What's the best way to cook turkeys outdoors?

There are plenty of awesome ways to cook your Thanksgiving turkey outside. We tried smoking in a Big Green Egg, roasting in a Traeger pellet grill, using a trusty Weber Kettlle and even deep frying to find out which method is best.


Brian Bennett

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Turkey cooked outside four ways

We cooked four turkeys four different ways to find out which outdoor cooking method yielded the best results.

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Spatchcock those birds

To help their dark meat and white meat cook and finish in unison, I butterflied three of our four test turkeys.

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No wing tips please

I also removed our turkey's wing tips as they're not particularly appetizing, and tend to burn. 

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Apply the herb rub

Another step in prepping our turkeys was to coat them a little olive oil and hit them with a heavy dose of an herb rub. The olive oil helps the dry rub stick. The main components of the rub were parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme. I also sprinkled them with a light amount of salt.

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Start coals with a chimney starter

A charcoal chimney starter was also key to have on hand. I used it to have a supply of lit briquettes ready to go for the Weber Classic grill. 

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Grill temperature HQ

I monitored temperatures inside two of the three grills we used (the Weber and the Big Green Egg) using thermocouple sensors linked to data logging software. For the third, I relied on the included pit and meat sensors the Traeger Timberline 850 comes with.

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A turkey for an Egg

Once the Big Green Egg hit roasting temperature, in went the turkey.

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The ConvEggtor is a go

I also used the ConvEggtor heat deflector accessory on the Big Green Egg.

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Wood pellet turkey

Once the turkey was in the Traeger Timberline 850, I activated the "super smoke mode" for 30 minutes.

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Weber, briquettes and applewood

In addition to the charcoal briquettes, I placed a chunk of applewood directly on the coals inside the Weber Classic.

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On goes the bird

With the Weber Classic ready to go, I added the turkey on the indirect heat side of the grill.

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The smokers are rollin'

Now that three grills were all set, it was time to get the deep fryer set up. 

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Safety gear is a must

Don't even think about deep-frying a turkey without the proper safety gear. You'll need heat-resistant gloves, some sort of eye protection and other clothing to insulate against oil splatter.

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Have fire suppression on hand

Hot oil, fuel and fire demand that you have some form of grease-rated fire extinguisher device at the ready. 

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Use the turkey hook

Our turkey fryer kit came with a hook that attaches to a metal stand. We used it to lower the bird into the frying vat.

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Hook up the turkey

We put the turkey headfirst on the stand, then attached the hook.

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Down it goes

After the oil reached 350 degrees F, we slowly lowered the turkey into the pot.

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Don't rush

We took our time lowering the turkey into the hot oil. Bad things can happen if you go too fast.

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Fire suppression at the ready

We weren't taking any chances, and had our extinguisher ready. 

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Fry that bird

Once in the pot of oil, our turkey stayed there for 50 minutes.

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Check the temp

We confirmed the that the turkey's breast had reached 160 degrees F with an instant-read thermometer.

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Turkey that's GBD

Our fried turkey certainly came out looking golden brown and delicious.

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Traeger Turkey's time is up

After 3 hours, the turkey in the Traeger was done.

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Crack open the Egg

It took 3 hours for the Big Green Egg to finish cooking its turkey as well.

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A grilled turkey to remember

The roasted turkey that came out of the Weber Classic was incredibly good. Its skin was magnificently crisp and crunchy and boasted a smoked barbecue barklike texture.

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