Recipe: The Greatest Grilled Turkey Recipe

Dinner Recipes, Poultry Recipes

By: Chris Freytag, CPT

This Thanksgiving, save oven space for side dishes and make this recipe for the greatest grilled turkey. This easy, foolproof recipe makes a moist and delicious turkey that friends and family will request every year.

Grilled turkey is going to change your hosting game forever! This Thanksgiving, you must try my easy grilled turkey recipe. By cooking the bird on the grill, you free up your oven for all your side dishes PLUS the turkey remains super juicy and flavorful. It adds that extra special something to your family dinner. 

After you learn this foolproof grilled whole turkey technique, I promise you’ll never go back to cooking turkey dinner in the oven again.


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    Ingredients You’ll Need

    • Turkey: fresh or frozen turkey will work for this recipe. If frozen, make sure to thaw in the fridge before grilling. I personally like to use an organic, free range turkey. I typically get a big one around 20+ pounds.
    • Olive Oil: instead of butter, we are making a healthier version of traditional Thanksgiving turkey by using olive oil. You’ll rub the olive oil over the surface of the turkey before grilling and it creates a gorgeous golden brown color. 
    • Fresh Herbs: thyme, rosemary, and sage are classic poultry herbs and you can often find them sold together in the same package at the grocery store. Fresh herbs have more flavor than dried herbs so we recommend using them in this recipe. However, if you only have dried herbs, no problem, it still works. We like this flavorful turkey seasoning option.
    • Lemon: add some citrus to the cavity of the turkey when grilling to help keep the turkey moist and a pop of bright, fresh flavor. 
    • Onion: rough chopped onion is added to the turkey for some aromatic flavor.

    Tools For This Recipe

    split image of grilled turkey on grill and finished in pan on white counter

    How to Grill a Turkey on a Gas Grill

    I have used both charcoal and gas grills, and both work well. But for the last twenty years – I’ve used just gas. The gas grill gives you a lot of control, and being able to set your temperature and walk away is what I love most about it. 

    Set your gas grill to 450-500 degrees, place turkey in an aluminum drip pan on the center of the grill, and cook your turkey for 9-11 minutes per pound. Remember, your grilled turkey will cook faster than when you cook it in the oven, so pay attention to the meat thermometer. If it starts to cook too fast, turn the grill temperature down.

    I like to turn the edges of my aluminum drip pan up to make the pan even a little deeper.

    If you’d love to learn how to grill but aren’t sure where to start, check out my beginner’s guide to grilling. It has a bunch of healthy grilling recipes ideas too. These easy grilling marinades and rubs will also take you from a grilling newbie to an expert in no time!

    How to Grill a Turkey on a Charcoal Grill

    If you choose this route, I’ll warn you that this method is more labor-intensive, which is the only reason why I don’t love it for Thanksgiving.

    When grilling a turkey with charcoal- indirect heat is recommended so make two beds of charcoal on opposite sides of the charcoal grate and space open in the middle. Place your pan on the grill grate in the space in between the hot coals and cover with the grill lid.

    Every hour add five charcoal briquettes to each stack of charcoal to maintain your temperature.

    Tips For A Perfect Grilled Whole Turkey

    • The biggest secret to the perfect grilled turkey is this: bubbly water. TRUST ME. Adding the bubbly water may seem funny, but years ago, I learned that the bubbly ALWAYS keeps the grilled turkey moist! You use any brand of bubbly water, make it yourself in a SodaStream or even use lemon-lime soda. What matters here is the carbonation!
    • Check on your bird every 30 minutes or so. Make sure that your temperature is holding, and if you run low on bubbly water, just refill. You can baste the turkey a few times too.
    • Always use a meat thermometer to check your finished turkey temp.  Place the thermometer in the thickest part of the turkey until the white meat is 165 degrees and the dark meat is 175 degrees.
    • If the skin starts getting too crisp toward the end, just cover with foil until the finished temperature is reached.
    • Always use a disposable foil pan for cooking on the grill. This makes cleanup a snap, since you’ll have a whole bunch of other large pots and pans from your side dishes.
    • Transfer turkey to a serving platter and let it rest for 20-30 minutes. Remember, the internal temperature will rise a few degrees during this time.
    finished grilled turkey on serving display on white counter

    What Seasoning To Use On a Grilled Turkey

    Use aromatics when seasoning. I chose onions, lemons, and herbs. You cut these up and place them both in the cavity of the bird, on top of the bird, and in the pan.

    Salt and pepper your turkey to taste.

    To keep this a healthy grilled turkey recipe, I substitute butter for olive oil. You honestly won’t miss the butter because this grilled turkey is so full of flavor.

    My favorite herbs to use are sage, rosemary, and thyme, but you can use whatever you have on hand.

    How Long Do You Grill a Turkey?

    According to Butterball, a 10-16 lb turkey will take between 2-3 hours to cook thoroughly on the grill. A good rule of thumb for cooking time is to grill for about 9-11 minutes per pound of turkey. In general, it takes less time to grill the whole bird than it does to oven bake it.

    How Much Turkey Do You Need per Person?

    A general rule of thumb is 1 pound of turkey per person. If you want to have some leftovers, you may want to aim for closer to 1 ½ lbs of turkey per person.

    What to Serve with Grilled Turkey

    Check out all our best healthy thanksgiving side dishes to create a tasty and nutritious meal from this delicious grilled turkey recipe.

    Roasted Brussels Sprouts

    This healthy swap for Brussels Sprouts is a fresh dairy-free option that everyone at the Thanksgiving Day table can enjoy. These roasted Brussels sprouts are light, clean, and have a nice nutty flavor.

    Mashed Cauliflower 

    What makes mashed potatoes tasty is the butter and cream that you whip them with! This mashed cauliflower recipe is light, creamy, and delicious without adding all the extra calories. This will be a fresh, gourmet, low-carb approach that will surprise even your biggest skeptic.

    Roasted Sweet Potatoes

    Sweet potatoes are naturally delicious, rich in beta-carotene, and loaded with vitamins – but typical sweet potato casserole with marshmallow topping is made with canned sweet potatoes in heavy syrup. Try this healthy roasted sweet potatoes swap!

    Cranberry Sauce

    Trust me, making real cranberry sauce is a snap! My son loves molded cranberry jelly, so I wasn’t sure how well my homemade naturally sweetened cranberry sauce version would go over, but he loved it! This recipe uses less sugar, and the touch of nutmeg makes a huge difference!

    Cranberries are a top anti-inflammatory food packed full of antioxidants, so it’s a great choice to go with any holiday meal.

    Pumpkin Pie Cheesecake Dip

    This has all the flavor of pumpkin cheesecake, but is more fun to eat and much healthier!  Not to mention, this pumpkin mousse dip can be made vegan, gluten-free, and sugar-free, depending on your preference.

    If you opt for a more traditional dessert that needs a topping, give my healthy cream cheese frosting a try!

    finished grilled turkey on serving display on white counter with glass of wine

    This recipe for grilled turkey is foolproof, easy, and healthy! Cheers! Enjoy!

    Total Time: 10 minutes

    Yield: 8 serving(s)


    • 10-16 lb turkey (size dependent on how many you're feeding)
    • 1 tablespoon olive oil
    • Fresh Herbs (2-3 sprigs each of sage, rosemary, and thyme)
    • Sea salt and ground black pepper
    • 1 large sweet onion, thickly sliced
    • 2 fresh lemons, sliced
    • 1 can of sparkling water (plain, unsweetened)


    1. Prepare the turkey by thawing in the fridge. Remove any additional parts (neck and giblets) from the cavity of the turkey and dispose. Wash well and pat dry with paper towels.
    2. Place in a disposable giant oval aluminum roaster, breast side up. Chop up 1 sprig of each fresh herb for use on the outside of the turkey. (Reserving 1 or 2 whole sprigs of each for inside the turkey.) Rub herbs, salt, pepper and olive oil all over the skin of the bird.
    3. Place fresh herbs, cut onion and sliced lemon in bird cavity and on top of the turkey.
    4. Pour a can of bubbly sparkling water into the bottom of the pan with the turkey.
    5. Grill on high at 450-500 degrees around 9-11 minutes a pound. It cooks faster than when you cook it in the oven so keep an eye on it. (Cover with aluminum foil if it starts to get too brown.)
    6. Using a meat thermometer placed in the thickest part of the turkey, grill the turkey until it reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
    7. Let the turkey rest at least 30 minutes before carving.

    Nutrition Information Per Serving

    Serving Size: 3 ounces white meat without skin

    Calories: 158

    Protein: 25 gram(s)

    Fat: 3 gram(s)

    Cholesterol: 60 milligram(s)

    Saturated Fat: 1 gram(s)

    *Cooking time estimated 11 minutes per pound for a 15 pound turkey.

    From the kitchen of:

    Rate this Recipe

    1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (91 votes, average: 3.81 out of 5)


    on Reply

    Looks great!

    on Reply

    I tried this on the weekend using the lemon lime soda (Sprite) it was delicious.

    on Reply

    I have a question: I’m thinking about using this recipe and cooking our turkey on our gass grill for thanksgiving dinner this year. Do you really cook the turkey uncovered the whole time? I’m concerned because we may be getting rain 😳 It seems so simple and easy:) Thanks! Stephanie

      on Reply

      It IS so simple and easy. I love this recipe! Yes, you can put the lid of the grill down :)

    on Reply

    is this done on a gas grill or a charcoal grill? Also do you grill directly on the grill or in a pan - lid covered or not?

      on Reply

      I have used both charcoal and gas grills and both work well. But for the last 10 years – I’ve used just gas. If you read the directions for this recipe, you'll see that I use a disposable giant oval aluminum roaster. And yes, you can put the lid down!

    on Reply


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