From America's Test Kitchen Season 3: Thanksgiving from the Grill
Grill-roasting a turkey can be hard to manage. Cooking times can vary depending on the weather, and it’s much easier to burn the bird’s skin on a grill. There also remain the usual problems inherent to roasting a turkey: dry, overcooked breast meat and undercooked thighs.
But grill-roasting can produce the best-tasting, best-looking turkey ever, with crispy skin and moist meat wonderfully perfumed with smoke. We wanted to take the guesswork out of preparing the holiday bird on the grill.
Because the skin on larger birds will burn before the meat is done, we chose a small turkey (less than 14 pounds). We ditched stuffing the turkey or trussing it—both can lead to burnt skin and undercooked meat. To season the meat and help it from drying out on the grill, we brined the turkey. To protect the skin and promote slow cooking, we placed the turkey on the opposite side of the glowing coals or lit gas burner. Using a V-rack also helped, as it improved air circulation. And we turned the turkey three times instead of twice; this way, all four sides received equal exposure to the hot side of the grill for evenly bronzed skin.
Serves 10 to 12
Charcoal gives you the opportunity to add wood twice -- at the outset of grilling and when the bird is turned breast-side up at the one-hour mark -- for a stronger smoke flavor. If you're using wood chips, don't forget to add fresh briquettes at the same time you add the second packet of wood chips. Wood chunks throw off enough heat as they burn to make additional briquettes unnecessary. Hickory and mesquite are widely available in chunk and chip form; both work well in this recipe. Hardwood charcoal burns faster than briquettes, so be sure to use briquettes in this recipe. The total cooking time is 2 to 2 1/2 hours, depending on the size of the bird, the ambient conditions (the bird will require more time on a cool, windy day), and the intensity of the fire. Check the internal temperature in the thigh when rotating the bird. If the thigh is below 145 degrees, wait 30 minutes, otherwise check in about 15 minutes.