Who doesn’t love having turkey for the holidays? Everyone loves a juicy, tasty turkey sitting on the dinner table waiting for everyone to dig in. But, how can you make a mouthwatering and scrumptious turkey dinner for the whole family? The answer is smoked turkey. Keep on reading to find out how to smoke a turkey in style!
There are several ways to cook a turkey. You can roast it, air fry it, deep fry it, or grill it. But, if you’re looking to get the tastiest result from this native North American bird, then you should smoke it.
Why Should I Smoke A Turkey?
Before you start smoking the turkey, you may want to know why smoking is the best way to prepare it. Keep in mind that smoking takes longer than simply roasting or deep-frying the turkey. You need to be patient since it takes time to smoke turkey properly.
While the other methods give you an appetizing dish after you’re done cooking the turkey, smoking brings it to another level. It gives the dish so much flavor that all the patience and hard work you put it are worth it.
Aside from tenderizing the meat, the slow-and-low process of smoking turkey also makes it more succulent. Moreover, you will note a little sweet and savory flavor once you take your first bite of smoked turkey.
The process makes the meat deliciously moist with a firm texture. The aroma of the dish will make you want to use smoking as your preferred method in cooking a turkey in the future.
Now that you know why smoking is better than the other cooking methods, let’s go down to the nitty-gritty details of the process of smoking a turkey. Of course, you’ll need a propane smoker to get the job done right!
Smoking a Turkey: 6 Easy Steps
If you want to know how to smoke a turkey, I have some good news for you. There are just a few simple steps to follow to get that smoked turkey on in style!
#1: Setting up the Smoker
You can use a standard charcoal smoker or an electric smoker. This is the main equipment you will use to smoke your turkey. Before you put the turkey inside the smoker, you should make sure it at the right temperature. The temperature of the smoker should be at 275 degrees Fahrenheit.
You can also catch the drippings of the turkey if you’re planning to make some gravy. While most smokers have a built-in drip tray, some may not have this feature. Due to this, you may want to get an aluminum tray and place it under the bird.
To prevent the drippings from drying out, you can put water into the pan. If the smoker you’re using does not have a built-in water pan, you can use it to add moisture into the smoking chamber, which is great for smoking poultry.
If you are still in the market for a good smoker, you may want to consider the following:
Americana Electric Water Smoker
- 351 square inches of cooking space
- 2 chrome-plated cooking grids and built-in temperature gauge
- The stainless steel, chimney-like design with a loose-fitting lid and tight-fitting doors creates a...
- With its extra-large 5.5 quart water pan, this Southern Country Smokers perfect the slow-cooking...
- The UL-listed 1500-watt, CUL-listed heating element will plug into the standard household outlet....
The Americana Electric Water Smoker features two chrome-plated grills with a cooking space of 351 square inches. It also comes with a built-in temperature gauge and a 5.5-quart water pan. Its tight-fitting doors and vented lid ensures continuous flow of smoke for a perfect slow-cooking process.
Moreover, this electric smoker also has sliding access doors to make it easy to add water and wood chips while you smoke meat. This 2-in-1 device can also be converted into a portable electric grill.
Cuisinart Electric Smoker
- 548 SQUARE INCHES OF INTERIOR: The spacious 548 square inch interior means there is plenty of room...
- Product Dimensions: 19.88" L x 17.32" W x 33.3" H | Weight: 59 lb
- THREE REMOVABLE STAINLESS-STEEL SHELVES: Three stainless steel racks can be easily removed for...
- BUILT-IN THERMOMETER: Features easy-to-read thermometer on the front door for accessible monitoring...
- 1500-WATT HEATING ELEMENT: Featuring a heating coil that provides the 1500-watt heating element able...
Whether you’re a new or veteran smoker, the Cuisinart Electric Smoker is perfect for you. It is both easy and convenient to use. All you need to do is to plug it, put the meat on the racks, and set the temperature for the smoker.
This electric smoker also features a thermometer on the door to allow you to monitor the temperature inside. It is versatile, convenient, and offers considerable space for cooking.
Masterbuilt Electric Smoker
- Built-in temperature gauge
- Temperature control is easy with analog dial
- Wood chip tray slides out for easy ash removal
- Three chrome-coated smoking racks
- 1,500-watt heating element for even, consistent smoking
The Masterbuilt Electric Smoker is a 30-inch analog smoker that allows you to smoke meat easily in your backyard. You can simply plug it in and set its analog controls. Its three chrome-coated racks are big enough to allow you to smoke two turkeys, three racks of ribs, or three chickens.
It features a built-in temperature gauge to allow you to monitor interior temperature easily. The wood chip tray also slides out to make it easy for you to clean out the ash.
#2 How to Smoke a Turkey: Select the Wood Chips
At this point, you should also have the wood chips you want to use for smoking the turkey. Your preference determines the type of wood chips you use. But, you may want to consider getting milder wood since they go well with turkey meat.
You can also mix milder wood, such as apple and maple, with some smokier wood, like hickory or mesquite. Whatever type of wood you choose, just make sure you consider that turkey meat is light and mild.
To avoid burning up the wood chips, you can soak them in water for at least four hours. Soaking the wood chips will slowly release the flavor that will saturate the turkey.
Are you still looking for wood chips to use in the smoker? Well, check out what we found for you below.
Weber Hickory Wood Chunks
- Hickory wood chunks
- Rich subtly Sweet flavor
- Great for poultry, pork & beef
- 350 cu. in. (0.006 m^3) sized bag
Looking for a rich-yet-subtly-sweet flavor for your smoked meat? Then, you should end your search with the Weber Hickory Wood Chunks. These hickory wood chunks add wood smoke flavor to your meat when you smoke them.
Aside from turkey and other poultry, these wood chips are also great for smoking beef and pork.
Weber Apple Chips
- Subtle Sweet flavor
- Chip size pieces
- Two pound bag
- 192 cu. in. (0.003 m^3) sized bag
If you’re keen on getting a sweet, fruity flavor on your smoked meat, then Weber Apple Chips are what you’re looking for. They give a slight hint of sweet apple on the meat. Each purchase gives you a two-pound bag of wood chips.
Western Smoking Chips Variety Pack
- Includes Maple, Peach, Apple, and Cherry
- Can be used with Charcoal or use with gas grills or electric smokers
- Includes reusable smoker tray
- 100% Natural Raw Wood made in the USA
- Use the flavors separately or mix the woods together to create a unique flavor of your own
Unsure about the type of wood chips you want to use for smoking turkey? In this case, you can get the Western Smoking Chips Variety Pack. Each pack comes with four types of wood chips: apple, peach, cherry, and maple. They are perfect for gas or electric smokers.
What’s more, each box comes with a reusable smoker tray.
#3: Preparing the Turkey
With the smoker getting ready, you should make sure the bird is ready for some smoking. You can remove the neck and giblets and make sure the turkey is clean.
To prevent the wings from dangling to the sides, you can fold it in before using a toothpick to pin it. You can do the same thing to the neck. When these parts hang out, they tend to become overcooked.
You can also brine the turkey before you smoke it. Brining prevents the meat from drying out during the smoking process. It helps draw in the moisture and spices you will use into the turkey.
But, you can opt to forego with brining if you’re planning to baste the turkey while it’s cooking. Basting it will also ensure the turkey will not dry up while it’s being smoked.
#4: Adding Flavor
Applying spice rub on the turkey will also enhance its flavor while smoking. You can use any of your preferred spices on the rub, including fresh herbs and dried spices. You can also use citrus fruit to give the bird an extra zing.
Moreover, you should also apply the rub under the skin of the turkey. Start loosening the skin where the leg is attached to the body. Then, loosen the skin under the body of the turkey. Spread the rub under these areas to get a flavorful smoked turkey.
Stuffing the turkey with some aromatics add to its flavor once it’s ready to be served. These aromatics can include lemon, onions, and fresh herbs.
#5: Smoking the Turkey
One thing you should remember when putting the turkey in the smoker is to ensure it is placed in an area where the smoke flows evenly on all its sides. The drip tray or drip pan should also be positioned directly under the bird to catch all the drippings for your gravy later.
You should also make sure to rotate the turkey every two hours. Rotating it ensures it will cook evenly.
At this point, you only have to wait for the bird to be cooked. You can expect the cooking process to be done in four to five hours.
Of course, the cooking time depends on the size of the turkey. The bigger it is, the longer the cooking time.
Near the end of the smoking process, you should make sure to check the temperature. Use a meat thermometer to check different parts on the bird. Just make sure to avoid touching the bone with the thermometer since bone heats faster compared to meat.
You should check the temperature on the breast area and the thigh area between the leg and body. Check the temperature on both sides of the bird. You should be looking for an internal temperature of around 170 degrees Fahrenheit.
You would need to take out the turkey once the lowest temperature shows this value. Have a cutting board or large platter ready at this point in the process.
How Long to Smoke a Turkey?
A common question that people have is how long it takes to smoke turkey. A medium sized turkey will generally take 6-7 hours to smoke at 250 degrees F. A general rule is 30 minutes for pound for smoking turkey, plus allow 15-30 minutes resting time before carving.
This means that a 15 pound turkey will take 7.5 hours to smoke, while a 20 pound turkey will take around 10 hours.
#6: Resting the Turkey
Before you start carving the turkey, you should allow it to rest for at least 15 minutes. Resting the bird allows the meat to relax and the heat to even out in the different parts of the bird. It also ensures you get juicy, tender turkey meat.
While resting, you should cover the turkey tightly to keep the moisture and heat in. Place it in a warm area without any draft. Once it’s properly rested, you can start carving it for everyone to enjoy.
Smoked Turkey Recipes
Everyone has their own secret rub recipe for smoked turkey and you’ll likely develop your own winning combination over time. But, here are some of the best smoked turkey recipes to consider.
Best Smoked Turkey Recipe #1:
- 5 garlic cloves (or more to taste)
- 2 tablespoons seasoning salt
- 1/2 cup butter
- 2 cans of cola
- 1 onion
- 1 tablespoon garlic powder
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1 tablespoon freshly ground pepper
- 1 sliced apple
- 1 quartered onion
Rub the seasoning salt, salt pepper and garlic powder on the outside of the bird. Place everything else inside the cavity. Baste every 1-2 hours with the juices until done.
Easy Smoked Turkey Recipe #2:
- 3 tablespoons brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1 tablespoon freshly ground pepper
- 1 tablespoon garlic powder
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- 2 teaspoons dried sage
- 2 teaspoons dry mustard
- 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
Mix together well and rub all over the skin before smoking the turkey. Inside the cavity, place a sliced up apple, onion and some whole garlic cloves as well as a few chunks of butter. Baste with the juices every hour while smoking.
Recipe for Smoking Turkey #3:
- 3 tablespoons kosher salt
- 3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons dried thyme
- 2 teaspoons crushed dried rosemary
- 2 teaspoons sage
- 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
Mix together well, then coat the turkey skin with it and set back in the fridge for at least a few hours before smoking.
How to Smoke a Turkey: Have your Say
Do you have any tips, tricks or recipes for smoked turkey? Leave a comment below and let us know what you think. We’d love to hear from you.
Also be sure to give this article a share on Facebook, Pinterest, or Twitter. It’ll help other turkey smoking enthusiasts, like yourself find this useful resource.
Last update on 2021-08-05 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API