Rotisserie Grilling - The Big Turkey


I get a asked every year, right before thanksgiving:
How big of a turkey can I cook on my grill's rotisserie?
Now, I usually cook two 12 to 14 pound turkeys, one in my charcoal grill, one in my gas grill. I think the meat in the smaller bird is a little more tender, and it cooks quicker and more evenly. It doesn't hurt that I'm an obsessed cook. I want to do two different styles of bird, instead of just one. Cooking two birds lets me do a "regular" bird for the purists, and an exotic bird for my own satisfaction.

Most people aren't grilling fanatics. They don't own two rotisseries. But they want to serve a crowd with a rotisserie turkey. The rule of thumb is one pound of turkey per person, so they want to cook a monster bird.
*I love turkey leftovers, so I always wind up cooking lots more than a pound a person. Two pounds, maybe. But, like I said, I'm crazy.

So, to help out my readers, it was time for a test. I bought the biggest bird I could find at my local grocery store. It was the turkey off-season, so the biggest bird was just shy of 23 pounds. It was huge, about twice the size of the birds I usually cook.
*Thanksgiving turkey sales started this weekend, so I went back and checked. The largest bird I found was 25 1/2 pounds. I've heard of 30 pound turkeys. My goodness, those must be enormous.

Did it fit in the kettle grill?

Big turkey in kettle grill
Little turkey in kettle grill

Easily. There was plenty of room to spare in a Weber kettle with a rotisserie ring. I'll bet I could fit a giant 30 pound turkey in the kettle. Score one for charcoal!

Did it fit in the Weber Summit gas grill?

Big turkey in gas grill
Little turkey in gas grill

It was a tight fit in my Weber summit. I had to change my usual trussing approach to get the bird to fit. Normally I tuck the wings underneath the bird, but this forces the knobs of the wings stick out. There wasn't enough clearance in the grill - the turkey caught on the top of the grill instead of rotating. So, after trussing the bird, I untucked the wings, and slid the wingtip under the trussing string that runs along the edge of the breast. This trusses the wing against the breast and leaves enough room for the turkey to spin.

Wing tucked under the bird
Wing trussed to the breast
Trussed on the left, tucked on the right.

Also, I had to remove the burner covers to have enough clearance at the bottom of the grill. I set my drip pan directly on the burners, so it's a good thing I am cooking with indirect heat and leave those burners off.



So, how big a bird could I have fit? The top of the grill was my problem - I had two inches, maybe, between the drumsticks and the top of the lid in my Weber Summit. I could have squeezed in a slightly larger turkey, maybe as much as 25 pounds. I don't think anything bigger would fit.


What about a Weber Genesis?

I cooked a couple of turkeys in the 12 to 14 pound rage in my old Weber Genesis Silver. It was a tight fit, and I had to remove the burner covers and wedge the drip pan in on top of the middle burner, but it worked. I don't think a larger bird would fit...but I never tried, and the Weber Genesis now lives at my sister-in-law's house.

TL;DR Version

The 23 pound turkey fit in both the Weber kettle and the Weber Summit grills. The Weber Kettle had lots of clearance, and I'd guess I could go as large as 30 pounds. The Weber Summit was a close fit. I would guess I could go to 24, maybe 25 pounds, but no larger. For a Weber Genesis, anything larger than 14 pounds would worry me.

How about you?

How big of a bird have you cooked on your grill's rotisserie? I would especially like to hear from you if you use the rotisserie in a Weber Genesis. I may visiting my old Genesis Silver at my sister-in-law's house this year, and I would like to do a larger bird.  If you've tried a bird larger than 12 pounds in the Weber Genesis, or on any other grill, let me know in the comments below.

Related Posts

Rotisserie Turkey Wrapped with Bacon
Rotisserie Turkey, Dry Brined with Orange and Spices
Rotisserie Turkey with Cajun Dry Brine


Check out my cookbook, Rotisserie Grilling.

Everything you could ask about the rotisserie,
plus 50 (mostly) new recipes to get you cooking.

It's a Kindle e-book, so you can download it and start reading immediately!


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21 comments:

rpatrick2282 said...

I would love to know if people have done this with a Genesis. I am wanting to do a 12- 14 lbs turkey, but I just dont think I will have the room to do it on the rotisserie. If anyone has done this and has some suggestions I would be grateful

Mike V @ DadCooksDinner said...

I have done a 14 pound turkey on the genesis, and it was a tight fit, but it made it. Make sure to take out the middle burner covers and rest the drip pan directly on the middle burner.

rpatrick2282 said...

ah good thought I will give that a shot thanks!

SacramentoDad said...

Can't wait for the Rotisserie Turkey wrapped Bacon recipe on Thursday! Looks evil, the pilgrims are turning over in their graves. I'm a big Weber charcoal rotisserie fan. Thanks in advance for the recipe.

Oldtug said...

Any hints, tricks, recommendations for cooking a large turkey on the kettle? Time? Thanks

Mike V @ DadCooksDinner said...

Coming Thursday...

...OK, I won't make you wait. Set the grill up the same as for a smaller turkey, as described here: http://www.dadcooksdinner.com/2010/11/rotisserie-turkey-dry-brined-with.html Add 24 unlit coals to the fire every hour to keep the heat going. It will take roughly 3 to 3 1/2 hours for the turkey to reach 155*F in the breast, when it's done.

Mark said...

Mike, what about two 13 - 14 lb turkeys on a single spit. This gives you the quantity of meat, extra legs and wings and should help the sizing. This would be like when you do two chickens. At least that my plan tomorrow.

Mike V @ DadCooksDinner said...

After I did the big bird, I thought the same thing. I was going to try it next year. If you do it, let me know how it works.

Here are my thoughts...

I'm eyeballing my wide shot of a 12 pound bird on the spit ( http://www.dadcooksdinner.com/2011/11/rotisserie-turkey-with-cajun-dry-brine.html, pictures where I show which burners to light.), and I'm worried about a few things:

1. The IR burner is only going to heat up the middle of the spit. To use the IR burner, I'd skewer the turkeys with the legs in the middle, so the IR burner is hitting the legs more than the breast. Or...

2. The "indirect heat coming only from the leg side of the bird" wouldn't work...unless you put the birds on the spit with the legs on the outside, don't turn on the IR burner, and use the outside burners (#1 and 6, and maybe the smoking burner) to provide the heat.

3. Two turkeys will fit on the spit, but I'm worried about the edges of the bird being directly over lit burners #1 and #6.

Again, if you try this, please let me know how it goes. Thanks!

Mark Fell said...

Mike, thanks for the feedback. Based on your suggestions I have done some more planning and calculations. My two birds (13.76 and 13.32 lbs) are about 24" in diameter when breast to breast. My rotisserie burner is 21 inches across and my grill is 39 inches wide. It has 6 burners (made by OCS as a custom grill). The center 4 burners span 24 inches so the outer two would be outside the birds but still close to either end. I do have burner separation plates which keep the burner's direct heat straight up and down and limit side to side radiation.

So my plan is IR Burner on hitting the breasts. The outer burners lit and hitting the legs. (Your suggestion#2). I have oak cubes that we used when we made wine so they were steeped in Cabernet for several months and then dried. I'll soak them first and then hopefully get some super flavor.

Wish me luck, I have 26 people coming (no pressure right) and hope to pull this off.

I'll report back on success or failure tomorrow.

Best, Mark

Mike V @ DadCooksDinner said...

Good luck!

Richard H Marshall said...

I got the 20 pond turkey on the gennesis by following your method of removing the "flavorizer"bars and wrapping the center burner tube with foil.had to remove the screw securing the center burner tube to lay in a disposable aluminum tray to catch the drippings.The spit had a slight bow to it but the motor turned the rod and bird just fine.Your orange dry brine gave it an unbelievable flavor! Im going to try it with chicken....mmmm.

Mike V @ DadCooksDinner said...

Great! glad it worked for you. Definitely try the dry brine on a chicken - it's delicious.

If it's not too late, can you take a picture of what you had to remove on the Genesis? I'm assuming you have one of the new ones with the burners that run front to back, instead of side to side. (I had the side to side version before I upgraded to a Summit.)

Kelvin Mitchell said...

Mike, quick question on the dry brined Rotisserie Turkey. I used your recipe last year and it was a big hit! Thanks for that. I do have one question. I was tinkering with the vents on the weber kettle all through the process to keep the temp fairly regulated. At one point the legs started cooking too fast. Did you have a sweet spot for your vents (either more open or more closed)? I realize that location, temp, humidity all effect this, but just thought you may have a preference on how wide your vents were opened.


Thanks again for all these recipes. They are awesome!


k

Mike V @ DadCooksDinner said...

I keep the vents wide open, and live with the variation in temperature. I start with 3/4 chimney of charcoal...so I start out close to 425*F...but it drops as the cooking time goes on, and steadys out between 275 and 325 depending on the weather conditions.



Hope this helps...

Kelvin Mitchell said...

Thanks for the quick reply. It is predicted to be much colder than last year. I will post back the results and timings after I finish cooking it this week. Thanks again for the effort you have put into this website.


k

Mike V @ DadCooksDinner said...

Please do report back. Good luck!

Angela said...

I have cooked a 23 lb turkey on my rotisserie. I have a Fire Magic grill with a strong rotisserie motor and heavy spit rod. You have to balance it well on the spit rod and make sure it doesn't flop around or you will damage the rotisserie motor. I wouldn't attempt this on a smaller grill. It turned out the best turkey ever, very moist. I cooked it with the outside burners on Medium and the backburner on Low. I used a drip pan with a little water and
wine placed just behind the bird a little bit so it catches the drippings. Check often as sometimes the ties become loose and it starts flopping around.

Angela said...

I did remove the cooking grates and placed the drip pan directly on top of the flavorizing grids that are on top of the burner. Burner directly under the drip pan is off

Mike V @ DadCooksDinner said...

Thank you for the Fire Magic update!

Robb Kruger said...

Mike, have enjoyed your blog for some time and have "borrowed" your recipes with great results...


To truly tempt fate this T-day, I threw a 25# fresh bird (using your dry brined orange recipe) on the 22.5 kettle rotisserie. The first attempt at spinning stalled the roto, but by re-positioning the spit so the rod actually went above the drumsticks, lowering the back of the bird, the forks were able to take purchase on the legs and balance the bird. 4 hours @325-350 produced a wonderful juicy bird. Even better than the Guinness-brined beauty from last year.


But I agree, cooking two smaller birds is the way to go. Doesn't have the wow factor of Mongo hanging out in the kitchen, but certainly would alleviate many of the other issues.

Mike V @ DadCooksDinner said...

Rob, thanks for the update!

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