How to cook a large bird on the barbecue

Turkey on the grill

If you’re using a charcoal grill, have more charcoal or briquettes on hand than you think you’ll need—a full 10 lb (4.5 kg) bag to be safe. If you’re cooking on a gas grill, be sure to check your propane supply.

Barbecue the turkey in a covered grill using indirect heat.

To cook over indirect heat on a charcoal grill:

Set a large fire, using about 60 briquettes. After about 20 minutes, when the coals are covered with a light grey ash, use long-handled tongs and a mitt to divide them into two piles, one at each side of the grate. Place a large drip pan in the centre, then lightly oil the cooking grill and set it in place. Put the prepared turkey, breast side up, in the centre of the grill over the drip pan and close the lid. Add 8–10 briquettes to each side every hour or so of cooking time. Preferably, preheat these coals in a small Hibachi or metal chimney set on a heat-safe surface, so they are ready when needed.

To cook over indirect heat in a gas barbecue:

Preheat the barbecue to high with all burners on and the lid down. Place a large drip pan on top of one of the burners. When the barbecue is preheated, turn off the burner under the drip pan. Put the turkey, breast side up, in the middle of the lightly oiled grill above the drip pan and close the lid. (The technique may vary slightly depending on the size and make of your barbecue, so check the manufacturer’s instructions.)

Ideally, you want to maintain a constant cooking temperature inside the barbecue of approximately 325˚F (160˚C). Place an oven thermometer inside your barbecue if it doesn’t have an accurate one on the lid.

For a stronger smoke flavour, add hickory chips to the fire. Soak chips in water for an hour before using. Drain and place directly on the coals of a charcoal fire; with a gas grill, place chips in a shallow metal container (such as an aluminum pie plate) with holes punched in it and put the container on the rocks under the grill rack.

Resist the temptation to peek! If you rub the outside of the turkey with a flavourful marinade before putting it on the grill, you will not need to baste. Each time you raise the lid, heat escapes and you have to add another 15 minutes or so to the grilling time. So open the grill as infrequently as possible, just to add more coals or occasionally to check the heat if your thermometer is inside. About a half-hour before you judge the turkey to be done, check its temperature with an instant-read thermometer and brush quickly with basting mixture or glaze.

For more inspiration, check out these 7 Thanksgiving shortcuts and watch episodes from Cottage Life Television.