How to cook a Christmas turkey on the barbecue

If the oven breaks down on Christmas Day, fear not: you can cook Christmas turkey on the barbecue with relative ease, and it'll do just as good a job — if not better. So much so that it's probably worth considering even if your oven is working just fine.

Cooking a Christmas turkey on a gas barbecue — or any other type of barbecue for that matter — is surprisingly straightforward, once you know what you’re doing. What’s more, it will actually make the bird taste like never before.

‘Those that have tried and tested this way of cooking Christmas dinner, strongly agree that it is actually a better way to cook the turkey than putting it in the oven,’ says Ross Worrod, one of the founders of Grillo, a Cambridge-based firm who specialist in barbecues and outdoor kitchens. ‘The smokiness and BBQ flavour comes through to create a mouth-watering masterpiece.’

At this point in proceedings you might expect a caveat — but really there isn’t one. In essence, once you’ve prepared your bird you simply put it on a cast iron pan or tray, put it in the barbecue and close the lid. The full recipe is below, but it’s simple stuff that can actually make the rest of the Christmas dinner preparation easier: ‘Not only will it free up the oven, it will also create a succulent, flavoursome, beautifully golden turkey for the family to enjoy,’ adds Ross.

If you’ve a big enough barbecue you could do the whole lot outside, though. ‘Pigs-in-blankets are familiar to the grill, but more surprising vegetables, such as carrots, parsnips and cabbage can be placed directly on the griddle and come out with a charred, smoky edge. Roast potatoes and Yorkshire puddings can also be placed in a cast iron pan or tray and placed on the BBQ, this will give them a beautiful smoky flavour, whilst allowing them to become crispy and fluffy.’


Serves 12

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  • 1 free-range turkey weighing 5.5-6.5kg
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 onions, peeled
  • Fresh thyme
  • 1 lemon, cut in half

For the butter

  • 200g soften butter
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 lemon, zested
  • Chopped parsley
  • 2 pinches of salt


Firstly, you want to ensure both the turkey and the barbecue are ready for cooking. Start by preparing the barbecue to approximately 180°c. Gas, charcoal, electric of wood-fired barbecues can be used for this.

Whilst it is heating up switch your attention to the turkey. Prepare the butter by mixing garlic, thyme, lemon zest and salt in to it, until smoothly blended together. Then, peel back the skin and rub in a thin layer of the butter between the skin and the meat.

Once ready place the turkey in the pan. Then place the onion, thyme, lemon halves and olive oil to the pan around the turkey. Drizzle a little extra olive oil over the turkey and cover the pan with tin foil.

You are then ready to place the turkey on the barbecue and close the lid. The turkey in our recipe will need around 3 hours, but if your turkey differs in size you can work out roughly how long you need to cook it for by giving it 30 minutes per kg. Whilst

it is cooking regularly check and baste the turkey. Once the time is up, check the juices are running clear. You can also use a temperature probe to check that the turkey is at least 75°c.

Once removed from the barbecue leave the turkey to rest for at least 30 minutes before carving and serving up with all the trimmings.