13 Tips for Cooking a Turkey on the Grill for Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a week away and if you are hosting a party, you are most likely planning the meal that you will be serving to your guests. The meal menu will probably include turkey, in addition to a lot of other delicious foods. After all, 88% of Americans eat turkey on Thanksgiving. But, how will you cook your turkey dinner? You could go the traditional route of baking, but this blog post is about another way you should consider: grilling your turkey. If you decide on cooking a turkey on the grill for Thanksgiving, then there are some tips and considerations you should keep in mind. Continue reading to learn about 13 of these considerations:

Top 13 Tips for Cooking a Turkey on the Grill for Thanksgiving:

  • Will the Turkey Fit Inside Your Grill?

This might go without saying, but the first and foremost tip on cooking a turkey on the grill is to make sure that the turkey will fit inside your grill. You need to figure out how much clearance there is between the cooking grate and the lid. There should be at least one inch of space between the turkey and the lid. To help everyone out, Weber put together a handy list of grill models and how much clearance they have. Once you know how much clearance you have, then take that measurement with you when shopping for your turkey. Make sure the turkey’s height falls within that measurement. If serving a large group, you could also try splitting a turkey for grilling or using two smaller turkeys.

  • Directions for Grilling A Turkey Vary Between Gas and Charcoal Grills

If you decide to grill your turkey for Thanksgiving for the first time, make sure that you get your directions for the correct grill fuel method. How do you cook a turkey on a gas grill? Or on a charcoal grill? You will use different methods for cooking a turkey on each one, so make sure you have gotten the most accurate recipe or directions for your grill type.

  • Keep the Cold Weather in Mind

When grilling in New England in the fall and winter, it can get cold outside. The colder air temperatures will cause the grilling times to increase. Grilling a turkey in the summer will not take as long as when grilling in November for Thanksgiving. Make sure you plan for this extra time.

  • Try Not to Open the Lid Too Many Times

Every time you open the lid of your grill, you will lose heat and it will cause the turkey to take longer to fully cook. It is best to trust your recipe’s directions than check the turkey too often. If you keep checking, you are going to have to wait longer to serve your food.

  • Grilling Times Can Vary

As previously mentioned, grilling times for cooking a turkey can vary greatly. There are a lot of factors you need to consider when determining how long you need to be cooking a turkey on the grill: weight, grill temperature, outside air temperatures, if it is stuffed, and more. As a result, you should make sure you know exactly how long your turkey needs to be grilled. It could be a shorter or longer period of time than you are used to with baking a turkey.

  • Should You Grill Your Turkey When Frozen?

You should always let your turkey thaw, so that you are not grilling a frozen turkey. Cooking a frozen turkey on the grill, just like baking one, will take a considerably longer time to cook completely. Make sure you are prepared and allow your turkey to thaw prior to grilling.

  • Use Indirect Heating Methods

Indirect grilling is similar to roasting with circulating heat inside the closed grill. This grilling method is best for cooking a whole turkey. Direct grilling is cooking the meat directly over the heat source. This is best for cooking small turkey cuts, but not a whole turkey. Make sure you are up to speed on indirect heating methods. You don’t want to accidentally burn the main course of your meal.

  • Don’t Pierce Turkey with Knives or Forks

One of the biggest grilling mistakes we mentioned in a previous blog post was stabbing or piercing meat with knives or forks. Oftentimes, this is done to move or flip the meat. As with steak or hamburgers, this is not a best practice for turkey grilling either. This will cause the natural juices to escape. Use tongs and spatulas to turn the foods.

  • Get the Same Gravy

You can still catch the same gravy to serve alongside the turkey. To catch some of the turkey dripping for turkey gravy, use a foil drip pan under the grill. Or, you can put the turkey inside a roasting tin foil pan.

  • Make Sure You Preheat the Grill

Make sure you preheat your grill to the appropriate temperature. Plus, keep in mind that the weather is colder in November, so the grill will take longer to preheat than in the summer. Make sure you plan for this, so you don’t feel the need to put the turkey onto the grill early.

  • Protect Yourself with Turkey Grilling Accessories

Whether you are grilling the turkey on a gas or charcoal grill, on a Weber or a Big Green Egg, there are great grilling accessories which you can buy to help you get the job done. Protect your hands with grilling gloves. With daylight savings time behind us, it will be getting darker around 4pm. Make sure you can see everything you are doing with grill lights. Use a chimney starter to get your charcoal grill fire going. Or, you can take advantage of grill cleaners to prepare your grill by cleaning it beforehand.

  • When is the Turkey Done on the Grill?

Make sure that the turkey is fully cooked to 165 degrees on the innermost part of the thigh and the thickest part of the breast before removing it. When cooking a turkey on the grill, check your grill halfway through the grilling time to make sure you are on pace to finish at the appropriate time. If you own a Weber grill, you could make this really easy for yourself by getting an iGrill to track the internal temperature from your smartphone. An even better reason to use an iGrill is that you can concentrate on spending time with family and watching football instead of outside in the cold.

  • Allow Turkey to Rest After Cooking

Just like when you cook a steak, you need to give your grilled turkey some time to rest before cutting and serving. Weber recommends letting it rest for 20-30% of the total cooking time. If you were to cut into the turkey right away, the juices would end up on the cutting board, and you risk serving a dry turkey. Cover the turkey with aluminum foil or you can just leave it open while it is resting. This step is often overlooked and is a common mistake among novice grillers. Make sure this doesn’t happen to you when cooking a turkey on the grill!

Your Partner to Help with Your Grilled Turkey: Breakaway

If you have decided on cooking a turkey on the grill for Thanksgiving, Breakaway is here for you. With two stores conveniently located for all towns and communities on the Cape, in South Dennis and Mashpee, we have everything you need to help you. Our “grillologists” are extremely knowledgeable and can assist you with all your questions.

Working with manufacturers directly, we carry only the best and most popular grill brands, like Weber, Saber, Huntington, Broil King, and more. We can help you determine the best grill to cook your turkey. So, whether you are grilling a turkey on a Weber gas grill or Big Green Egg, Breakaway has your back. We have the grilling accessories, like grill brushes, propane refills, and grill utensils, that will help you successfully grill a turkey. We also have the cooking fuel you need to ensure that the grill stays on for the entire time it takes to grill the turkey.

Breakaway is Cape Cod’s #1 grill store on Cape Cod. We are proud to serve all towns on Cape Cod. If you have any questions about grilling a turkey, our expert grillologists are here to help you. Visit us at one of our locations in South Dennis or Mashpee, call us at 508-398-3831, or contact us below.


Monday – Saturday: 9:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Sunday: Closed.

435 Rt. 134 South Dennis, MA 02660
Next to Mid Cape Home Centers

Phone: (508) 398-3831


Monday – Saturday: 9:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Sunday: Closed.

17c Trinity Place Mashpee, MA 02649
Next to Boston Interiors

Phone: (508) 539-1674