Contributing writer Ron Dimpflmaier, also known as “Captain Ron”, is our dedicated Big Green “Eggspert” who is showing how to cook a whole turkey in your Big Green Egg or Kamado cooker for perfectly cooked, smoked turkey flavor in the same amount of time the turkey would take in your oven.
It’s that time of year again where every home cook in the country gets to show off their Thanksgiving turkey cooking skills for their friends and family. Thankfully, the Pilgrims started this long tradition which only seems to grow more and more each year!
While it’s been proven that the Pilgrims did not eat turkey after their famous landing on Plymouth Rock, that’s OK. When I think of Thanksgiving, I think of turkey and somehow, if they hadn’t made that great ocean voyage, I do not believe that approximately 46 million turkeys would be consumed in the United States every last Thursday in November.
How do I cook a turkey on the grill?
For many, the task of preparing the perfect Thanksgiving turkey has been taken out of the kitchen and moved to the backyard. That’s right, outdoor preparation of the centerpiece of the Thanksgiving meal is now in the capable hands of backyard cooks everywhere, including on the Big Green Egg.
One popular way to do it is to deep fry the turkey. This is one of the tastiest ways to prepare a turkey and makes a moist bird with the crispiest skin you can ask for. If you don’t feel like dealing with hot oil splattering everywhere and have a bit more time on your hands, though, smoke – roasting your turkey on the Big Green Egg is the best way to do a turkey and it is much easier than you may think.
The method that I will teach you here is not really smoking your turkey, although it will have just a beautiful hint of smoky goodness. We will be cooking this at 350° to 375° using the indirect method of grilling, which will give smoke flavor from the charcoal while roasting the bird at 350 degrees. If you are unaware of what that is, it simply means that we will be using the Big Green Egg deflector, known as the plate setter or its actual name, the convEGGtor. This is the ceramic disk that fits in the Egg in between the fire and the cooking grid. It makes it so that no flames will be in direct contact with your bird; it is more like cooking in the world’s best convEGGtion oven.
What size turkey should I buy?
I recommend a turkey that weighs anywhere from 12 to 15 pounds for cooking on the Egg. For this post, I used an 18-pound bird because, well, it was on a really good sale and I just couldn’t pass it up—hey, a deal is a deal!
The cooking time will vary depending on the size of your bird. It will also vary if you stuff your bird before cooking it or leave the cavity empty. I do not recommend stuffing your turkey prior to cooking as it causes uneven temperatures and you run the risk of the stuffing not reaching a high enough temperature to ensure food safety. Nobody wants a house full of sick people on Thanksgiving night!
How long do I cook the turkey?
Plan on about 12 minutes per pound at 350°. However, this is merely a guideline. Remember, we cook to temperature, not time. The turkey is done when a digital thermometer like the Thermapen inserted in the thickest part of the breast and thigh reads 165° (don’t cook without using an internal read thermometer- it’s a must! ). You can take the dark meat up to 185°, but you will run the risk of overcooking the white meat and having a dry bird. That is not what you want your guests to remember about your big holiday meal, either.
Remember to be kind to each other and keep in mind that there is always lots to give thanks for, even when it may not seem that way. So eat your turkey, stuff yourself on side dishes, and don’t forget the dessert. Enjoy the family, friends, food and football, and remember, at the end of the day on Thanksgiving, there are only 30 days left until Christmas!
ADDITIONAL NOTES ON COOKING TURKEY
Most store bought turkeys come frozen, so make sure to give yourself plenty of time — two to three days — to defrost in the refrigerator before the big day!
Should you brine your turkey?
We could debate this all day long, but brining your turkey will definitely help it to be its most moist and juicy version it can be. We at GrillGirl recommend brining. Check out our Pickle Juice Brined Turkey Recipe or All-Purpose Brine Recipe.
Steps for this Recipe- see full recipe instructions below in recipe card.
- Make compound butter for the turkey using GrillGirl’s Sunshine State of Mind Craft BBQ Rub
- Rub compound butter inside and outside of the skin for turkey
- Set up your Big Green Egg for smoking and make gravy; don’t forget your water pan in your set up
- Monitor your temp. Cover the bird with foil if it is browning too quickly
- Make gravy with turkey stock made on the Egg while the turkey is smoking.
This recipe has become our family’s favorite way to enjoy a turkey on the Big Green Egg. It has tasty citrus notes, crispy skin, and no Thanksgiving turkey is complete without a delicious brown gravy to ladle over your slices of holiday heavenly goodness.
The process may seem long but I assure you, it is a simple process that your guests will surely think that you graduated from the finest culinary school to learn how to make. Now let’s get started!
For the turkey:
- 1 12- to 15-pound turkey
- 1 stick of unsalted butter at room temperature
- Zest and juice of one orange
- Chopped fresh herbs, sage, rosemary, oregano, or whatever other herbs you choose; 1 tsp. each
- 1 to 2 tsp. Sunshine State of Mind all-purpose BBQ rub
- Instant read digital thermometer, I recommend the Thermapen
For the gravy:
For the turkey:
- Prepare your Big Green Egg for indirect cooking at 350° to 375°.
- Place a drip pan with the 6 cups of water, giblets and neck in between the convEGGtor and the cooking grate.
- Remove the turkey from the wrapper. Remove all giblets, the neck and anything else in the cavity of the bird. Remove the plastic pop-up temperature gauge and plastic piece that holds the legs in place.
- Pat the entire turkey dry on the outside as well as the inside cavity; the dryer the better.
- Combine the butter, orange zest, chopped herbs and BBQ rub together completely. Add in the orange juice a little bit at a time until the butter has a bit thinner consistency.
- Spread the butter mixture all over the breast side of the turkey inside the skin and outside of the skin. The more completely you can cover the breast side of the turkey, the better the turkey will turn out.
- After your coals have been burning for a while and there is a good, clean fire burning (blue or NO smoke showing), place the turkey in the center of the cooking grate and close the dome.
- Allow the turkey to cook for 45 minutes, then check on it to make sure it is cooking evenly. If it appears that one side is cooking more than the other, rotate the turkey so it cooks evenly.
- Cook it for another half hour, them check again. Your skin should have a nice golden brown color and the herbs should be looking dark by this point. If the skin is looking like it is starting to overcook, place aluminum foil over any parts that are looking too dark. You can start to check your internal temperature. Remember, it is fully cooked at 165°, but you are probably not there yet.
- Be sure to monitor the water level in your drip pan and keep a good amount of water in there. This will catch all of the turkey drippings and will eventually become your gravy.
- Continue to monitor the temperature and checking to make sure it is cooking evenly. Remember, we eat with our eyes first, so it has to be pretty.
- When the bird has reached 150°, add the sliced onions to the water pan.
- Once the turkey has reached 165° in the deepest part of the breast and in the thickest part of the thigh, remove the turkey to a platter and loosely tent with foil. Rest the turkey for a minimum of 10 to 15 minutes before carving
For the gravy:
- Remove the cooking grid to access the water pan; it should be at a steady, light boil.
- Skim as much fat off of the top of the water as possible. Place ½ cup of this in a bowl and using a whisk, combine 3 to 4 tbsp. of the Wondra flour.
- Whisk until smooth and add it back to the water pan.
- Add the bouillon cube and ½ tsp Gravy Master as well and stir. If you like a thicker gravy, add more flour. You can also sprinkle some more rub or garlic powder to the gravy if you choose. I personally prefer a more natural flavor.
Carve your turkey and serve. Watch the smiles on everyone’s face as they enjoy the beautiful and delicious masterpiece that you have just created!
PRO TIP: I use my EGGspander system so that the turkey is raised up in the dome to cook the skin more. If you do not have an Eggspander, the regular convEGGtor and grate are perfectly fine too.
PRO TIP: After patting the turkey dry, you can place the bird uncovered in the refrigerator overnight. This will help to dry out the skin and make for a crispier final product. However, this is totally optional.
- Prep Time: 20 minutes
- Cook Time: 3 hours
- Category: Meats
- Method: Smoke
- Cuisine: American
Keywords: Smoked Turkey on the Big Green Egg, Big Green Egg Smoked Turkey, How to Cook a Turkey on the Big Green Egg, Turkey on the Grill, How to Smoke Roast a Turkey,
Want more Thanksgiving recipes? Check out the posts below.