On Thanksgiving, do you need to cook a big turkey? Do you want to free up your oven for other things? Does the thought of a Norman Rockwell type reveal of a beautiful turkey make your mouth water? Do you want the great taste of a turkey grilled on a Weber Grill? If you answered “yes” to any one of these questions, then read below on how you can cook a 20+ pound turkey on a Weber Grill!
20-22 pound turkey
3 sticks butter, melted
Large sweet onion, peeled and cut into 4 pieces
Days before you cook, take out your grill, put the turkey on the cooking grate, put the lid on, and see if the lid fits. Ideally, you should have a couple inches between the top of your turkey and the lid. My 22-pound turkey passed this test. This is a picture I took on Thanksgiving after I put the turkey on the grill (There is foil on the top of the turkey so that is what you are seeing through the vent, but more on that later.) Also, come up with a plan to completely thaw your turkey. Since 1981, Butterball has been running a hotline to answer all your turkey-cooking questions. They get around 100,000 calls each season and 10,000 calls on Thanksgiving alone. The most popular question on Thanksgiving? “My turkey is still frozen, what do I do???” Make sure your turkey is thawed. Feel inside the cavity since it can still be frozen even though the outside of the turkey is thawed. Is it still frozen? If it is, use the water method described here.
Next, prep your turkey. Check both ends of the turkey. You will find a neck and up to two packages of giblets, hearts, etc. Remove these. Also, remove the indicator stuck in the breast that is supposed to tell you when the turkey is done. (Your turkey may not have one.) Remove any device holding the turkey’s legs together. If there is such a device, it will be plastic. Here is what my turkey had.
Turn your turkey breast side down, brush the turkey with about half a stick of butter, and sprinkle with one tablespoon of kosher salt. Then, turn the turkey over. Inject your turkey with two of the three sticks of butter. Inject the breast in at least five places on each side of the breast, both legs, and the thighs.
You will note that I did not use any flavorings in the injection. I did not add herbs or even pepper to the turkey. My kids are very picky and do not like finding any “surprises” in their turkey. So, I kept it as simple as possible.
Brush turkey with remaining butter. Sprinkle a tablespoon of kosher salt over the turkey. Put the onion pieces in the cavity of the turkey and tie the legs together with butcher’s twine. Since the turkey is still cold, the butter will solidfy as you see below.
Cover turkey breast with a double layer of heavy duty aluminum foil. Let the turkey sit out at room temperature for 1 hour before you put it on the grill.
Set up your Weber grill for indirect cooking. I did a set up here. However, since then I purchased these baskets, and I wanted to use them. Also, I am not sure the bricks used in the previous set up would leave enough room for a large enough drip pan for this turkey. (The last thing I wanted was turkey fat and juices dripping on the ground.)
Completely fill the basket with coal and dump it into your starter. Let the coals burn until the top ones start to get ashy.
Add the lit coals to the basket. (Note: In this cook, I am grill roasting the turkey. I am not smoking a turkey. Therefore, I am only using charcoal briquettes. No wood.)
Position the grate on the grill so additional coal can be added easily.
Add turkey to the grill, over the drip pan.
Set a timer for 1 hour. Every hour during this cook, you will need to add coal to the basket. Before adding the coal to the basket, use any tool you have handy to move the burning coals around and shake the basket gently so that the ash drops out of the basket. If you do not do this, eventually the ash will not allow air to flow through the burning coals, and your temperature will drop. Add about 10 coals to your basket every hour. Every 2 hours, turn the turkey around. After 4 hours, remove the foil covering the breast. After 4.5 hours, start checking the temperature of the thighs. You need a temperature of 170-175 degrees on both thighs before the turkey is done.
Here is the last picture I took after I removed the foil, but it was taken about 1 hour before I removed the turkey from the grill. During the cook, the wings were starting to spread out, and I was concerned they would burn before the turkey was done. I used additional butcher’s twine to make sure the wings were tucked up against the side of the turkey.
This turkey took 6 hours. The temperature was in the mid to high 30’s all day, and there was a breeze. It would not have taken as long if I hadn’t realized that I needed to remove the ash from the basket as I described above. I only started doing that after my temperature dropped into the 200’s even though the basket was full of coal. Also, remember that, after you take the turkey off the grill, you will have to let the turkey rest at least 30 minutes before you can carve it.