Pit-Cooked-Style Turkey 10.000

Dixie D. Vereen for The Washington Post

Nov 20, 2016

Although it's done on a charcoal grill, this low-and-slow way of cooking might be the closest thing to the way butterflied birds are cooked in the barbecue pits in Manning, S.C., where Michael Twitty visited during his Southern Discomfort historical culinary tour.

You'll need patience and lots of charcoal.


When you scale a recipe, keep in mind that cooking times and temperatures, pan sizes and seasonings may be affected, so adjust accordingly. Also, amounts listed in the directions will not reflect the changes made to ingredient amounts.

Tested size: 10 servings

  • One 10-to-12-pound whole turkey
  • 1 teaspoon granulated garlic (garlic powder)
  • 2 tablespoons seasoned salt, such as Lawry's
  • 2 teaspoons dried sage, crumbled
  • 2 tablespoons lemon pepper or other salt-free seasoning
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt (optional)


Pat the bird dry with paper towels, inside and out. Invert it on a cutting board so the breast side is down. Use sturdy kitchen shears to cut along both sides of the backbone; remove the backbone and neck (and reserve for making stock, if you'd like). Gently press the bird open.

Stir together the granulated garlic, seasoned salt, crumbled dried sage and lemon pepper blend in a medium bowl; rub this mixture all over inside the cavity of the turkey. Turn the bird over and rub some on the skin side as well. If you'd like the skin to be nicely crisped, rub the outside of the bird with the optional kosher salt. Let the turkey sit while you set up the grill.

Arrange about 80 charcoal briquettes piled four or five deep in an 18-inch-long semicircle around the inside sloping edge of the grill, on the bottom grill grate. (If you'd like, place a drip pan under where the turkey will be, on that same bottom grate.) Light one end of it; as soon as the briquettes seem to be catching, position the top grill grate and place the turkey on it, breast side down. Close the lid and keep the vents closed; cook for 6 to 7 hours, watching closely to maintain a temperature of 250 degrees on the grill lid's thermometer.

The turkey is done when the internal temperature of the breast meat, taken away from the bone, registers 165 on an instant-read thermometer. Let the bird rest for 20 to 30 minutes before carving.

Rate it

Recipe Source

Adapted from food historian Michael Twitty.

Tested by Andy Sikkenga.

Email questions to the Food Section.

Email questions to the Food Section at food@washpost.com.