Give your Thanksgiving turkey a taste of the great outdoors by smoking it slowly over wood chips. Here's how to do it, in a smoker and on your grill.

By Vanessa Greaves and Allrecipes Editors
November 12, 2014
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Credit: Big Boy

Pictured: Smoked Turkey

One of the benefits of smoking a turkey is that it's almost impossible to overcook anything in a smoker. The temperature remains low and the cooking is slow, resulting in perfectly moist and tender meat with a rich, complex flavor. Still need a recipe? Head on over to our collection of smoked turkey recipes to get started.

How to Smoke a Turkey

For best results:

  • If you're smoking a whole turkey, we recommended that you choose one weighing no more than about 15 pounds — large turkeys take too long to heat all the way through.
  • If you choose a frozen turkey, it should be thoroughly thawed before you begin.
  • Be sure to remove all the giblets and gizzards from the turkey, as well as the plastic pop-up thermometer.

Smoked Turkey Tools

Besides a smoker, there are a few other things you'll need to smoke your turkey.

  • A large pan
  • An accurate meat thermometer
  • Wood chips — When it comes to the best wood to smoke turkey, any kind of fruit wood, such as apple or cherry, complements turkey very well, but hickory, pecan, and maple will also be good

Prepping the Turkey for Smoking

To add even more flavor to your turkey:

  • Try brining: while not an essential part of smoking a turkey, soaking in brine before cooking gives the meat maximum flavor and juiciness.
  • Rub the turkey with oil or butter for crispy and evenly browned skin.
  • Apply a dry rub just before smoking. (If you have brined the turkey, you should not use any salt in the dry rub). For more, see how to dry brine a turkey.

Unfortunately, you can't stuff a smoked turkey. Make your stuffing separately in the oven.

Smoking Your Turkey

Once you have prepped your turkey, you are ready to begin smoking:

  • Place turkey in the pan, breast-side up.
  • Insert the meat thermometer deep into the thigh, being careful not to touch the bone or joints.
  • Run your smoker at 240 degrees F (115 degrees C).
  • Allow 30 minutes of cooking time per pound of meat.
  • Baste the turkey with its own juices a few times during smoking, but avoid opening the smoker too often; you will lose heat and increase the cooking time.

When the thermometer reads 165 degrees F (75 degrees C) , pull the bird out of the smoker and let it rest at least 15 minutes. Carve and serve.

VIDEO: How to Smoke a Turkey

Favorite Smoked Turkey Recipes

Turkey in a Smoker

"This is a great recipe for smoked turkey," says Doug Kacsir. "A barbecue grill is nearly impossible to cook a large bird. A smoker is best for this. I prefer hickory chips or hickory wood. Hickory generates a more even smokiness than other woods, and it does not matter whether the wood is green or seasoned. Mesquite, if not well seasoned, will generate a creosote type coating because of the sap that oozes out of the wood while cooking."

Photo by DOC

Honey Smoked Turkey

This recipe is for smoked turkey made on a grill. "Sweet and light, this is the easiest way to cook a big bird," says ABAYIFO. "It will be the best turkey you have ever had. The breast is moist and juicy, and the honey makes a great thin sauce. I hope you enjoy it as much as my friends and family do when I make it. I never have any leftovers! Enjoy!"

Photo by Joshua Clark

Smoked Turkey

You'll use a smoker for this recipe. "This is an easy-to-make recipe," says Glenn. "I've tried numerous others using colas, fancy pans, etc., but none come out near as good as this. Keeping it simple is the best way. Be sure to use a high-quality charcoal, so that it will burn for a long time. Turkey will be moist tender and smoky!"

Photo by Marney Ayers Freeland

Want more? Check out our collection of Smoked Turkey Recipes.

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