How to Grill a Turkey

A true grilled Thanksgiving turkey is cooked over direct heat to give it the charred, crisp skin beloved by grill enthusiasts.
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grilled turkey

This cooking technique will give your Thanksgiving a more laidback feel. Break down the bird into breast halves, leg quarters and wings, since each of these parts cooks for a different length of time. Watch how-to cooking videos for test kitchen turkey tips and more.

Get the recipe for Grilled Turkey

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brining gear

To make grilled turkey for Thanksgiving, you'll need tongs and an instant-read meat thermometer.

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turkey grilling 1

1. Arrange the turkey breast side up. Cut the band of skin holding the thigh to the body, then pull back the thigh to find the joint where they meet; cut through with a knife. Repeat on the other side.

grilling turkey 2

2. Grasp a wing and pull it firmly back to find the joint attached to the breast. Cut through with a knife; repeat on the other side.

grilling turkey 4

3. Arrange the turkey backbone side up. Using shears, cut away the backbone. Using a knife, cut out the breastbone, then halve the breasts.

Now that you have turkey parts, you can also use them in our 60-Minute Thanksgiving for our fastest holiday dinner menu.

60-Minute Thanksgiving


Fennel-Coriander Rub
Using a spice or coffee grinder, process 2 tablespoons each toasted fennel seeds and coriander seeds with 1 tablespoon black peppercorns until finely ground. Using your fingers, loosen the oiled and salted turkey skin. Rub the mixture over and under the turkey skin before grilling.

Maple-Chipotle Sauce
Using a food processor, puree 2 cloves garlic and 2 canned chipotle chiles in adobo sauce. Add 6 tablespoons maple syrup, 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, 1 tablespoon ancho chile powder and 1 teaspoon cumin. Brush onto the turkey every 10 minutes during the last 25 minutes of grilling.

Chile-Ginger Paste
Using a food processor, puree 1 cup cilantro leaves, 2 cloves garlic, 2 serrano chiles, 3 tablespoons brown sugar, one 1-inch piece fresh ginger, the grated peel and juice of 1 lime and 1 tablespoon each fish sauce and soy sauce. Wearing rubber kitchen gloves, gently loosen the turkey skin and massage in the paste under the skin.


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