What is the safest and easiest way to cook a turkey outdoors? Well, you can deep fry, smoke or grill your bird using the proper cooking tools. You can use a smoker, a grill or a turkey fryer depending on the weather conditions.
Cooking in your backyard can be a fun and enjoyable family affair.
The delicious flavor of a deep fried, grilled or smoked turkey cannot be replicated in your indoor oven.
Besides, it frees up your oven space for your other festive dishes.
Cook A Turkey Outdoors In 3 Different Ways
Table Of Contents
- 1 Cook A Turkey Outdoors In 3 Different Ways
- 2 Dry Rub Or Butter Injection
Whether you grill, deep fry or smoke your turkey outside, safety always come first.
- Set up your cooking utensils away from the walls of your home as well as your garage
- Always put your cooking equipment on level ground
- Never leave your cooking area unattended
- Children and pets should be kept away
- Turkey must be completely thawed and dried (turkey thawing times)
- Standby a fire extinguisher
1) Deep Fry – With Oil Or Without Oil
Outdoor Propane Turkey Fryer
Whether you’re using the oil less propane turkey fryer or the one using oil, no doubt, you’ll be serving your guests one of the best fried turkey ever eaten. Fried turkey with its crispy skin and moist juicy meat has always been popular among my guests and I’m sure yours too.
When frying with oil, make sure turkey is fully thawed and dried.
Oil temperature should reach 350°F before slowly lowering your bird into the hot oil.
Estimate about 3 – 5 minutes per pound for turkey to be cooked.
Most propane turkey fryers come with a 15 minute timer that will automatically shut down if it is not manually reset before the 15 minutes are up. This safety feature will certainly keep you close by your fryer.
Related post: Turkey Fryer Ideas
- Can cook large birds above 20 pounds
- Fast cooking – 3.5 -4 minutes per pound of meat
- Expensive oil to buy
- Difficult to clean up
- Danger from the open flame
- Danger from hot oil splashes, spilling etc
- No drippings for gravies
Oil Less Propane Turkey Fryer
The good thing about the oil free turkey fryer is that you have no open flame to worry about. No expensive oil to buy, filter and keep either.
Infrared heat is used to cook the bird. Compared to the propane fryer that uses oil, the oil free infrared turkey fryer is safer and mess-free.
- No expensive oil to buy
- No need to preheat oil, filter the used oil, find a place to keep the used oil
- You get drippings that you can use for making tasty gravies
- No big mess to clean up, cleanup is minimal
- Portable – you can bring it to your tailgating events
- More healthy as no oil involved – less calories
- More for turkeys below 16 pounds
- Take a longer time to cook compared to deep frying in oil – estimate about 10 minutes per pound of meat
- No stuffing as the stuffing will prevent the turkey from cooking evenly. The inside cavity part of the bird might not be properly cooked whereas the outer meat is overcooked and dry ( Try adding a few slices of onion, orange or lemon, sprigs of rosemary instead of stuffing)
- You can’t use it to boil crabs etc. – not designed to hold and boil water
2) Grill Your Turkey
Grilling requires serious heat besides your premium fresh bird. High heat lock in the juices, resulting in a juicy, tender and succulent turkey.
You get the choice of a gas, charcoal or wood pellet grill. Or perhaps go the traditional way using fire wood.
You’ll want to use indirect heat to grill your turkey. Just like roasting your bird in the oven using indirect heat, the heat on the grill comes from either side of the meat and not directly underneath it. The whole bird is cooked by warm steamy air circulating around it. It is placed away from the flame.
Indirect heat grilling is like slow roasting your bird.
When using a covered charcoal grill, estimate about 15 – 18 minutes per pound of meat.
Place your turkey in the center of the grilling grate (breast facing up) with a drip pan directly underneath it to collect turkey drippings.
Put charcoal on the either side of the pan for indirect heating of the bird.
When you notice white powdery ash on the burning charcoals (estimate about 20 – 30 minutes from start of starting the fire), and air temperature inside grill reaches between 225 – 300°F, then it’s time to start your grilling.
You might have to top up the charcoal pieces if temperature drops.
Make sure the internal temperature at the thickest part of the breast reaches 165°F for the bird to be considered safely cooked. A meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh (not touching the bones) should read 180°F when fully cooked.
- Can get to a really high temperature – even up to 700°F (Some charcoal grills come with movable charcoal beds that you can raise up or down)
- Degree of heat is difficult to control
- Cleaning out the ash is not an easy job. Look for one with removable ash tray.
- Besides, flying ash, drifting cinders and sparks can be dangerous
For indirect heating purposes, the 3 burners gas grills work best.
Compared to the charcoal grill, the turkey sits on the dripping/roasting pan which is placed on top of the grate instead of below.
The left and right side burners can be easily adjusted to the preferred temperature of 350 – 400°F.
Gas grills come with manufacturer’s manual for best cooking times.
Grilling a 10 – 15 pound bird at 325°F takes about 3 – 3.5 hours.
- Easy and convenient to use – every thing is controlled with a button – high heat, low heat or switch off the heat source
- Maintain temperature well
- No open flames, no flareups
- Can have rotisserie cooking
- Easy to clean up
- Need to standby a tank of propane gas or gas line
3) Smoke Your Turkey
Smoke your turkey using a propane gas smoker, charcoal smoker, electric smoker or the wood pellet smoker.
Smoking a turkey is a slow cooking technique – about 7 hours using the Traeger wood pellet smoker grill. However, it’s pretty hassle-free and simple to use.
Grilling with smoke seals in the natural flavors of your meat.
When smoking the turkey, rub a bit of butter on the skin to get a crispier effect. Smoking tends to make the skin rubbery.
Depending on the ambient temperature, it can take about 30 – 40 minutes for the charcoal smoker to reach 350°F.
The smoker temperature should be between 225 – 300°F for smoking a whole turkey.
Estimate about 30 – 40 minutes per pound to smoke a delicious bird with crispy skin and juicy meat. A 20 pound bird can be ready in about 8 – 12 hours. The inner thigh temperature must reach 180°F.
Wood Pellet Smokers
Put the pellets in the hopper box, set the temperature and the smoker takes over. Remember to check your bird with the meat thermometer.
You can’t really go wrong with the pellet smoker.
Pellet grills impart a smoky flavor and wood-fired taste to your food. Some come with a searing feature. You get to sear your meat and seal in the flavor.
- Smoky flavor, wood-fired taste
- Pellet grills produce less ash
- Digital temperature control – constant temperature is automatically maintained – keep it at 325°F
- No worries about flareup or burning of food
- Set-and-forget – hassle-free – no need to keep checking on your smoker
- Smoker automatically controls the right amount of pellets feed
- Smoker is easy to clean
- Pellet smokers are expensive
- Need to buy pellets
- A long and slow cooking system
Propane Gas Smokers
Propane smokers are easy to use. Set the temperature and the smoker takes over.
You can use a combination of wood and charcoal.
- Easy to use
- Easy to maintain a consistent heat
- Can be used even when there’s no electric power
- Requires propane fuel
You need to be more involved for charcoal smoking – start the fire, check the charcoals and managed the temperature at 225 – 300°F.
Try not to use self-starting charcoal that has lighter fluid additives.
- Can get a great smoke ring on the bird
- Starting the fire can take a while
- Not easy to maintain a steady temperature – needs practice and experience
- Need to buy charcoal
These are easy to use. It makes use of a heating element that needs little intervention once the machine is switched on. Just set the time and temperature and the machine takes over.
Some of the modern Wi-Fi connected digital electric smokers are really easy to use. The smart smoker comes with an app that gives you notifications on the necessary steps at different stages of the cooking procedure. The app will let you know the perfect time to put in your turkey and the best time to take it out.
- Easy to use
- Easy to maintain a steady temperature
- You do not have to worry about adding charcoal to maintain the correct temperature
- It’s convenient if you’re doing barbecue that takes more than 10 hours
- Need a power outlet
- Smoked flavor of food is not so good as the charcoal or wood pellet smoker – you can’t really get a smoke ring
Dry Rub Or Butter Injection
A turkey is a big bird. It tends to be on the dry side if not properly seasoned. A butter injection would make a lot of difference. It can be just a simple mixture of melted salted butter, black pepper powder and garlic powder.
No matter which method you choose to use, you’ll have lots of fun if you decide to cook a turkey outdoors.