I love grilling and I especially love grilling on a charcoal grill. I don’t know why, but I do. I think it’s inbreeded in me. (Here comes the story) When I was growing up, my family loved to grill. My earliest memories of grilling where at the VFW picnics we would go to each year. My Mother was in charge of the charcoal grill just as she was in charge of the stove at home. No one could get close to the grill when Mom was around. She had it going on for sure.
On the day of the annual VFW picnic we would get to the forest preserves extra early so we could get a good spot for the grill. It had to be a large piece of land because everyone, and I mean everyone, wanted to be invited to eat whatever Mom was putting on the grill. Of course we had the typical food for the grill; hamburgers and hot dogs, but they would come much later in the day. The American Food, as Mom called it, would be ready around 6 pm. We would have our main meal at the normal time at which we ate every Sunday: 2pm was dinner time on the day of the Sabbath.
Can you guess what the meal was that my Mother cooked on the grill? I’ll give you a hint: It was very Italian. Yep, you guessed it. We had Spaghetti and Meatballs, as well as Grilled Italian Sausage with Peppers. She would actually boil the water and cook the spaghetti on the grill. She made the gravy (sauce) and the meatballs the day before and heated it all on the grill. She would grill the sausage and peppers just before she boiled the water for the pasta. My Mother was a real pioneer: A Chicago Grilling Pioneer!
My next memory comes when I am a bit older, maybe 12 or 13. My maternal Grandfather and Uncle Dominic would come to our house on Sundays in the summer for a BBQ. Uncle Dom made the first drum type grill. No one had such a thing. It was huge and Mom could grill enough food for the whole neighborhood if she wanted. She didn’t want to. We ate sausage and peppers, quartered chickens, hot dogs and hamburgers, corn on the cobb, potatoes cooked in foil packets and so much more. When uncle Dom was over he was the only one my Mother would relinquish the grill to. He was a terrific cook just as the rest of the family.
Right now I am grilling a stuffed 15 pound turkey so I can write this blog. I thought I’d give you a challenge for Thanksgiving Dinner. Cook your turkey on a charcoal grill. Cooking a turkey on the charcoal grill has so many advantages for Thanksgiving. The biggest advantage is being able to cook 2 turkeys at the same time for a large crowd. We never have just one turkey since we have over 20 people for dinner. Also, cooking the turkey on the grill frees up oven space not only to be able to cook a second turkey, but you know how difficult it gets when you have all of those sides to cook in the oven and there is no room. You end up playing the shuffle game trying to fit everything around the turkey. When you do that you are always in the oven and you loose oven heat. No wonder everything takes forever to get hot.
So be a pioneer and cook your turkey on the grill this year. It is incredibly easy (I know, I say that about everything, but it really is) and you’ll also have one less pan to clean.
1 12 to 15 Pound Fresh Turkey, Brined, Rinsed and Patted Dry
1/4 Cup XVOO
Coarse Sea Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper
Take the turkey out of the refrigerator 1 hour before grilling. Bringing it to room temperature makes for even cooking. You can stuff the bird with your favorite stuffing, MY FAVORITE STUFFING, or not. It’s up to you. I like it stuffed.
Rub the XVOO all over the bird and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Build a split charcoal fire using 30 to 40 coals on each side. When the coals are hot place a foil pan in-between the coals and in the center of the grill. This catches all of the drippings from the turkey for your gravy. Use the drippings exactly as you would if they came from cooking the turkey in the oven.
Place the top grill over the coals and place the turkey in the middle of the grill positioning it over the drip pan.
Place the lid on the grill with it just ever so slightly tilted to the side to let a little more air in the grill. Just a tiny, tiny bit. Maybe 1/4 inch. Be sure all of the other vents are open. If the turkey looks as if it is cooking too fast, take the tilt out of the lid.
After about 1 hour add 6 coals on each side being careful to not get any in the drip pan. Cook the turkey for 2 to 3 hours or until an instant read thermometer registers 180° when inserted into the thickest part of the thigh. The cooking time will depend on how hot the fire is. With the amount of coal I have here, you will have a HOT fire. One thing that helps you determine if the turkey is done is to get one with the little pop-up thingy in the breast. I did and it worked perfectly. In fact, if I hadn’t had the pop-up I would have cooked it too long. I did a 15 Pounder loosely stuffed with andouille sausage and cornbread stuffing and it cooked in 2 hours and 15 minutes.
Transfer the turkey to a dish and let it rest 30 minutes before carving. The resting time will give you time to make the gravy and get the rest of your dinner on the table.
I cooked my turkey while writing this blog and I just finished eating some of the white meat and stuffing and, OMG, it is the moistest turkey I have ever made.
If you have any questions don’t hesitate to ask. You can ask me on this blog in the comment section or email me at
I want to add a note about grills. I grill on a Weber Charcoal Grill (WCG). The cooking time for anything on a WCG is way different then cooking on a gas grill. Cooking on a WCG is like cooking in a super convection oven. The heat is so intensely concentrated that it will cook a 15 pound turkey in half the time it takes to cook in a 325° conventional oven. So if you thought the cooking time was fast, you are right. It’s REALLY fast. It cooks evenly without burning or drying out the turkey. Cooking the same size turkey on a gas grill most likely will take the same time as cooking it in a conventional oven. I’ve never owned a gas grill so I can’t tell you how long to cook a turkey.
A Word About Brining
To achieve a moist, delicious, well cooked turkey I strongly recommend you brine the bird. I usually buy a brining kit at the market specifically for turkey. Follow the brining instructions and you will be delighted with the results. All you need is plenty of room in your frig.