RECIPE: Your Christmas Turkey on the Braai

Braai turkey is the ultimate sumptuous answer for a South African christmas.

It’s Christmas and people want a traditional Christmas meal, but this is also South Africa, and we like nothing more than a summer braai. Combining the two is so easy you are going to wish you had always done your Christmas turkey this way.

The trick is to use a Weber, or Big Green Egg style of enclosed braai to cook the bird as it’s definitely going to take some time and you want to control the temperature very carefully so it doesn’t end up dry.

Be warned: This isn’t your grandmother’s Christmas dinner, this recipe brings all the spicey goodness of a proper braai and delivers it to the ultimate in spatchcock bird.



  • 1/4 cup salt
  • 2 tablespoons black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons paprika
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper


  • 3 3/4 cups white vinegar
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup cayenne pepper
  • 2 tablespoons black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons crushed red pepper


  • 1 6kg whole turkey, thawed if frozen, giblets removed

Make the dry rub

Stir together all dry rub ingredients in a bowl; set aside.

Make the vinegar-cayenne mopping sauce

Whisk together all vinegar-cayenne turkey sauce ingredients in a large bowl; set aside.

Cook the turkey

  1. Pat the turkey dry with paper towels and place it on a big cutting board with the breast side up.
  2. Use a chef’s knife to carefully cut the turkey breast in half lengthwise by cutting through the breastbone.
  3. Open up the turkey and press it down to make it flat. Pat the inside dry with paper towels.
  4. Sprinkle the dry rub seasoning on the turkey from about 30cms above it. Don’t rub the seasoning in; just let it coat the turkey on all sides.
  5. Put the bird on a baking sheet with the skin side up. Let it sit at room temperature for up to 2 hours while you preheat the grill.
  6. Prepare a charcoal grill or smoker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Add oak wood chunks to the coals.
  7. Use an aluminium foil-lined diffuser in the grill and maintain the internal temperature at 110°C degrees for 15 to 20 minutes.
  8. Smoke the turkey with the skin side up, covered with the grill lid, until the meat around the drumsticks pulls back, and a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the breast reads 63°C. This should take about 2 hours.
  9. Apply 1 1/2 cups of the turkey sauce generously with a brush on the skin side of the turkey.
  10. Carefully flip the bird over with long tongs so that the underside becomes dark brown and charred evenly.
  11. Brush the turkey with the remaining 2 1/2 cups of sauce. If the sauce pools in the cavity, use tongs to gently twist the turkey to let the sauce soak into the meat.
  12. Continue to brush until all the sauce is absorbed. Close the grill and smoke until the skin side is lightly charred, and a thermometer in the breast registers 69°C, which should take about 30 to 45 minutes.
  13. Transfer the smoked turkey to a large cutting board and either carve it right away or let it rest for up to 2 hours.
  14. Sit back and bathe in the admiration of your family