The Smokin' Elk's Guide to Barbecuing Your Christmas Turkey

The Smokin' Elk's Guide to Barbecuing Your Christmas Turkey

The Smokin’ Elk is a huge advocate of cooking outdoors all year round and yes, that includes Christmas. This year, why not take the turkey outside? 

Not only does it remove the stress from the kitchen whilst freeing up plenty of oven space for all the trimmings, it can also be the solution to enjoying a socially distanced Christmas with loved ones. Elky loves cooking outside on Christmas day, cold beer in hand, fire lit and the glorious smell of turkey coming from BBQ. Here he talks us through how to cook the perfect #JuicyBird on the BBQ, but be warned, it’s addictive and you’ll soon want to be cooking every other meal outside too.


Cook until the internal temperature of the breast is 73°C. Once the turkey hits 73°C, remove from the BBQ and let it rest.

Poultry: 74°C

  • A turkey (buy the best you can afford, it’s Christmas)
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Oil (or melted butter)
You will need
  • A BBQ with a lid (big enough to sit your turkey in the middle with charcoal either side)
  • A foil tray to catch the turkey drippings
  • Charcoal (please don’t use instant light stuff!)
  • Firelighters
  • A chimney starter
  • A lighter
  • A few cold beers
  • A Thermapen

The first thing I like to do is dry brine the turkey. This is optional but trust me, it’s a great way to lock in flavour and moisture. To do this, dry the turkey with kitchen roll then sprinkle it all over with salt, as if you were seasoning it to cook. Then sit the turkey on a wire rack and leave uncovered in the fridge for 24 hours. The salt will initially draw the moisture out of the turkey but then through the magic of osmosis, the salt and the moisture will be drawn back into the turkey, locking in flavour and ensuring you’ll get nice crispy skin.

On the morning of the cook

Remove the turkey from the fridge an hour before cooking. Set your foil tray underneath where the turkey will be going – if using a kettle style BBQ then you’ll want the turkey in the centre with charcoal either side. Light your charcoal and pour it out either side of the foil tray. Close the lid of your BBQ and then use the vents to dial in the temperature to 200°C. You’ll want both the bottom and top vents fully open to start with and then when you achieve 200°C, close the bottom vent half way and leave the top one open. Then use the top vent until you are happy the BBQ is at 200°C. If you are using a ceramic BBQ then you’ll want the heat deflectors in place, a foil tray under the turkey and the temperature dialled in at 200°C.

Make sure the skin on your turkey is completely dry then add a small coat of oil or melted butter, just enough for the pepper to adhere to. Sprinkle all over with the pepper. You don’t need to salt – we’ve already done that with the dry brine.

Sit the turkey over the foil tray in your BBQ, close the lid and cook until the internal temperature of the breast is 73°C. At this stage, you may want to crack a cold beer and congratulate yourself on taking the stress out of the kitchen! Once the turkey hits 73°C, remove from the BBQ and let it rest for 45 minutes to an hour. Don’t cover with foil as you’ll lose that lovely crispy skin you’ve created. The turkey will remain nice and hot sat on the kitchen side.

If using a kettle BBQ, you may need to top up with charcoal half way through the cook so keep an eye on this. I’d also recommend using a DOT Digital Oven thermometer to monitor the temperature of the cook throughout. This saves you having to keep opening the lid to check the temperature of the turkey.

Optional step: gravy

An optional step, and one I recommend if you want delicious turkey gravy, is to add the giblets to the foil tray along with some chopped carrots, onions, garlic & fresh herbs. Coat with some oil, then add to the tray under the turkey. An hour into the cook, you’ll want to add 1.5L of chicken stock to the tray. At the end of the cook, pour the liquid through a sieve or colander into a saucepan. Heat on the stove, add a cornflour slurry and stir until it’s the consistency you desire. Taste and season accordingly. Boom – the best turkey gravy you ever did taste!

So there you go – stress free BBQ turkey – your new Christmas tradition!

Products to help you achieve perfection
"I'm Elky, also known as The Smokin' Elk. I absolutely love cooking to fire and the Thermapen helps me up my game by cooking to the perfect temperature, every time. It's the one BBQ tool I wouldn't be without!"
The Smokin' Elk
Fire Cooking Fanatic, BBQ School owner
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