Originally Posted by Humble Soul
On a 22.5" kettle, is having the coals on two sides with the bird in the middle the way most do it? Or is banking coals all on one side ok as well?
I've done it both ways. If the turkey's not too big (wide), I prefer to have coals on each side of the turkey so I get more even heat on the bird. If the coals are a little too close for comfort, you can bank them on one side, but when I've done this I've had to make sure the watch the color and rotate the bird to keep even browning of the skin at the thighs. Again, depending on the size of your bird, it will only push over to one side so much before the lid will hit it. This is why I like leaving the bird in the center and make the coals fit around it.
One thing I've done to help guard against the heat is to use a couple of strategically placed bricks stacked up as close to the cooking grate as possible and then bank coals on the outside of that. This will prevent as much direct heat from the coals to the thighs. The bricks act as diffusers and are a great way to keep the coals pushed against the outside wall of the kettle and prevent the pile from "creeping" toward the center.
A drip pan is another way you can do this, but I find that if I can put a paver brick or something on the outside of the drip pan and then the coals go outside of the brick(s)/paver(s). A foil pan alone will help, but it doesn't deflect the heat as much I don't think.
The great thing about cooking on a kettle is that you don't need a LOT of lit coals to get the temp of the cooker up. I prefer using a "divided minion method" where I'll fill up the sides with unlit coals (and some smoke wood chunk) and then just put about 3-5 lit coals on each pile. Then regulate the cooker temps using the vents. It won't take a lot of coals to get the temps up to 300+ (if that's what you're going for) and this method will also prevent you from having to add lit coals to keep your temps up.