The domed shape of Weber kettle grills provides the perfect mode of heat distribution for indirect-heat grilling of whole turkeys. But grilling a whole bird takes more patience and advance preparation than smaller cuts of meat. Using a special brine marinade and adding some hardwood chips to your coal fire helps Weber grills produce a moist turkey with flavor tones beyond an oven-roasted bird.
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Brining & Bird Selection
Unlike smaller cuts of meat or poultry that cook quickly over live coals, turkeys require longer cooking times that often dry out the white meat of poultry without the proper pre-grilling preparation. Overnight soaking of the turkey in a brine solution, made from a gallon or two of water and equal parts salt and sugar, forms a moisture barrier in the skin of the bird, protecting the meat from the hot, dry grilling process. Weber grills have a nice dome shape that accommodates smaller turkeys. Choosing a bird between 12 and 14 lbs. helps ensure a tightly closed lid during the cooking process.
Indirect grilling on a Weber kettle grill means arranging the charcoal in equal piles on either side of the charcoal grate, placing a foil roasting pan in the coal-free center of the grate and cooking the bird on the cooking grate directly above the foil pan, not over the lit coals. The vents stay open wide for maximum air flow but the lid stays shut throughout the cooking process, keeping in heat and smoke. The indirect heat allows for a slower, more even cooking process over longer periods of time -- often three hours or more for a whole turkey.
The longer cooking times of turkeys require replenishing of charcoal throughout the cooking process. This often means adding two or three handfuls of fresh charcoal to the lit piles of coal halfway through the cooking process. You have to resist the urge of constantly opening the Weber lid during cooking, however, as this lets out crucial heat and smoke, lengthening the grilling time.
An important advantage to charcoal grilling on newer model Weber kettle grills is the hinged flaps on either side of the cooking grate. The flaps line up with the two charcoal piles on either side of the grill, allowing for easy adding of hardwood smoking chips to the live coal piles. The smoke from hardwood chips -- best added at the beginning and midway through the grilling process -- infuses bold flavor tones into the bird. Hickory chips and fruit-based hardwoods, such as apple, provide the best flavor complement for grilled poultry.