In order to barbeque a turkey, there are a few things you need besides the turkey. This is real barbeque as opposed to grilling, like you would a hamburger or steak. Barbeque means cooking slowly in smoke, which means the meat can’t be directly over the heat, the barbeque must be closed to keep the heat and smoke inside, and you need a source of smoke. If you need to cook the turkey indoors, just go to the Roast Turkey page.
I strongly recommend that you brine the turkey, starting the day before you cook it. After you thaw it (if frozen), remove and save the neck and giblets for gravy. While the turkey is in the brine, you can actually go ahead and make the gravy the day before, as I usually do. See how I make the gravy on the Rotisserie BBQ Turkey page.
A turkey is a little big to sit on one side of a kettle BBQ, but if you can sit it in the middle, keep the coals stacked as far as possible to each side, away from the turkey. If you have a gas grill, put the turkey on one side and light the burners on the other side. If you use charcoal, you are going to have to add coals every half hour or so, so keep some new ones fired up in a chimney starter now and then.
With a charcoal fire, soak a bunch of wood chunks, like hickory, in water. Every time you add charcoal, add a few wet chunks to the fire to make the smoke. With a gas grill, either use the smoke tray with sawdust or chips, or wrap wet chunks in foil, poke holes in the foil, and put on the fire.
Don’t stuff the turkey. You want the smoke to get inside to flavor the bird. You also need to monitor its temperature. A remote reading thermometer is a luxury, but it allows you to keep track of the temperature without opening the lid and letting the smoke out.
Try to keep the temperature inside at 250-300 degrees so the turkey doesn’t cook too fast. It should be on a rack in the pan to elevate it so the dark meat underneath will get done without overcooking the breast.
It will probably take 20-25 minutes per pound or more if you can keep the cooking temperature under 300. Stop when the inside thigh temperature reaches 150 degrees. Put the turkey on the cutting board and cover with foil for 30 minutes before carving. The internal temperature should reach 160 by then.
Serve with mashed potatoes, barbeque sauce, corn on the cob, and a green salad.