6 Steps to a Perfect Thanksgiving Turkey by Kevin and Ronda Wilson, Boise, ID, USA

With a little planning, a simple brine, and a Kamado, you can cook a Thanksgiving turkey that'll be getting raves from friends and family well into the coming New Year. Brining the turkey before roasting it will ensure a juicy, moist, flavorful bird--one with a subtle, unique flavor enhanced by a mix of seasonings and delicate wood smoke.

This recipe consists of six steps, some of which you'll accomplish a day or two before Thanksgiving. The recipe assumes that you are familiar with operating your Kamado, but throughout the recipe you'll find tips for getting the most out of your ceramic cooker. Each step is described fully in a separate page, most of which contain photographs.

At the bottom of this page you'll find a timeline for our most-recent Thanksgiving turkey (a 13-pound free-range turkey). Use the timeline as a quick reference and to estimate the cooking time for your turkey.

Caution: As always, take necessary safety precautions when using your Kamado. Wear heavyweight gloves when handling hot objects. Wear safety glasses when lighting lump charcoal, which may spark upon ignition. Always use safe food-handling practices while preparing food for cooking, and always cook food to an internal temperature sufficient to ensure that it is safe to eat.

What You'll Need

Ingredients and Materials


13 to 20 Pound Turkey 20-Quart Stock Pot or Food-Grade Bucket
2 Gallons of Brine (see recipe) Instant-Read Thermometer 
6 Medium Apples Kitchen Shears
White Pepper Propane Torch or Long-Handled Lighter
Paprika Large Serving Platter or Carving Board
1/3 Cup Melted Butter Welding Gloves with Long Cuffs
1/3 Cup Olive Oil
2 Bamboo Skewers
14-inch Deep-Dish Pizza Pan
Heavy-Duty Aluminum Foil

Step-by-Step Instructions

Step 1:  Selecting the Turkey

Step 2:  Brining the Turkey

Step 3:  Preparing the Brined Turkey

Step 4:  Preparing the Kamado

Step 5:  Roasting the Turkey

Step 6:  Serving the Turkey


Timeline for Our Thanksgiving Turkey

Prep, Day 1 Prepared brine. Brined turkey overnight.
Prep, Day 2 Air-dried the turkey in the refrigerator.
Thanksgiving Day
1:00 PM 
Arranged grills and heat deflector. Started the fire. Stabilized the Kamado at 475 degrees Fahrenheit dome temperature..
1:30 PM Began roasting the turkey at 475 degrees.
2:15 PM Adjusted dampers to reduce dome temperature to 350 to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
3:00 PM Basted the turkey with the olive oil/butter mixture. Checked the internal temperature in the thigh (130 degrees) and the breast (139 degrees). Added one fist-sized chunk of pecan to the fire. NOTE:  Cover the breast or the entire turkey with aluminum foil if temperatures are too high or the skin is getting too dark.
4:30 PM Monitored internal temperature. 
4:45 PM Removed the turkey to a carving board when the breast temperature reached 161 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly covered the turkey with aluminum foil. Allowed the turkey to rest for approximately 15 minutes before carving. 
5:00 PM Carved the turkey and served.
Total Cooking Time 3 hours and 15 minutes (15 minutes per pound)


Text and photos by Kevin and Ronda Wilson, Boise, Idaho, owners of a textured #7 Kamado and a textured #1. Kevin is a technical writer with Academic Technologies at Boise State University. Ronda is a freelance technical writer currently on assignment with Lionbridge, Inc. They welcome e-mail comments about this recipe, Kamados, and cooking in general.