How to Smoke a Turkey

Free up oven space and impart smoky flavor on your bird.

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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. Plus, it frees up your oven for side dishes!

What Size Turkey Should You Get for Smoking?

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.

How Long to Smoke a Turkey

Smoking a turkey is a long but rewarding process. At 240 degrees F, the turkey will need to cook for about 30 minutes per pound.

How to Smoke a Turkey

Here's what you'll need:

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

  • A roasting pan
  • A probe thermometer: This allows you to monitor your turkey's temperature without constantly opening and closing the smoker.
  • 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.

1. Fire up the grill or smoker.

Load your smoker with aromatic wood chips and heat to 240 degrees F (115 degrees C). If you're using a grill, here's how to turn it into a smoker.

2. Remove the giblets.

Remove the liver, gizzard, heart, and neck from the body cavity. You can save the gizzard, heart, and neck to make gravy or stuffing. Don't use the liver, as it can give a bitter, mineral taste.

3. Place in a roasting pan.

Set the bird breast-side-up in a roasting pan and pat the inside and outside of the bird dry with a paper towel. Unfortunately, you can't stuff a smoked turkey. Instead, make your stuffing separately in the oven.

4. Brush with olive oil.

Brush the skin lightly with olive oil. Add additional seasonings such as salt, pepper, or a dry rub for extra flavor. You can skip this step if you brined your turkey ahead of time.

5. Insert thermometer.

Stick an oven-proof thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh. Point the thermometer toward the body.

6. Start smoking.

Set the turkey on the rack inside the grill or smoker. Close the lid and start your timer. 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.

7. Check for doneness.

When the thermometer reaches between 165 and 180 degrees F, remove the turkey from the smoker and place on a platter. Let the turkey rest for 15 minutes.

8. Carve.

Use a carving knife or any large, sharp, unserrated knife to carve the turkey. Don't be alarmed by pink meat — this is normal for a smoked turkey.

Favorite Smoked Turkey Recipes

Honey Smoked Turkey
Pictured: Honey Smoked Turkey. Joshua Clark


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