your desired temperature by twisting the air damper and smoke stack, thus getting the best cooking results.
7
Weber Original Kettle Premium Charcoal Grill, 22-Inch, Black

Rating is 4.4 out of 5

Weber Original Kettle Premium Charcoal Grill, 22-Inch, Black

  • Holds up to 13 burgers made with a Weber burger press; Built-in lid thermometer. Rust-resistant aluminum dampers
  • One-Touch cleaning system with high-capacity ash catcher provides hassle-free ash cleanup
  • Porcelain-enameled lid and bowl retain heat, and won’t rust or peel
  • Use the lid hook to avoid placing the lid on the ground while grilling
  • Cooking grate is hinged for easily adding charcoal while grilling
8
Royal Gourmet CC1830S 30" BBQ Charcoal Grill and Offset Smoker | 811 Square Inch cooking surface, Outdoor for Camping | Black

Rating is 4.3 out of 5

Royal Gourmet CC1830S 30" BBQ Charcoal Grill and Offset Smoker | 811 Square Inch cooking surface, Outdoor for Camping | Black

  • 811 Square Inches: Includes 443 sq. in. porcelain-enameled steel wire cooking grates, 184 sq. in. chrome-plated warming rack and 184 sq. in. offset smoker.
  • Tasty Smoke Flavors: The offset smoker is firmly attached to grill to ensure good circulation of heat and smoke. Easy to open side door to add charcoal and remove ashes; air vent stokes fire instantly.
  • Adjustable Pan: 2-level height-adjustable charcoal pan creates better heat control and holds up to 4.4 lbs. of coal.
  • Temperature Monitor: Lid-mounted thermometer gauge helps check and monitor the cooking temperature and you can cook with great confidence.
9
Dyna-Glo DGN576SNC-D X-Large Premium Dual Chamber Charcoal Grill

Rating is 4.2 out of 5

Dyna-Glo DGN576SNC-D X-Large Premium Dual Chamber Charcoal Grill

  • Removable firebox divider for single or dual cooking zone
  • Primary cooking area is 576 square inches
  • Secondary cooking area is 240 square inches
10
Royal Gourmet CC1830W 30 Barrel Charcoal Grill with Side Table, 627 Square Inches, Outdoor Backyard, Patio and Parties, Black

Rating is 4.1 out of 5

Royal Gourmet CC1830W 30 Barrel Charcoal Grill with Side Table, 627 Square Inches, Outdoor Backyard, Patio and Parties, Black

  • Spacious Cooking Area: Includes 443 sq. in. porcelain-enameled steel wire cooking grates, 184 sq. in. chrome-plated steel wire warming rack, and 184 sq. in. offset smoker.
  • Offset Smoker: Use the side fire box to get tasty and authentic smoky flavors in the main chamber. Smoking, grilling, or searing all will be your choices.
  • Adjustable Charcoal Pan: 2-level height-adjustable charcoal pan ensures better heat control and holds up to 4.4 lb. of coal.


Do I need to use a meat thermometer when grilling a turkey on a charcoal grill?

Yes, using a meat thermometer is strongly recommended when grilling a turkey on a charcoal grill. It helps to ensure that the turkey is cooked to the appropriate internal temperature for safe consumption. Grilling a turkey can be challenging as the heat distribution may vary, so using a meat thermometer is crucial to determine when the turkey is fully cooked and safe to eat.


Are there any additional safety tips to keep in mind when grilling a turkey on a charcoal grill?

Yes, here are some additional safety tips to keep in mind when grilling a turkey on a charcoal grill:

  1. Position the grill in a well-ventilated area: Make sure the grill is placed outdoors in an open area away from walls, structures, or anything flammable. Ensure there is enough space on all sides to prevent accidents or fires.
  2. Use a chimney starter: Avoid using lighter fluid or other flammable liquids to ignite the charcoal. Instead, use a chimney starter, which is a safer and more efficient method to light the charcoal.
  3. Create a two-zone fire: Divide the charcoal into two separate areas in the grill, one side with direct heat and the other as an indirect heat zone. This allows you to control the cooking temperature and prevent flare-ups.
  4. Keep a fire extinguisher nearby: Always have a fire extinguisher or a bucket of sand or water within reach in case of emergencies. It's better to be prepared for any unexpected situations.
  5. Use a meat thermometer: Ensure the turkey is cooked thoroughly and reaches a safe internal temperature. At the thickest part of the turkey, the temperature should reach at least 165°F (74°C) to eliminate harmful bacteria.
  6. Monitor the grill: Keep a close eye on the grill at all times. Remember to never leave it unattended, especially if there are children or pets around. Stay vigilant and in control of the grilling process.
  7. Properly dispose of ashes: After grilling, allow the charcoal ashes to cool completely before disposing of them in a metal container. Ashes can remain hot for hours, so handle them with care and place them somewhere safe.
  8. Practice good hygiene: Ensure your hands, utensils, and surfaces are clean and sanitized when handling the turkey. Prevent cross-contamination by keeping raw poultry away from other foods, and wash your hands thoroughly after handling raw meat.


By following these additional safety tips, you can minimize risks and enjoy a safe grilling experience when cooking a turkey on a charcoal grill.


How do I prevent the turkey from drying out while on the charcoal grill?

There are a few methods you can use to prevent your turkey from drying out while grilling it on a charcoal grill:

  1. Brining: Brining involves soaking the turkey in a mixture of water, salt, and other seasonings. This helps the turkey absorb moisture and remain juicy during the grilling process. Brine the turkey for at least 12 hours in the refrigerator before grilling.
  2. Use a marinade or injection: Marinades and injections can add flavorful liquids and fats to the turkey, helping to keep it moist. Choose a marinade or injection that complements the flavors of your turkey and ensure it contains fats like olive oil, butter, or vegetable oil.
  3. Indirect grilling: Setting up your charcoal grill for indirect grilling means placing the charcoal on one side of the grill and the turkey on the other. This allows the turkey to cook slowly at a lower temperature, reducing the risk of drying out. Use a drip pan under the turkey to catch any drippings and prevent flare-ups.
  4. Basting: Basting the turkey with a flavorful liquid or a mixture of oil and herbs will help keep it moist. Baste the turkey every 30 minutes or so to ensure it stays juicy and flavorful.
  5. Using a water pan: Placing a water pan in the grill, near the turkey, can help maintain a higher humidity level during cooking, preventing the turkey from drying out. Refill the water pan as needed during the cooking process.
  6. Monitoring the temperature: Use a meat thermometer to monitor the internal temperature of the turkey. Overcooking can lead to dryness, so remove the turkey from the grill when it reaches the desired internal temperature (165°F or 74°C in the thickest part of the thigh).


Remember to allow the turkey to rest for at least 15-20 minutes before carving. This allows the juices to redistribute, ensuring a moist and flavorful turkey.

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