Best Barbecued Whole Turkey Recipe

Best Barbecued Whole Turkey Recipe

Outdoor barbecuing or grilling is a very easy and efficient way to cook your Thanksgiving turkey. Try making this barbecued whole turkey recipe for your loved ones.

Barbecued whole Turkey on a tin pan in an oven

No mess in your oven or the kitchen.  Prepare your barbecued whole turkey on either a gas grill or a charcoal grill.  This method requires a covered barbecue grill and heavy duty aluminum foil.  Your turkey will be crisp outside and juicy inside.

Check out more great Poultry Recipes and how to Brine Poultry for a moister and tastier dish.  Learn how to make a deep-fried Cajun Fried Turkey.

Barbecued Whole Turkey Recipe:
Prep Time
30 mins
Cook Time
6 hrs 40 mins
Total Time
7 hrs 10 mins

*Cook Time is 20 minutes per pound.

Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Barbecued Whole Turkey Recipe, BBQ Turkey
Barbecued Whole Turkey
  • 1 (15 to 20 pound) turkey, fresh or thawed, with giblets and neck removed. 
    1/2 cup butter, room temperature or softened, divided
    Turkey Stuffing or your favorite stuffing/dressing recipe
    3 to 4 slices uncooked bacon
    Basting Juice (see recipe below) or use the juices that drain off

  • 1 (15 to 20 pound) turkey,  fresh or thawed, with giblets and neck removed
  • 1/2 cup butter, room temperature or softened, divided
  • Turkey Stuffing or your favorite stuffing/dressing recipe
  • 3 to 4 slices bacon, uncooked
Basting Juice
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • Neck and gizzard
  • 2 teaspoons rosemary, dried and chopped
  • 3 cups chicken stock or water
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup sweet Marsala wine or Port wine*
  • 1/2 cup dry vermouth or white wine*
  • Juice from 2 lemons
Barbecued Whole Turkey Instructions:
  1. Note for Charcoal Grills -to prepare coals: In bottom of covered charcoal grill, with vents open and grill uncovered, ig(depending on size of grill) ignite 50-60 charcoal briquettes (not self-starting). Allow briquettes to burn 30 minutes or until all coals are covered with a thin coating of gray ash. Push hot briquettes to 2 sides of grill. Add 7 to 9 briquettes to each side of grill every hour to maintain a grill temperature of 325 degrees F on oven or grill thermometer. 

  2. Clean turkey well, removing any bits of pin feathers and cleaning the cavity of any remaining pieces of innards.  Pat dry with paper towels.  Secure legs with twine or a clip (optional).

  3. Preheat barbecue grill. Instead of using a roasting pan, it is easier to use a homemade pan from extra heavy duty foil (using three layers of aluminum foil and making it just big enough to hold the bird - the sides need to be about 2 1/2-inches high).

  4. Rub the inside cavity of the turkey with 1/4 cup of the softened butter.

  5. Stuff the inside cavity with your favorite stuffing/dressing recipe.  Also place a little stuffing in the neck cavity, tuck the neck skin under and skewer shut.  With any remaining turkey stuffing, stuff a little of it between the skin and the breast meat.

  6. With the remaining 1/4 cup butter, rub some over the skin of the turkey.  Salt and pepper the turkey and place the slices of uncooked bacon on top of the prepared turkey.

  7. Place the turkey crosswise on the gas or charcoal grill so that the pan is evenly distributed over the two sets of jets.  Set the flame so that a temperature of 300 to 325 degrees F. is maintained (usually the lowest setting).  Cover with heavy duty aluminum foil for the majority of the cooking time.  Estimated cooking time is approximately 20 minutes per pound at 300 degrees F.

  8. Remove the aluminum foil for the last hour of cooking.  Every once in while, baste the turkey with the juices (or with the basting juice recipe below).  If you have "hot spots" in the jets of the grill, twice during the cooking turn the turkey around (and the pan, of course) so that one side is not more cooked than another.

  9. Toward the end of the cooking time, open the grill and insert the meat thermometer into the fleshy part of the thigh and cook until the internal temperature reaches 165 F. (remember that the turkey will continue to cook after it is removed from the heat of the fire). NOTE: The USDA has come up with a one-temperature-suits-all for poultry safety: 165 F. For safety and doneness, the internal temperature should be checked with a meat thermometer.

  10. It is important to use a meat thermometer with a cable attached to the meat probe tip. This will allow for the meat probe tip to stay in the brisket during the entire cooking process while the barbecue lid is closed and give you a continuous temperature reading of the meat to ensure it does not overcook. I recommend using the Thermoworks Smoke Pro Series 2 Channel High Temp Cooking Probe for continuous monitoring of the meat’s internal temperature in addition to monitoring the smoker’s internal temperature during the smoking and cooking process. Includes wireless receiver to remotely monitor the temperatures from up to 300 feet away.

    Thermoworks Smoke Thermometer

  11. In the absence of a meat thermometer, pierce the turkey with a fork in several places; juices should be clear with no trace of pink.  NOTE: The old-fashioned way of wiggling the leg to see if it's loose will give you an indication that the turkey is ready, but unfortunately, by the time the leg is truly loose, the turkey is sadly overcooked.  The only reliable test for doneness is to check the internal temperature with a 
    meat thermometer in the thickest part of the thigh, without touching the bone.

  12. Allow the cooked turkey to sit for approximately 10 to 15 minutes before carving.

Basting Juice Instructions:
  1. In a heavy pot over medium-high heat, melt butter; sautonion until just translucent.  Add the neck and gizzard; continue cooking for approximately 4 minutes.  Add the rosemary and chicken stock or water; simmer until reduced by halve.  Remove from heat and strain well.

  2. Use the gizzard and neck in the stuffing or the gravy.  For the basting juice, mix together the strained stock mixture, marsala or port wine, vermouth, and the juice of the lemons.

Recipe Notes

* I usually use any red wine that I have.  You could also substitute the vermouth for additional red wine.

Barbecued Turkey

Different Types of Cooking Styles:

Cajun Fried Turkey
This way of cooking your turkey is anything but greasy as the deep-frying process seals the outside and the turkey remains incredibly juicy, while the skin gets wonderfully crispy.

Outdoor Turkey Pit Cooking Recipe – Turkey In the Hole Recipe
This style of pit cooking is also know as “Bean Hold Cooking.”  If you have the time and place to cook your holiday turkey in an outdoor pit, wouldn’t this make a great Thanksgiving or Christmas turkey dinner.

Oven Roasted Turkey
It is hard to beat the classic roast turkey with the wonderful aromas that waft from the oven kicking off the anticipation for the holiday meal.  Roasting a large turkey is one of easiest ways to accommodate a large crowd of family and friends.

Smoked Turkey
Smoking a turkey is no different from barbecuing in your back yard.  You follow all these rules without even noticing them in most cases so go ahead, give it a try, you will not be dissatisfied when you try a smoked turkey.

What the heck is that? Well it is a de-boned turkey (except for wing bones and drumsticks), a fully hand deboned duck, and a fully hand deboned chicken, all rolled into one.

Tofurky/Tofurkey Recipe with Vegan Gravy
I am not a vegetarian or a vegan, but I have several family members who are.  For them and my many readers who are also vegetarians or vegans,  I created this page on how to cook Tofurky.

Turkey Dinner Information:

Turkey Basics
How to purchase, stuff, and roast a turkey – Choosing a fresh or frozen turkey – How to thaw a frozen turkey – How to prepare turkey for stuffing.

Perfect Turkey Gravy
Homemade gravy, made using the turkey giblet stock, pan drippings, and meat juices from the roast turkey, is an essential part of a traditional Thanksgiving dinner.

Guidelines for Brining Poultry
This is the secret that chefs never tell you about. It’s very easy and economical, and requires no special cookware. Brining is like a marinade, as it keeps food moist and tender.

Let’s Make Turkey Stock
Don’t throw out those leftover turkey bones! My favorite thing to do the morning after Thanksgiving is to make homemade turkey stock from the turkey carcass. It is so easy to do and so delicious!

Linda’s Favorite Turkey Stuffing
Whether you call it “stuffing” or “dressing,” what’s not to love about turkey stuffing? Everyone knows that stuffing is the best part of a turkey dinner!

Make Ahead Mashed Potatoes
Save your valuable kitchen time on Thanksgiving day by using this easy-to-make mashed potato dish for your next Thanksgiving dinner. This is the recipe I use every year for Thanksgiving Dinner.

Using a Cooking or Meat Thermometer
Have you ever cut into a turkey to see if it has finished cooking? You DEFINITELY need to use a cooking thermometer!  A cooking thermometer or meat thermometer should not be a “sometime thing.”  Use it every time you prepare foods like poultry, roasts, hams, casseroles, meat loaves and egg dishes.

Internal Temperature Cooking Charts – Cooking thermometers take the guesswork out of cooking, as they measure the internal temperatures of your cooked meat, poultry, seafood, baked goods, and/or casseroles, to assure that a safe temperature has been reached, harmful bacteria have been destroyed, and your food is cooked perfectly.  Always follow internal cooking temperatures to be safe!

Advice on Handling Leftovers Safely
Leftover” foods are cooked foods that you or your family do not eat within 2 hours after they are cooked.  The chance of food poisoning increases the longer you store a food after it is cooked. Improper handling or storing cooked food is one of the most common causes of food poisoning in the home.


Christmas    Dinner    Grilled & Smoked Turkey    Thanksgiving    Turkey Hints & Tips   

Comments and Reviews

5 Responses to “Best Barbecued Whole Turkey Recipe”

  1. Steven chavez

    I plan on barbuque a turkey for thanksgiving but don’t know where to start after I buy a turkey,I live in San Diego,Ca.i have a new Weber BBQ.2burner with heat temperature gauges don’t know how long and if I need 1 tank or two tanks could you please help me.thank you

    • Whats Cooking America

      I would recommend getting a good probe thermometer that you can keep inside the turkey and also monitor the temperature of the barbecue. You want to keep the barbecue internal temperature between 300 to 325 degrees F. That is why the lowest heat setting is recommended. You may have to test your barbecue to determine the best setting to hit this temperature.

      The estimated cooking time for the turkey will be 20 minutes per pound. Towards the end of the cooking time, check the internal turkey temperature. Pull the turkey out at 165 degrees F. (the turkey will to continue to cook after it is removed from the heat). Make sure the juices also run clear in the turkey and the leg is loosened up to jiggle.

      I would recommend using a meat probe thermometer like the Chef Alarm to monitor the temp of the turkey at all times: or a Smoke 2 channel meat thermometer with probe: It will monitor the internal temperature of the barbecue smoker and internal temperature of the meat at all times. It also includes a wireless remote thermometer to remotely monitor the meat and barbecue temperatures from up to 300 feet away:

      Not sure on how much gas you will need, so its would not hurt to fill both tanks so you are prepared!

  2. lynn gramm

    how much charcoal do I use
    and do I have to add more charcoal?

  3. Amanda Wolfe

    I’ve used this exact recipe twice, once in ’09 for my first-ever turkey (on a propane grill) and this year in my oven (only my second turkey ever, Thanksgiving was always at someone else’s house in the interim!). It has been absolutely delicious both times, and I don’t see myself ever using another recipe. Both times, I also stuffed sprigs of rosemary, sage, and thyme under the skin on both ends, which brings out the excellent flavor in the basting sauce – and this year, I finally made gravy with the drippings/sauce… best gravy I’ve ever tasted. May actually make another turkey for Christmas, since this is so yummy and worth the time and effort. Thanks for making my first couple of turkeys real showstoppers.

    • Nancy

      I am happy that you have had success with the recipe, we appreciate your kind words! Have a wonderful holiday season.


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