Turkey Tutorial vol. 2 - Old Smokey Charcoal Grill

In the Old Smokey Charcoal Grill, the main idea for smoking something large is indirect heat.  You want to shield the meat from direct exposure to the coals.  It's easiest to do this in our largest model, the #22, but you can get great results for smaller turkeys in the #18.  The process works for the #14 for smaller things like whole chickens.

Divide and Conquer

This method uses an aluminum cooking pan set upside down directly on the bottom grate.  Start the coals in a chimney style fire starter.  You're going to need lots of coals.  For even more smokey flavor add some Wood Chunks (we have Mesquite, Apple, Cherry and Pecan).  

Once they are ready, put 1/2 the coals on either side of the divider.  You can now place another aluminum pan right side up on top of the first pan to catch the drippings to use later as a base for gravy.  These pictures are from our good friend and master chef Jack Krohn.




A Foil Shield

Another idea is to build a regular fire and spread it out across the bottom grate just like you'd do for anything else you cook in the Old Smokey Charcoal Grill.  But to keep the bottom of the turkey from direct exposure to the coals, put the turkey directly in a foil cooking pan. This method results in the juices collecting in the foil pan as the turkey cooks.  The bottom side can't dry out that way.  But maybe you want the turkey to be browned all over?  In that case the pan set below the grill as in the pictures above is the way to go.

The Grill-O-Sheet Method

The Grill-O-Sheet is another option.  It's a thick piece of aluminum, much thicker and sturdier than foil, and has holes to let smoke get to the meat while partially shielding the bottom of the turkey from the hot coals.  It bends easily and holds it shape.  You can also use it as a frame, lining it with aluminum foil if you want a full foil shield on the bottom.



Off to the Side

This method is best suited for the #22 and #18.  It's really a simple process.  You just build a fire like any other, then move the coals as far to one side as you can and put the turkey on the other side of the grill.  There'll be plenty of heat and the bottom of the turkey won't get too crispy.  The juices will drip onto the exposed bottom grate (which will still be plenty hot) and sizzle and add even more flavor.

In the Brine is Divine

Brining a turkey is usually done to add moisture.  But you also have the chance to mix any number of flavors and spices into the brine for unique results.  The classic brine is just salt and water, but you can add bay leaves, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, chopped garlic, sprigs of fresh thyme or rosemary, peppercorns, allspice berries, you name it.

You'll need a large, heavy duty plastic bag, or one made specifically for the job:


Put the turkey in the bag, add the brine mixture, seal it up and put it in the refrigerator.  Brining is an overnight process, you can't hurry it.


What size Turkey?

There's lots of room in an Old Smokey Charcoal Grill.  The #18 has a 17" diameter grill in.  A 17-18 lb turkey fits easily.  There's even more room in the #22.  You'll be fine, get a big turkey.  This one is 14lbs.  It measured about 13" x 9"


Season to Taste

Season the turkey while the fire is getting hot.  A brined turkey will be wet enough to hold the Big Ron's rub in place.  If you didn't brine the turkey, wash it, pat it dry and coat with Antonio Celentano Olive Oil, butter, regular cooking oil, or try bacon drippings.  Then add the rub or whatever seasoning you like.


Fire it Up and Go

Put the turkey on the grill, put the top on the Old Smokey, adjust the dampers and relax.  If you have a meat thermometer, shoot for 155-160F measured in the white meat.  Many turkeys come with pop up devices that help indicate ready or not.

Once it's done, cut it up and eat!



  • I’ve been cooking turkeys on my Old Smokey for years. I usually do about a 14 pound bird and allow 30 minutes per pound – top and bottom vents about 1/3 open .

    Tom Howard
  • @OM – You’ll need up to 6 hours start to finish to get the fire hot and let the turkey cook. Maybe longer, depending on the size of the turkey and how many coals or wood chunks you use.

    Old Smokey
  • Approx how much time is needed to cook ??

    otis mayes
  • I have two sizes of Old Smokey grills. They are the best charcoal grills on the market short of the $1500 monsters and who knows if they really do a better job. A couple pounds of charcoal and a hand full of wood chunks and there’s nothing you can’t create on an Old
    Smokey. Keep up the good work and I’ll be lifelong customer.

    Steve McClure

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