Charcoal Grilling a Turkey
Begin with clean equipment and a good-quality charcoal. Build a pyramid of charcoal to one side. Ignite the charcoal, and let the coals get red hot. Place an appliance thermometer on the food rack to monitor the air temperature inside the grill. When the charcoal has developed white powdery ash—about 20 to 30 minutes—and the air temperature reaches 225 to 300°F, place a drip pan with water in it to create moist, hot steam for cooking, in the center of the grill beneath where the turkey will be set and carefully push the hot coals evenly around the edge. Position the grill rack and place the prepared turkey on it (breast side up). Then place the cover on the grill.
Replenish with about 15 briquettes every hour as needed to maintain 225 to 300°F. If desired, add water-soaked hardwood or fruitwood, in the form of chunks or chips, to add flavor to the turkey as it is cooking. Do not use a softwood (pine, fir, cedar or spruce) because it gives the food a turpentine flavor and coats it with a black pitch or resin.
Cooking times depend on many factors: the size and shape of the turkey, the distance from the heat, temperature of the coals and the temperature of the outside air. Always use a food thermometer. The turkey is done when the food thermometer reaches a safe minimum internal temperature of 165°F in the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast. Estimate 15 to 18 minutes per pound if using a covered grill. A whole turkey can be successfully cooked, provided the turkey is not stuffed and has been completely thawed.
For additional information on cooking turkey, read Turkey: Alternative Routes to the Table on the U. S. Department of Agriculture's site.