This simple and tasty recipe for whole turkey on the grill is a perfect way to prepare a feast without tying up the oven. Flavored simply, with olive oil, salt and pepper, this whole grilled turkey is prepared without stuffing on a charcoal grill for a juicy, smokey flavor without the fuss.
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If you haven't made whole turkey on the charcoal grill before, you are missing out!
It's time to turn off the oven and give this recipe a try! It is a great way to free up your oven for side dishes and reduce the heat in your kitchen so you can enjoy a turkey feast any time of year.
Don't wait for good weather, you can grill year round! This grilled turkey recipe has all the information you need to guide you to success for cooking a full turkey on the grill. I will teach you how to select a bird, how to set your coals and how to control heat so it turns out juicy and perfect every time.
This prepration is one of my favorite turkey recipes of all time. I love serving this whole grilled turkey with some of my favorite side dishes such as hasselback potatoes and green beans almandine. It makes a meal my whole family enjoys!
One of my favorite things about cooking a turkey on the grill is that the ingredients are super simple and straight forward.
To make this simple and tasty grilled whole turkey you will need:
- Whole turkey - A 16 pound or less sized bird is best for the grill. Don't forget to remove the insides and discard them.
- Olive oil - High quality is always best and perfect for cooking at the temperature we are using on the grill.
- Salt - Table salt is fine but I really like using sea salt for this recipe.
- Ground black pepper - Adjust to suite taste.
See the recipe card for exact quantities of each ingredient.
Choosing a Turkey for Grilling
The most important part of this recipe is choosing a great bird whether it's for a Thanksgiving turkey recipe or any time of year!
When choosing one to grill, keep the following tips in mind.
- 16 lbs or less - Selecting a bird less than 16 pounds is best for the grill, otherwise cooking time could take all day.
- Choose a hen over tom - For a bird smaller than 16 pounds, the texture of a hen is preferred.
- Insides removed and discarded- I like to buy a turkey that is prepared for cooking and that has the insides removed. This makes it a bit easier to prep.
- Buy fresh or thaw if frozen- I love buying fresh turkeys, but if you need to buy frozen you can follow this guide for thawing your turkey properly.
Unless you are brand new to grilling, you likely have everything you need to make this recipe already!
To grill a whole turkey, you will need:
- Charcoal Grill - You can also use a gas grill, but the instructions in this post cater to a charcoal.
- Charcoal- Classic charcoal gives the best flavor.
- Lighter Fluid- To get the fire going.
- Drip Pans- Use a drip pan underneath to collect drippings for gravy.
- Aluminum Foil- Cover the wings to prevent over browning.
- Brush- To brush the oil over the skin.
- Meat Thermometer- To check for doneness.
- Chimney Starter- This is optional but is a great way to get new coals going without effecting the temperature of the rest of the coals.
How to Grill a Turkey on a Charcoal Grill
Here's an overview of how to cook a whole turkey on the grill. Allow about 11-13 minutes per pound for cooking your turkey on the grill. A 16 pound turkey will take about 3.5 - 4 hours. You will find more detailed instructions further down in the recipe card.
Start by preparing your bird.
You will want a fresh or thawed bird with the giblets removed and discarded.
Make a slice one-quarter-one-half inch thick in the skin on each side and tuck in the wings. You can also tie the legs together if you would like.
Next, place turkey on a tray or roasting pan to prep. Brush the olive oil over the entire bird.
Season with the salt and pepper. You can rub this seasoning into and under the skin if you like but I don't find much of a difference. Sprinkling on the outside works just as well!
Now it is time to prepare the grill.
Start your charcoals and once they are ready, you want to push them to the outer edge of the grill to prepare for grilling over indirect heat.
Place aluminum foil or a drip pan in between the coals and the grill grate.
This will allow you to catch the drippings for gravy and also prevent a major temperature shift in the coals as the fat drips.
Place the turkey on grill. You are going to want to roast it covered, at 350-400 degrees until a thickenest part reaches 165 degrees.
To keep the temperature at 350-400 you will need to add about 8-12 coal brickettes every 30-45 minutes
PRO- TIP: After adding the turkey to the grill wait 15 minutes and then start briquettes in the chimney starter on the side. Wait 30 minutes and add them to the grill. Repeat as many times as necessary until the bird is done.
Some recipes call to add directly to the grill without starting the briquettes but that can make maintaining the temp of the grill complicated.
After second round of adding coals. Place aluminum foil along the wings of the bird to prevent over cooking them. And leave them until it's done.
The turkey is done when internal temperature reaches 165 degrees without touching a bone.
Remove the it from the grill when it is done and allow to rest for ten minutes before slicing.
I love the flavor this simply seasoned grilled turkey gives, but if you are looking for a change try out these versions!
- Smoked - Use a smoker grill instead of charcoal.
- Use Stuffing - Add your favorite stuffing recipe to the inside of the bird.
- Add more seasoning - Change things up by adding garlic salt, onion powder, paprika or other classic seasonings.
If you are lucky enough to have leftovers, you can store it in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3-4 days.
You can also store turkey meat in the freezer, off the bone, for up to two months.
Expert Tips and FAQS
I can't wait for you to try this recipe for grilled turkey, my favorite way to enjoy whole turkey! Keep these tips in mind when its time for you to prepare it?
Use a meat thermometer to most accurately determine when it is ready to serve.
To maintain an even temperature while grilling a turkey, use a charcoal starter placed on the side.
When cooking turkey on the grill be sure to move the coals out to the perimeter of the grill for best results. You want it cooking by indirect, rather than direct heat.
Use a fresh or thawed turkey when making turkey on the grill.
For the most moist turkey, let it rest before cutting.
Add 8-12 coals to the mountain every 30-45 minutes. Keeping coals on the perimeter for indirect heat? For extra precision, you can get a grill thermometer.
It is done when the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees using a meat thermometer.
I recommend covering the wings with aluminum foil. If any other parts begin to brown too much, you can cover them with foil too.
Yes! You can add your favorite stuffing recipe to the inside of the turkey and make as directed.
You can place the turkey directly on the rack or a roasting rack.
More Easy Dinner Recipes
Did you try this recipe? Please leave a star rating in the recipe card right below! You can also write a review in the comment section further down the page I always appreciate your feedback. And don’t forget to tag me @freshcoasteats in your photos on social media, I'd love to see your results!
- Charcoal Grill
- Lighter Fluid
- Drip Pans
- Aluminum Foil
- Chimney Starter
- 1 16 lb whole turkey fresh or thawed (under 16lbs)
- ½ cup olive oil
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 3 teaspoons black pepper
- Prepare the turkey by removing giblets. Make a ¼-½ slice in skin near the wing and tuck the tips. Tie legs if desired.
- Rub oil all over the turkey and season with salt and pepper.
- Prepare the grill for indirect heat, by pushing coals to the outer edge of the grill once they are completely heated.
- Place aluminum foil or drip pan in between the coals and place the turkey in the center either directly on the rack or on a roasting rack.
- Roast Turkey, covered, 350-400 degrees or until thickened part 165 degrees being careful not to touch the bone while maintain the temp
- To maintain grill temperature, add fresh 8-12 briquettes every 30-45 minutes.
- After the second round of adding coals. Place aluminum foil along the wings of the bird to prevent over cooking them. And leave them until it's done.
- After adding 15 minutes later, start briquettes in the chimney starter on the side, wait 30 minutes and add them to the grill. Repeat as many times as necessary until the bird is done.