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Thanksgiving Recipe: Turkey on the Grill

Brined and Barbecued Turkey with Pan Gravy


Serves: 10 to 12 // Prep time: 30 minutes | Brining time: 18 to 24 hours | Grilling time: 2½ to 3½ hours | Special equipment: large ice chest, sturdy plastic bag, 3 large disposable foil pans, 4 small apple wood chunks or 4 small handfuls apple wood chips, instant-read thermometer, large gravy separator



  • 2 quarts apple juice
  • 1 cup kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons dried rosemary
  • 2 tablespoons dried thyme
  • 1 tablespoon dried sage
  • 1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

  • 3 quarts cold water

  • 1 whole turkey, 10 to 12 pounds, fresh or defrosted
  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted, divided
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 cups low-sodium chicken stock
  • 1 large yellow onion, roughly chopped
  • 2 large carrots, roughly chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, roughly chopped


  • Reserved pan liquid plus enough chicken stock to make 4 cups of liquid
  • ¼ cup (½ stick) unsalted butter, cut into 4 equal pieces
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • ⅓ cup dry white wine
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper


  1. In a large pot combine the brine ingredients. Stir vigorously until the salt is dissolved.

  2. Remove the neck and giblets from the turkey and reserve in the refrigerator for the gravy. Cut off and reserve the wing tips for the gravy, too. If your turkey has a trussing clamp, leave it in place. Do not truss the turkey. Rinse the turkey inside and outside with cold water.

  3. Partially fill a cooler with ice. Open a large, sturdy plastic bag in the cooler. Place the turkey, breast side down, in the bag. Carefully pour the brine over the turkey and then add the 3 quarts of cold water. The turkey should be almost completely submerged. If some the back is exposed above the brine, that’s okay. Press the air out of the bag, seal the bag tightly, close the lid of the cooler, and set aside for 18 to 24 hours.

  4. If using wood chips, soak in water for at least 30 minutes (no need to soak wood chunks).
  5. Fill a chimney starter to the rim with charcoal and burn the coals until they are lightly covered with ash. Spread the coals in a half circle or crescent-shaped fire on one side of the charcoal grate. Carefully place a large, disposable drip pan in the center of the charcoal grate and fill it about halfway with warm water. This will help to maintain the temperature of the fire. Put the cooking grate in place, close the lid, and let the coals burn down to low heat (250° to 350°F). Keep all the vents open.

  6. Remove the turkey from the bag and rinse it, inside and outside, with cold water. Pat dry with paper towels. Discard the brine. Lightly coat the turkey with some of the melted butter. Season with the pepper.

  7. Place one foil pan inside the other and pour the chicken stock into the top pan. Add the onion, carrots, and celery. Add the reserved turkey neck, giblets, and wing tips. Place the turkey, breast side down, in the foil pan.

  8. Add two wood chunks or drain and add two handfuls of wood chips to the charcoal, and close the lid. When the wood begins to smoke, place the pan in the center of the cooking grate. Position the pan so the turkey legs face the charcoal. Cook the turkey over indirect low heat, with the lid closed, for 1 hour.

  9. After 1 hour, to maintain the heat, add 10 to 12 unlit charcoal briquettes to the lit charcoal, using long-handled tongs to tuck the unlit charcoal between the lit charcoal. Leave the lid off for about 5 minutes to help the new briquettes light. Add the remaining two wood chunks or drain and add the remaining two handfuls of wood chips to the charcoal. Carefully turn the turkey over in the pan so the breast faces up. Continue to cook the turkey over indirect low heat, with the lid closed, for a second hour.

  10. At the end of the second hour, baste the turkey all over with the remaining butter. If any parts are getting too dark, wrap them tightly with aluminum foil. Once again, add 10 to 12 unlit charcoal briquettes to the lit charcoal to maintain the heat. Continue to cook the turkey over indirect low heat. The total cooking time will be 2-½ to 3-½ hours. The turkey is done when the internal temperature reaches 160° to 165°F in the thickest part of the thigh (not touching the bone).

  11. Transfer the turkey to a cutting board, loosely cover with foil, and let rest for 20 to 30 minutes before carving (the internal temperature will rise 5 to 10 degrees during this time). Save the pan juices, vegetables, neck, giblets, and wing tips to make the gravy.

  12. Strain the pan liquid through a sieve into a large fat separator and discard all the solids. Add enough chicken stock to equal 4 cups of liquid. In a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat, add the butter and flour. As the butter melts, stir with a wooden spoon and cook until the mixture turns the color of peanut butter, about 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add 4 cups of the reserved pan liquid (but not the fat) plus the wine. Bring the gravy to a boil, whisking frequently to dissolve the lumps. Lower the heat and simmer the gravy for a few minutes or until it reaches the consistency you like. If the gravy gets too thick, add more chicken stock a little at a time and simmer until it reaches the right thickness. Turn off the heat. Add the parsley and season with salt and pepper. Carve the turkey. Serve warm with the gravy.

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