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Cousin Elkan’s Grilled Turkey

This recipe is adapted from one that appeared in the New York Times more than 20 years ago. The original recipe calls for roasting the turkey in a conventional oven at 500 degrees. Cousin Elkan warns against this – the amount of smoke that will billow out of your 500-degree oven may result in firefighters being the only guests joining you for dinner.


1 turkey, fresh or defrosted


  • Take the fresh, uncooked turkey out of the refrigerator for two hours before you’re ready to grill. Remove any giblets that may be in the cavity.

  • Place the turkey, breast side up, on a V-shaped rack in a HEAVY roasting pan (to prevent a dangerous accident when you bring the turkey back into the house after grilling).

  • Blot it dry, sprinkle with salt & pepper, and then cover with a clean dish towel so it won’t dry out too much.

  • When you’re ready to start cooking, preheat an outdoor grill to 500 degrees (essentially, as hot as it will go).

  • Remove the dishtowel, place the turkey in its pan on the grill, and close the cover (no trussing, no basting, no nothing!)

  • Cook for 6 minutes per pound, and then insert a thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh, without touching the bone. The turkey is done when the thermometer registers 165 degrees.

  • If the turkey is brown before it’s done, just cover it with a sheet of aluminum foil.

  • Remove the turkey from the grill, bring in inside, and let it (and you) rest for ten minutes or so before you present it to the adoring crowds.