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Barbecue Turkey With Aromatics

Updated on April 7, 2015
Paul Edmondson profile image

Paul is a barbecue enthusiast. He is currently grilling and smoking on a Komodo Kamado Ultimate 23.

Grilling a Turkey

barbecue turkey
barbecue turkey

Selecting a Turkey to Barbecue

The first step is selecting a turkey. Around Thanksgiving, many stores carry deeply chilled turkeys that have been freshly slaughtered. These aren't quite frozen birds. A deeply chilled turkey is preferred to a frozen turkey. While getting a fresh bird is important, the most important part of the turkey selection process is the size. Get a turkey that is under 14 pounds. If you need to cook for a large group, opt for barbecuing multiple turkeys between 12 and 14 lbs.

There can be quite a bit of pressure to have a moist and delicious turkey so people will think that by spending more on an organic turkey that they are getting a better bird. While there are good reasons to select an organic turkey or a free range turkey, taste is not one of them. Our side by side tests show that a typical Foster Farms turkey tastes better than a Diestel organic turkey. Our recommendation is to save the money and go for taste.


  • Select a turkey between 12 and 14 pounds
  • Get a deeply chilled turkey (not frozen)
  • Regular store bought turkeys are moister than organic turkeys in our tests

Turkeys Brining in Cooler

Prepare the salt solution for the brine in a large pot
Prepare the salt solution for the brine in a large pot
After the Turkey has been brined, rinse it to get the salt off.
After the Turkey has been brined, rinse it to get the salt off.
Pat the Turkey's dry
Pat the Turkey's dry

How to Brine a Turkey

Brine is simply a sugary and salty solution that is absorbed by the turkey that helps keep it moist while the turkey is barbecued. For each pound of turkey, brine it for at least one hour. As an example, a 14 lbs turkey should be brined for a minimum of 14 hours.

My bringing recipe has been tweaked and perfected for turkey. Follow this brine recipe if you want the best turkey ever.

  • 1 gallon of water in a big pot
  • 2 cups kosher salt
  • 2 cups honey
  • 2 quarts chicken broth
  • 1 large bag of ice
  • 3 tablespoons of cloves

Boil the water and add the salt, honey, and cloves. Stir the solution until the salt is fully disolved. In a large brining container, add the chicken broth, ice and the boiling solution. The ice should cool the mixture so it's about room temperature. Place the turkey into the brine with the breast side up.

If you don't have a container large enough to hold your turkey, or you are barbecuing more than one turkey, I use my igloo ice chest as the brining container. Just make sure it is cleaned out really well.

Prepairng the seasoning for the inside of the turkey

Preparing the Aromatics to Barbecue the Turkey

Rinse the brine off the turkey under cold water. Place the brined turkey in a roasting rack tray and pat dry with paper towels.

For the inside of the turkey (neck and gizzards removed)

  • 1 apple
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 4 sprigs of rosemary
  • 6 sage leaves
  • 1 tablespoon cloves
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 cup of water

Place all the ingredients in a microwave safe bowl and microwave for 5 minutes. Take the mixture and place it in the cavity of the turkey.

In the roasting pan

  • 1 cup white cooking wine
  • 1 cube of unsalted butter
  • 3 sprigs rosemary
  • 3 sprigs thyme
  • 4 sage leaves

*As the turkey barbecues, add water to the pan so it doesn't burn up. Use the mixture in the pan to baste the turkey as it barbecues. For the initial basting, add olive oil to the skin with pepper.

Truss the Turkey by Tying the Legs and Tucking the Wings

Turkey legs tied (trussed)
Turkey legs tied (trussed)

Truss the Turkey

Once the turkey is stuffed, it's time to truss it by tucking the wings forward and then underneath the turkey. Next take a long piece of butchers string and tie the end of the drumsticks together. There should be enough extra string on each side of the drumstick to pull the string around the turkey and to tie it off in front of the the neck stub. The wing tips should tuck into the string that acts like a belt going around the turkey.

Setting up the Barbecue Fire

We want to Barbecue our turkey with indirect heat. Using a large roasting pan will help reflect the heat, but I recommend taking a small disposable aluminum pan and placing in in the center of you barbecue coal grate. On each side of the pan place the charcoals. A 12 - 14 lbs turkey will take around two to three hours to barbecue at 350 degress. So make sure to add enough charcoal to last the entire cook. This is about ten pounds of charcoal.

Barbecuing the Turkey

Putting paprika on the turkey will make it a deeper brown color
Putting paprika on the turkey will make it a deeper brown color
If the turkey gets too dark, cover it with tinfoil
If the turkey gets too dark, cover it with tinfoil

Barbecue a Turkey to an Internal Temperature of 165 Degrees

Use an external meat thermometer so the temperature of the meat can be watched closely to avoid over-cooking the turkey. One of the most important things when barbecuing a turkey is inserting the meat thermometer into the turkey in the right location and depth. Place the thermometer in the wrong spot and your turkey won't come out the way you want. I recommend placing the thermometer in the fatest part of the thigh, just inside the leg and about halfway through. Be careful to get it right in the middle. If you get it too close to the bone or the tip of the thermometer too close to the edge, the thermometer won't be accurate. Set the thermometer alarm to ring at 165 degrees. That's right, you will want to pull the turkey off the barbecue when it's at a 165 degrees.

Cooking time and telling for the turkey is done

It typically takes a turkey about 1 hour for every five pounds if barbecuing at 350 degrees. The meat thermometer is the best guide, but I also like to use an instant read thermometer to test other spots of the turkey. Lastly, the juices should be clear when the turkey is completely finishing getting barbecued. The best place to check the juices is from the thigh meat.

For people that want crispy skin on their turkey, once the turkey gets to 145 degrees, crank the temperature on the barbecue up to 400 - 425 degrees for the remainder of the cook.

Turkey Gravy

Turkey gravy before flour is added
Turkey gravy before flour is added
After the four has been added
After the four has been added

Making Turkey Gravy from the Drippings

Yes, you can make gravy from a barbecue turkey. The pan underneath the turkey will catch the drippings. It will most likely need to be thickened.

1. Put the drippings over a medium heat and whisk.

2. As the turkey drippings are whisked, add about 1/2 cup of flour and water mixed in a measuring cup.

3. Add more flour with water until the turkey gravy is thick. Continue to whisk.

Questions & Answers


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      • Paul Edmondson profile image

        Paul Edmondson 5 years ago from Burlingame, CA

        Updated my barbecue turkey recipe with photos from this years Thanksgiving.

      • profile image

        Andrew 6 years ago

        Better late than never! I stumbled upon this ridiculous article by chance today. Save yourselves a lot of time, trouble, sodium and sugar. I've been BBQ-ing turkey's for 30 years, and all you need is a covered BBQ and lower temperature (325). I guarantee you that not only will the cooked bird be very moist and flavorful, but it will also not be pale as a ghost!

      • profile image

        sord87 7 years ago

        I will try this some time!thanks for information

      • loveofnight profile image

        loveofnight 7 years ago from Baltimore, Maryland

        first time that i have heard of this but if it is anything like deep fried turkey i'm in.....

      • febriedethan profile image

        febriedethan 7 years ago from Indonesia

        Wow..fantastic and thank you for the details Sir :)

      • Jack Burton profile image

        Jack Burton 7 years ago from The Midwest

        We have grilled our Thanksgiving turkey for 20 years now (and boy, is it well done). :-)

        The past few years we've spatchcocked it beforehand. Here is how we do it.

      • katiem2 profile image

        katiem2 7 years ago from I'm outta here

        Very Good Hub and well illustrated, great pics that brought it to life and easy to follow. Thanks and Peace :)

      • sheila b. profile image

        sheila b. 7 years ago

        I'm surprised it cooks so fast!

      • De Greek profile image

        De Greek 7 years ago from UK

        You have solved one of the Great Mysteries of Life for me:-)

        Many thanks

      • msorensson profile image

        msorensson 7 years ago

        Oh this kind of reminds me how we do "Sitting Chicken" in the Philippines, except we do not barbecue the chicken.

        We cook it on a big clay pot with with the chicken sitting on an inch of rock salt on top of banana leaves.

        Thanks for sharing!!

      • BetsyIckes profile image

        BetsyIckes 7 years ago from Pennsylvania

        Thanks for sharing! I will have to try this.

      • profile image

        Novel 7 years ago

        Sounds weird yet interesting - but I guess anything totally new does. I can see I'll be dragging the BBQ out on Christmas Eve and giving it a whizz. Many thanks for sharing

      • Hello, hello, profile image

        Hello, hello, 7 years ago from London, UK

        That sounds great. Thank you for such a comprehensive advice.