As mentioned in my Thanksgiving post, it’s been a tradition in my family to smoke our turkey on a Weber kettle grill ever since I can remember. I would always look forward to helping my father get the grill going, preparing the smoking wood and watching the bird cook to golden perfection. The tradition continues and we had another great feast for the holiday this year! This process isn’t an exact science and I’ll do my best to take you through the steps you need to create this backyard wonder.
The first item you are going to need is a charcoal grill. I’m obviously partial to the Weber kettle but this can, of course, be done on a different brand/style; I’ve just never done it. Yet, if you give me some form of grill, charcoal and smoking wood, I’ll get the job done as long as we can fit the turkey on it!
Next, purchase a quality charcoal; I have to draw a line here as I only use Kingsford. Again, not to say there aren’t other great charcoal products out there, but I prefer the coals stamped with the “K.”
Finally, you need to select the type of wood you want to use for smoking. I’ve used hickory, mesquite, apple and pecan in the past. This year, I used fresh cherry wood that a friend of mine gave me after spitting some firewood…….it was terrific. You can purchase wood chips or chunks from the store ( I prefer the chunks, as they last longer) and make sure that you soak them in water for a good hour before using them, as it keeps them from igniting and not only burning too fast but also from torching your meat! You want the wood to smolder and smoke, not catch on fire.
Ok. Time to light the grill.
You need to set the grill up for indirect cooking, meaning you are going to place two piles of coals on each side of the grill. DO NOT put coals all the way around the perimeter of the grill: two piles and pick two sides that are opposite each other. The best way that I can estimate the size of a pile is two, double handfuls for each. Weber sells coal holders that are used for indirect cooking which I utilize; you fill each one and it works perfectly. Get your coals lit and let them ash over. There are so many methods for lighting charcoal…..use your favorite one. I haven’t used lighter fluid in years, but if you must, I cannot emphasize enough that you NEED to buy a quality fluid and allow it to BURN OFF COMPLETELY……don’t skimp and buy the cheap stuff. You can probably guess what brand I recommend……..Place a drip pan in between your coal piles and you are ready to start cooking!
I’ll summarize the rest of the process in the recipe card below. Like I mentioned, this isn’t an exact science and if you’re new to this form of cooking, it can be a little confusing the first go around. Please feel free to ask as many questions as you would like and I’ll get back with you ASAP. Enjoy!
- 16-18 lb. turkey (thawed if purchasing frozen)
- Olive oil
- Garlic powder
- Poultry seasoning
- Meat thermometer
- Your favorite stuffing mix prepared to package directions.
- Take turkey out of packaging and remove neck and giblet package; rinse cavity and surface of the bird with water.
- Drizzle olive oil over the surface of turkey
- Sprinkle turkey liberally with salt, pepper, garlic, poultry seasoning, rosemary and thyme. Rub into the meat, coating all areas including the wings and legs.
- Lightly drizzle more oil over the turkey and rub all over for a second time
- Stuff the cavity of the bird with stuffing mix
- Insert the meat thermometer deep into the thickest part of the breast
- Prepare grill for indirect cooking with two piles of charcoal on opposite sides of each other with drip pan placed in between
- Light coals. Coals are ready when they are ashed over and white hot
- Add a handful of soaked smoking chips or 1 chunk of smoking wood to each coal pile
- Place turkey on grill, in between coal piles and over drip pan
- Cover and cook for 4-4.5 hours or until internal temperature reaches 180 degrees F; follow instructions on packaging,
- You will need to add more charcoal to each side, about a handful or two, every 30-45 minutes or as needed to maintain a grill temperature of 325-350 degrees F. Grill temperature will temporarily come down for several minutes each time you add coals, this is normal.