Entertaining Ideas: Turkey on the Grill

Looking for ideas for a holiday dinner party that puts a unique spin on traditional holiday meals?  Turkey on the grill is a great way to liven up, and add more flavor, to an old favorite.

There were many things that were perfect about my Thanksgiving this year, but one of my favorite parts of our holiday weekend in Virginia was the turkey we ate at our Thanksgiving dinner.  We were inspired by Bon Appetit’s Grilled Turkey recipe and I must say this was one of the best turkeys I have ever eaten.  Turkey on the grill does not need to be reserved just for use on Thanksgiving either.  If you’re entertaining a large group of people for Christmas or New Years, cooking a turkey on the grill is a unique (and gluten-free!) way to prepare a turkey.  Logistically, cooking your turkey on the grill makes a lot of sense because it frees up the oven and makes more space in the kitchen, in general.  Also, it makes your ‘turkey dinner’ different from so many others and the ingredients in this particular rub, make the flavors much more complex and give a nice spicy kick to the meat.


Now I wish I could take credit for the final product of this turkey, but I must give full credit to David as he worked with the bird from start to finish.  David prepared the turkey, made the rub, cooked it, carved it, and made the gravy.  I observed the cooking process and of course consulted David before writing this post.  A word of warning: Before you start your grilling marathon, make sure that you have a full propane tank.  Nothing’s worse than getting halfway through the cooking process and running out of gas!

Grilled Turkey with Toasted Fennel and Coriander and Fresh Thyme Gravy (from November 2009 Bon Appetit)


  • 1 12 to 14 pound turkey, rinsed and patted dry (Our turkey was 12 pounds.)
  • 2 tablespoons fennel seeds
  • 2 tablespoons whole coriander seeds
  • 2 teaspoons black peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoon coarse kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 medium carrots, peeled, cut into ¾ inch pieces
  • 3 celery stalks, cut into ¾ inch pieces
  • 3 medium parsnips, peeled, cut into ¾ inch pieces
  • 1 large onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chopped, fresh thyme
  • White wine


  • ½ cup reserved turkey fat (and butter if needed)
  • 2 to 3 cups low-salt chicken broth
  • ½ cup white rice flour
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh thyme
  • Coarse kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Turkey Preparation: Let turkey stand at room temperature 30 minutes.  Prepare grill for indirect grilling.  If using charcoal grill, light briquettes in chimney.  Remove top grill rack.  Place briquettes at left and right sides of bottom rack, leaving center empty.  Replace top grill rack.

If using a 3-burner gas grill (which is what we did), light burners on left and right, leaving center burner off. If using a 2-burner, light grill on just one side.

Toast fennel seeds, coriander seeds and peppercorns in medium skillet over medium heat until fragrant and fennel seeds begin to darken, 2 to 3 minutes.  (This made our kitchen smell so good the rest of the day.)  Pour spices into spice grinder or small coffee mill.  Cool.


Grind spices finely.  (We didn’t have a spice grinder or coffee mill so we just used a blender and it worked perfectly.)  Transfer to small bowl; mix in coarse salt.


Brush turkey all over with oil.  Sprinkle inside and out with spice mixture.  Spread carrots, parsnips, celery, onion and thyme in a 13x9x2 inch metal roasting pan.  (We used two disposable pans, one inside the other, and this worked well.)



Place turkey, breast side down, on vegetables.

Place pan with turkey on rack over unlit portion of grill.  Cover grill.  Insert stem of instant thermometer into hole in hood and maintain temperature as close to 350 as possible by opening and closing vents.

Cook turkey one hour.  Rotate pan.  Using oven mitts, turn turkey, breast side up.  Cover grill and continue cooking turkey until instant-read thermometer inserted into thickest part of the thigh reads 165, covering any part of the turkey that seems to be browning too quickly with tin foil.  It should take another hour and a half to get to 165.


Once during the cooking process, David injected the turkey with white wine.  This was not part of the original recipe, but it adds moisture and flavor to the bird.  I’m a big fan of the wine injecting method.


Transfer turkey to platter.  Tent with foil and let rest 30 to 45 minutes, as the internal temperature will rise 5 to 10 degrees.  Carve when ready to eat.


Gravy: Strain pan juices into large measuring cup, pressing to extract as much liquid as possible.  Spoon off fat that rises to surface into 1-cup measuring cup and, if necessary, add enough butter to fat to measure ½ cup.  Add enough chicken broth to degreased juices to measure 4 cups.


Heat turkey fat in large saucepan over medium-low heat.  Whisk in flour.  Cook roux until deep golden brown, whisking often, about 20 minutes.  Gradually whisk in broth mixture.  Boil until gravy thickens enough to coat spoon, whisking often, about 5 minutes.  Whisk in thyme.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  (The gravy was delicious, but we ended up not needing nearly that much.)  Serve turkey with gravy.

Another great accompaniment to the turkey and gravy is a family tradition in our home of serving canned cranberry, sliced, on top of orange slices.  It’s nothing fancy, but yummy and pretty on the plate.


The turkey was a huge hit at the dinner table and we even ate the veggies that cooked underneath the turkey.  The vegetables were very spicy from the rub, but delicious.  The rub made the skin of the turkey so flavorful and it added nice color to the turkey as well.


We’ll definitely be making this turkey again, if David is willing.  The recipe appears pretty intensive but it did not take up the whole day, just a chunk of the afternoon/evening and David didn’t have to attend the grill the entire time, just checked on the turkey periodically.  Delicious!

  1. Thomas says:

    Great recipe, but the chef looks like a turkey.

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