Barbecue Spice-Brined Grilled Turkey – Thanksgiving on the Grill

Grilling on Thanksgiving for some may sound outlandish or untraditional, especially if grandma is always making the turkey.  Break out of the humdrum of all-day-dried-out-oven-baked-turkey, and get outside with your grill, a warm drink, and wonderful flavor.  Our Thanksgiving on the Grill series continues with Barbecue Spice-Brined Grilled Turkey, a masterful preparation featuring a halved-turkey dry-brined in spices and salt that finishes moist and savory. Besides, getting outside with the turkey leaves more room in the oven for all the sides and desserts.

This preparation starts with a halved turkey where the backbone is removed and the breastbone is split.  This allows for deeper penetration of seasoning and moisture, and for much quicker cooking time.  The dry brine mixture is comprised of hot smoked paprika, dried savory, cumin, mustard powder, cayenne pepper, brown sugar, and salt, and is thoroughly rubbed over the turkey.  After 8-12 hours, rinse the turkey to remove the brine, pat dry season with remaining mixture and allow the bird to sit for another 2 hours to rise to room temperature, which is important for uniform cooking.  Grill over medium-high indirect heat for about an hour, and then move to direct heat for about 2 minutes to lightly char the skin.

With dark color, mesquite goodness, and bold flavor, this turkey will inspire some personal thanksgiving and show off some mad grilling skills.  Once sampled, this grilled turkey will become a family favorite and even grandma will come around once she tastes it and realizes she can focus on the pies.

Serves 12

Barbecue Spice-Brined Grilled Turkey Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons hot smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon dried savory
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon mustard powder
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • ¼ cup (packed) plus 3 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • ½ cup kosher salt
  • 1 12–14-pound turkey, halved (backbone removed, breastbone split)
  • Vegetable oil (for the grill)

Special Equipment

  • A disposable foil pan and 1 cup wood chips soaked in water at least 1 hour (optional); oven thermometer

Barbecue Spice-Brined Grilled Turkey Directions

  1. Mix paprika, savory, cumin, mustard powder, cayenne, and ¼ cup brown sugar in a small bowl. Transfer 3 Tbsp. spice mixture to a medium bowl; mix in salt and remaining 3 Tbsp. brown sugar. Set the remaining mixture aside for the next day. Cover turkey with the dry brine, packing on until you've used it all. Chill on a rimmed baking sheet uncovered 8–12 hours.
  2. Thoroughly rinse turkey to remove brine; pat dry. Rub with the reserved spice mixture and let sit 2 hours to bring to room temperature.
  3. Prepare grill for medium-high, indirect heat (for a charcoal grill, bank coals on one side of grill; for a gas grill, leave one or two burners off) and lightly oil grates. If using wood chips: Scatter over coals, if using a charcoal grill; place in a disposable foil pan and set over the lit burner, if using a gas grill.
  4. Place turkey, skin side up, over indirect heat, breast halves facing each other, with legs closest to direct heat. Place an oven thermometer in the center of the indirect heat zone; cover. Grill 20 minutes, then rotate halves so neck end is closest to coals. Check the temperature inside grill; thermometer should register 325° (open or close vents as needed). Continue to grill turkey, checking for doneness after 20 minutes, then again every 10 minutes, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of breast registers 150°, about 1 hour total.
  5. If desired, carefully move turkey over direct heat and turn skin side down. Grill to lightly char skin, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a platter and let rest at least 30 minutes before carving.

Taken from