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How to BBQ a Turkey

‘Tis the season to be jolly, and when it comes to feasting on a piled-up plate of Christmas Dinner, most of us are very jolly. That is as long as you’re not a) a turkey, or b) the chef.

For those of you who have experienced the role of chef on Christmas day, you will understand the stresses that are involved in creating this; the most important and drooled-over dinner of the year! How can you squeeze 10 guests onto your table for four? How do you juggle the cooking with your presence around the presents? And the big one; just how can you make this year’s Christmas dinner a whole lot better than the last?

We have the answer and it is a simple as wheeling out your BBQ!

Barbecued turkey is succulent, full of flavour and has a beautifully golden, crispy skin (just like on the adverts!) We can help you make the best Christmas dinner yet with this simple guide to Christmas dinner on the BBQ! Sceptical you may be, but it’s far easier than you might think, and look at it this way – at least you’re not the turkey!

How to barbecue the tastiest turkey

  • Take a look at your BBQ and see what sized turkey will fit before you go out and buy it. Kettle BBQs are great for cooking Christmas turkey but you may have to choose accordingly. A 5kg turkey or turkey crown is usually a safe bet for kettle BBQs and there should still be plenty of meat to go round! If you own a bigger BBQ, get a bigger turkey!

  • Brine the turkey on Christmas Eve (unless it is self-basting or kosher). Large container boxes are ideal for this – Remove the turkey from its packaging and place in the container, then fill to the top with up to 10 litres of water and 800g salt. Then you need to find room in your fridge or a cold place for it to sit back and chill overnight.

  • On Christmas morning you need to remove the brine and cover the turkey again, this time with fresh water. Change the water a few times and allow the turkey to come back up to room temperature before you begin the barbecuing

  • Pop into the garden and set up your BBQ for indirect cooking. Fill a disposable aluminium try with water which will double up as a drip pan and place this between the coals. If you’re using a gas BBQ, only turn on the outer burners. Light the coals and allow them to heat up the BBQ whilst you make final preparations to the turkey.

  • Once it’s up to room temperature, you can stuff and season the turkey for extra flavour. It’s up to you whether you choose to use traditional stuffing, lemon or herbs, just make sure you rub butter or olive oil generously on the outer skin.

  • If using a charcoal BBQ, check on your coals. They’re ready when they’ve developed a thin surface covering of white ash. If so, it’s time to put the turkey on! Place it central, over the drip pan and directly on the grate, then close the lid.

  • As an estimate, allow 20 minutes cooking time for ever lb the bird weighs. You could have a perfectly crisp turkey in 2 hours, or it could take four. One thing you can be sure of is that it will be the tastiest turkey you’ve ever eaten, and it will not take any longer to cook through than in your conventional oven.

  • You should check the coals every 45 minutes or so, and add some more if necessary. Whilst you’re there, we’d recommend quickly basting with melted butter and maybe even a few herbs!

  • Your Christmas turkey is ready to remove from the grill when its internal temperature reaches 65’c at the thickest point. The safest way to make absolute sure of this is with a meat thermometer, of which BBQ Talk have a great range.

  • Allow the turkey to rest in its juices for up to an hour while you plate up and make the gravy, and voila!


What about everything else?

Another great thing about leaving your turkey outside on the grill to cook itself, is that it frees up precious oven space for roast parsnips, potatoes and Yorkshire puddings! So for everything else, make use of your oven, hobs and steamers to multi-task the hell out of this Christmas dinner business!

Alternatively, if you’re feeling ambitious and have a large BBQ, there may be room alongside the turkey to BBQ your vegetables too! As with the turkey, smother them in oil and season as preferred, then grill in foil or on skewers.

And for the perfect drinks menu, check out the recommendations from Mr Drink’n’Eat on our seasonal December recipe page.


If you're cooking Christmas dinner on the BBQ this year, let us know how it goes and share some snaps with us on the BBQ Talk community.