Whole BBQ Turkey Recipe

Delicious and Juicy Whole BBQ Turkey Recipe

Have you ever considered that, even outside of Thanksgiving, a turkey may steal the show? Get ready to dive into a succulent, smokey turkey that will become the focal point of your upcoming BBQ celebration. This is not just another recipe—rather, it’s your go-to tool for turning into a grilling legend.

This Whole BBQ Turkey Recipe is going to up your BBQ game to unprecedented levels, with juicy insides and a crispy, savory skin. Ready to become the town talk? Let’s explore the smoky realm of barbecued turkey and demonstrate the process for you.

What is Whole BBQ Turkey?

Whole BBQ Turkey Recipe
Credits to Epicurious

Imagine your typical turkey, but instead of the oven’s embrace, it’s basking under a smoky sky, surrounded by flames and coals. That’s whole BBQ turkey for you—a majestic bird turned into a succulent feast with a hint of smoke and a crust that’s caramelized to perfection.

This isn’t just turkey; it’s a masterpiece that’s been slow-cooked and smoked, transforming every bite into a juicy, flavor-packed experience. It’s the kind of meal that makes you wonder why we don’t BBQ turkey all year round. Whether it’s a summer cookout or a festive gathering, a whole BBQ turkey brings a twist that’s both delicious and daring.

How Long Does It Take to Cook a Turkey on the BBQ?

Cooking a turkey on the BBQ is like running a marathon; it’s all about patience and pacing. You’re not just cooking; you’re crafting an experience. Expect to dedicate a solid 13 minutes per pound of turkey when you’re working with indirect heat, aiming for that sweet spot temperature range of 250-325°F (121-163°C).

For a hefty 12-pounder, you’re looking at around 2.5 to 3 hours of cook time. But hey, good things come to those who wait, right?

Keep a meat thermometer handy to ensure the inside hits 165°F (74°C) for that perfect, safe-to-eat juicy finish.

Remember, this isn’t a set-it-and-forget-it deal. You’re the artist, the grill’s your canvas, and time is just one of your tools to create a BBQ masterpiece.

How Do You Prepare a Whole Turkey for Cooking?

Prepping a turkey for the BBQ is like getting ready for a big night out—it needs a little TLC to shine. First off, liberate your bird from its packaging and ditch any giblets hiding inside. It’s spa day time: give it a thorough rinse and pat it down until it’s drier than a humorless joke.

How Do You Prepare a Whole Turkey for Cooking?
Credits to Epicurious

Now, it’s rub time. Massage your favorite BBQ rub all over that turkey like you’re buttering up a friend for a favor, and don’t be shy with it. Inside and out, under the skin—every nook and cranny should get some love.

If you’re feeling fancy, whisper some sweet nothings into its cavity with aromatics like onion, garlic, and herbs. These inside goodies steam up during cooking, infusing the meat with flavors that’ll make your taste buds do a happy dance. Now, your turkey’s not just ready; it’s dressed to impress.

Best Whole BBQ Turkey Recipe

Elevate your BBQ game with a whole turkey, smoked to perfection, delivering a juicy, flavorful feast that’s sure to impress. This recipe combines the traditional appeal of turkey with the bold flavors of BBQ, making it the star of any gathering.

Whole BBQ Turkey Recipe
Credits to Allrecipes
Level: IntermediateTotal Time: About 4.5 hours (including rest time)
Prep Time: 30 minutesYield: Serves 10-12
Cook Time: 3 to 4 hours (depending on size)Calories: 250 to 300


  • 1 Whole Turkey (12-15 lbs)
  • BBQ Rub
  • Olive Oil or Melted Butter
  • Aromatics (onion, garlic, lemons, herbs)
  • BBQ Sauce
  • Apple Juice or Beer (for spraying)

Step by Step Instructions

  1. Prepare the Turkey: Clean and pat dry the turkey. Rub olive oil or melted butter all over, then apply a generous amount of BBQ rub.
  2. Prep the Grill: Set up for indirect heating at 250-325°F. Add soaked wood chips if desired.
  3. Cook: Place the turkey on the grill away from direct heat. Stuff with aromatics. Cook, spraying with apple juice or beer hourly, for about 13 minutes per pound.
  4. Baste: In the last hour of cooking, baste the turkey with BBQ sauce.
  5. Check and Rest: Ensure internal temp reaches 165°F. Let rest for 15-20 minutes before carving.

Get ready for a meal that’s as fun to make as it is to eat, bringing a twist to traditional BBQs with a whole turkey that’s smoked, juicy, and packed with flavor.

Best Pairing for a Whole BBQ Turkey

Pairing with a whole BBQ turkey is like finding the perfect sidekick for a superhero—they need to complement each other without stealing the spotlight. Here’s the ultimate lineup to make your BBQ turkey shine:

Best Pairing for a Whole BBQ Turkey
Credits to inspirelle

1. Smoked Gouda and Apple Salad

Imagine crispy apples, smoky gouda cheese, and a tangy vinaigrette mingling together. This salad brings a fresh, slightly sweet contrast to the deep flavors of the BBQ turkey, with a smoky echo that ties it all together.

2. Sweet Potato Hash with Andouille Sausage

Take the sweet potato out of its casserole comfort zone. Toss it with spicy Andouille sausage, peppers, and onions for a hash that packs a punch. It’s a bold, spicy side that stands up to the smokiness of the turkey.

3. Grilled Peach and Burrata Salad

Grilled peaches offer a caramelized sweetness that’s enhanced by the creamy dreaminess of burrata cheese. Drizzle with a balsamic reduction for a side that’s both sophisticated and bursting with flavor.

4. Chimichurri Sauce

Forget the traditional BBQ sauce. Drizzle or dip your turkey slices in chimichurri, an herby, garlicky sauce that’s popular in Argentine cuisine. Its vibrant freshness will lift the smoky turkey to new heights.

5. Cauliflower Steak

Thick slices of cauliflower, grilled with a hint of smoke and topped with a caper-herb sauce, offer a vegetarian juxtaposition that’s hearty enough to stand alongside turkey.

Recipe Notes:

  • Brine for Juiciness: A 24-hour brine before BBQing can ensure your turkey stays juicy and flavorful.
  • Wood Choice Matters: Different woods impart different flavors. Hickory and mesquite offer bold smokiness, while applewood provides a milder, sweeter touch.
  • Let it Rest: Allowing the turkey to rest for at least 20 minutes after cooking lets juices redistribute, making each slice moist and flavorful.
  • Temperature Check: Use a meat thermometer to check doneness. Aim for 165°F in the thickest part of the thigh.
  • Rub Creativity: Feel free to experiment with your rub spices. Adding a bit of brown sugar can create a beautiful caramelized crust.
  • Baste Sparingly: Over-basting can lead to soggy skin. Baste only in the last hour to avoid this.
  • Serving Size: A 12-15 lb turkey comfortably serves 10-12 people. Adjust size for your gathering accordingly.
  • Leftovers Plan: Consider creative uses for leftovers, like BBQ turkey sandwiches or salads, to keep enjoying your masterpiece.


As we wrap up this journey through the land of BBQ turkey, it’s clear that this isn’t just a meal; it’s a statement. A whole BBQ turkey is a testament to patience, skill, and the magic of smoke and flame coming together to create something truly special.

Whether you’re a seasoned grill master or a curious newbie, embracing the challenge of BBQing a whole turkey can turn any gathering into an unforgettable feast.

With the right preparation, a touch of creativity in your pairings, and an adventurous spirit, you’re not just serving up a dish; you’re crafting an experience that will linger in memories long after the last bite.

So fire up the grill, gather your friends and family, and let the smoky aroma of your BBQ turkey be a call to come together and celebrate the joy of great food and good company. Here’s to your next BBQ triumph!


Do you cover turkey with foil when grilling?

Absolutely, but timing is key! Start your turkey’s journey uncovered to let the smoke and heat work their magic, giving it that irresistible golden tan and smoky flavor. When it’s about two-thirds through its cook time, or if you notice the skin turning into a darker shade of delicious than you’d like, then it’s time to bring in the foil. Covering the turkey with foil for the remaining cooking time helps keep it moist and prevents over-browning. It’s like putting sunscreen on at just the right moment.

How do you cut a turkey for BBQ?

Before it hits the grill, keep that turkey whole to soak up the smoky atmosphere. Post-BBQ, it’s showtime. Start by removing the legs and thighs; find the joint and slice through it like you’re unlocking a treasure chest. Next, tackle the breasts. Carve them off the bone in big, majestic slabs, then slice against the grain to serve up tenderness in every bite. Wings? They’re the easy grab-and-go part. The key is to let the turkey rest before carving. This patience pays off in juicy dividends.

What temperature should you BBQ turkey at?

Aim for a grill ambiance that’s warm and welcoming, but not scorching—about 250-325°F (121-163°C). This sweet spot lets the turkey cook thoroughly without turning it into charcoal art. Maintaining this temperature ensures your bird is cooked evenly, soaking up all that smoky goodness while keeping its juices locked in for that perfect bite.

How to cook turkey on a charcoal BBQ?

Charcoal BBQs are all about that authentic smoky flavor. Start by setting up your grill for indirect heat; your turkey should cook in a cozy nook of warmth, not directly over the coals. Add soaked wood chips to the coals to introduce a smoky character to the meat. Keep an eye on your temperature and manage your vents to keep the heat steady. The turkey basks in the smoky heat, absorbing all those complex flavors charcoal aficionados rave about.

How do you cut the turkey?

After your turkey has rested, begin with the legs and thighs, separating them at the joint. Move on to the breast meat, slicing it away from the bone and then into portions. Wings can be detached next. Remember, a sharp knife is your best friend here, ensuring clean cuts. Cutting against the grain in the breast meat helps make each bite as tender as a love song chorus. Whether it’s for plating up or just easier handling, knowing your way around turkey anatomy turns you into the carving maestro of the BBQ scene.

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