I’ve previously produced my article on how to smoke a turkey on a pellet grill/smoker. This article is going to be more specific about smoking/roasting a turkey on a Z Grill and their recommended methods. However, some Z Grill models out of the box will smoke/roast a more consistent turkey in a colder climate around the holidays (Thanksgiving/Christmas). Therefore, we’ll discuss how to address this potential issue to get the best result. Right, let’s get into this!
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- Cooking Time: Typically 4 hours (18-20 lb turkey)
- Z Grill Temp: 225 to 350 F
- Turkey Internal Temp When Done: 165 F (we’ll discuss this)
- Best Z Grills Pellets For Turkey: Apple, Cherry or Competition Blend
I’m no BBQ expert. My expertise is how pellet grills/smokers work and the range of makes/models on the market. When it comes to how to cook on a pellet grill/smoker, I’ll be referring to the professionals.
Therefore, first off, with all raw poultry, turkey included, food safety is very important with regards to salmonela/e-coli etc. Therefore, please follow the CDC’s advice on handling/storing turkey meat.
While the videos I’ve included below on smoking a turkey is a whole turkey, the general principles/process are the same for when you’re just cooking turkey thighs etc, with the cooking time being shorter.
How To Smoke/Roast A Turkey On A Z Grill
I’ve got two Z Grills methods for smoking/roasting a turkey, a quick and simple method and a more involved method that involves wet brining the turkey before it goes on your Z Grill.
Personally, would I choose the wet brine method? Yes, however, as discussed below, it not only takes the prep time to a whole day prior to the cook, it creates another potential issue.
Anyway, first, let’s say you don’t have much time over Thanksgiving/Christmas to cook your turkey. The first method below will still produce a nice bird for the table.
Smoking (Sort Of)/Roasting A Turkey (Quick & Easy)
The one-minute video below shows how you can roast a turkey of around 14 lbs in around 2 hours with very little prep time (around 30 minutes) prior to the cook.
A whole stick of butter is melted down, and then rosemary, parsley, thyme, sage, and orange zest are added to create the rub for the turkey. Some salt and pepper are added in as well.
This mixture is then applied all over the exterior of the turkey, making sure to work it in around and between the wings and legs of the bird to get complete coverage to produce nice crispy skin.
The interior of the bird is stuffed with chopped carrots, onion, and celery stalks. This will not only add flavor to the bird, but the moisture from the cooking vegetables will also keep the meat moist.
The turkey is then added to a baking tin, and 16 ounces of chicken broth is poured in with some additional water and a stick of butter. Again, this will help to keep the turkey meat moist.
To cook the turkey within around 2 hours, the Z Grill is set to 350 degrees. Now, this is where you do have to be careful, as frequent basting is also needed during the cook to stop the outside of the bird from overcooking/burning before the center is fully cooked (165 F).
Also, be aware that at 350 degrees, your Z Grill will be producing less smoke than at a lower temperature setting, and the cooking time is also much shorter than usual, hence less time for the turkey to take on smoke flavor.
Therefore, that’s why I stated in the title of this method, ‘Smoking (Sort Of)‘, as with this quicker method, you might not actually be able to taste much smoke flavor in the finished turkey at all.
Smoking/Roasting A Turkey (Wet Brine Method)
No one wants to eat dry/fluffy turkey meat, and the best method to avoid such an end result is to wet brine your turkey for around 24 hours in the fridge before you are ready to smoke/roast the turkey.
The video below from Z Grills includes such a wet brine method. In this particular case, its a beer brine, but there are many different wet brine mixtures you can choose.
The biggest issue/challenge with the wet brine method, besides the additional prep time, is the fact it has to go back into the fridge while the brine penetrates the turkey meat.
The bird in the brine solution will take up a lot of space in the fridge. In the video below, the bird is purely placed in a plastic bag. However, its generally recommended to place the bird/bag in another container (in case the bag bursts).
Within the video above, there are some important points made about where to position the bird within the cooking chamber and also rotating the bird during the cook.
First off, avoid placing the baking tin and turkey in the center of the cooking chamber on a Z Grill. While you may think a central position will provide the most even heat, its not really the case.
As the pellet burn pot in a Z Grill is in center, keeping the turkey away from that direct heat and to the side of the cooking chamber is a good approach to take.
However, as discussed in the video above, you will still want to keep rotating the turkey/baking tin during the cook to get even cooking of the skin and maintain a nice even appearance.
In the video, the Z Grill is set to 350 F, which finished the turkey to 165 F in under 4 hours. As I stated above, if you want more smoke flavor, opt for a lower temperature setting.
Yes, at a lower temp, the turkey will take longer to cook, 4 hours, maybe more. However, at a lower temperature, more smoke is produced due to a less efficient pellet fire.
Best Z Grills Pellets For Roasting/Smoking A Turkey
The first thing to note with turkey, and poultry in general, is that they can emphasize smoke flavor in the meat more than red meats (steak/brisket) typically. So that should factor into your pellet choice.
In other words, take Mesquite pellets, one of the strongest/boldest flavors. The general opinion is they work better with red meats than with poultry/turkey, where the flavor can be a bit overpowering.
However, as I state in my article on choosing the best pellets for specific meats, it really comes down to personal preference. But also remember, when cooking a turkey for Thanksgiving/Christmas, there are the preferences of the rest of the family to consider as well.
Therefore, with turkey, its generally advised by many (including myself) to go for a milder/sweeter pellet flavor from say Apple or Cherry pellets to produce a flavor everyone is happy with.
Z Grills sell their own Apple, Cherry, and general Fruitwood blend pellets that can work well with turkey. However, surprisingly, Z Grills pellets are actually quite expensive compared to the competition.
Below, I’ve provided links to my articles on the best value pellets for specific flavors, where I calculated the cost per lb from the different brands.
|Pellet Flavors For Turkey||Smoke Flavor|
Does Your Z Grill Need A Blanket To Cook Good Turkey?
Besides the preparation of the turkey itself and the pellets you use, there is an important topic that I don’t think gets discussed enough when it comes to cooking a turkey for Thanksgiving/Christmas.
In the northern US states, at Thanksgiving/Christmas in the months of November/Christmas, I’m not sure if you have noticed, but it can get a little chilly (jokes), and this can affect your pellet grill/smoker.
When cooking over winter, first off, you should expect your pellet usage to increase, potentially quite a bit when the temperature drops considerably, but that just means you need to carefully watch the hopper.
However, in colder temperatures, there is another issue of wider temperature variations within the cooking chamber. Why? Because of the significant difference between the internal/external temps of the cooking chamber.
A turkey, particularly a large turkey, is taking up a lot of space within the cooking chamber. Hence, when cooking a turkey, wide temperature differences in the cooking chamber will make an impact.
Now, the reason I’ve stated in the image caption above ‘most Z Grills owners’ and not all Z Grills owners, is there is an exception to the rule, only one currently, but I expect more will be coming.
I say ‘one’, but really its any model currently under the Z Grills ‘WiFi’ branding, which includes the Z Grills 7052B and the Z Grills 11002B. Just to be clear, this has nothing to do with their WiFi/App capabilities.
Its the fact that currently, the 7052B and the 11002B are the only Z Grills models which feature a twin-wall insulated lid. Hence, they won’t really benefit from an insulated blanket.
Final Thoughts On Roasting/Smoking A Turkey On A Z Grill
Either of the two methods above will help you to roast a nice turkey for your Thanksgiving or Christmas table. However, ideally, you’ll have the time for the wet brine method.
However, as I’ve discussed above, what you might not want to follow is Z Grill’s advice when it comes to the temperature setting of 350 F, as doing so will indeed roast a turkey, but with little smoke flavor.
As I discuss in my article on smoke settings, the way a pellet grill/smoker can produce more smoke is with a smaller fire that is less stable/less efficient, as this causes the pellets to smolder.
At higher temperatures, anything really above 250 degrees, you are getting a pretty stable pellet fire. That’s great for temperature accuracy (fewer temp swings) but not so great for smoke production.
Just something to keep in mind when it comes to choosing the temperature setting you want to use on your Z Grill for cooking your turkey.
That’s it! Thanks for reading. I hope the above information/videos have guided you on your path to smoking an excellent turkey.
As always, please check out my Pellet Grill/Smoker Guide to learn more about all the different makes/models of Pellet BBQs now on the market. 🙂