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How To Smoke A Turkey – And Why You Will Never Cook It Any Other Way!

When I first learned how to smoke a turkey, I never expected it to be so good! But I am here to tell you, that it is the best tasting turkey that I have ever tasted.

And I am not alone. My entire family raved about how moist and flavorful it was. Therefore, ever since that day, I am now responsible for making the turkey in the smoker every year for Thanksgiving.

how to smoke a turkey
Smoking a turkey is an easy way to have your turkey turn out moist and delicious every time!

So last week when we had our annual Thanksgiving dinner, I pulled the smoker out and got to work.

How To Smoke A Turkey

No matter how you decide to make your turkey, you must be sure to thaw it out completely prior to cooking. And if you have never cooked a turkey before, you might be shocked at how long it takes for bird to thaw.

The safest way to thaw out a turkey is to place it in the refrigerator so that it can slowly (and safely) come to the appropriate temperature.

Therefore, 4-5 days before you plan on smoking a turkey, move the frozen turkey to the refrigerator. Our turkey weighed 13.4 pounds and it took a full 4 days for it to become tender.

thawing turkey
Once you think the turkey is completely thawed, remove the wrapper, neck and giblets. Then rinse out the cavity that may have additional ice crystals still inside.

**Please note that it is not recommended to smoke a turkey over 15 lbs due to the low temperature cooking process.

Then, the day before you plan to eat the turkey, it is time to make a salty brine for it to marinate in overnight. This is a HUGE key to making sure that your turkey is moist and delicious!

Although there are several recipes on how to brine a turkey, we use a simple mixture of salt, water, and sugar.

Brining Instructions

Depending on what type of container that you have and the size of your turkey, the amount of brine needed will vary. So for every gallon of water add 1 cup of Kosher or Pickling Salt and 1/2 cup of sugar.

Heat the brine on the stove just until the salt and sugar dissolve. Then remove it from the heat and let it cool.

Once cool, add one entire lemon cut into wedges, a small handful of peppercorns, and two bay leaves to the brine. Pour the brine in the container and slowly lower the turkey into the water. Then cover and refrigerate.

turkey brining
The night before you want to cook your turkey, be sure to brine it. If it floats, add a heavy pan on top to submerge it in the water.

However, be sure that it the turkey begins to float, to apply a pot, pan, or foil lined brick so that the entire bird is submerged in the liquid.

Let it sit overnight and first thing in the morning remove the turkey from the brine and rinse it under cold water to remove the excess salt flavor from the skin.

Next, pat the rinsed turkey dry and let it sit out and air dry for up to 4 hours. In the mean time, prepare the smoker for the turkey.

Temperature Settings And Time Required

It is best to smoke a whole turkey at 225°F. As a general rule of thumb, for each pound of turkey, it will need to be in the smoker for 30 minutes. Plus, I always give a little wiggle room and add an extra 30 minutes to the calculated cook time.

Therefore, if you have a 12 pound turkey, you would smoke it for 6.5 hours.

electric smoker
You can use any type of smoker that you prefer.

Prepare you smoker per your manufacturer’s instructions. We use a Masterbuilt programmable electric smoker. Although we have used a propane and even charcoal smoker in the past.

Type of Wood Chips

As for what type of wood chips to use, we prefer to use a light flavored wood such as apple, cherry, or hickory. And unlike our Smoked Chicken Wings recipe, we do soak our wood chips in water before adding them into the smoker.

wood chips
We prefer to soak our wood chips before adding them to the smoker.

The reason for soaking the wood chips for this recipe is because of the longer cook time required. This will allow the wood chips to slowly smoke rather than burn quickly if put in dry.

Now that the smoker is ready we need to finish preparing the turkey.

Dry Rub Instructions

Now that you turkey has had time to air dry it is to apply extra virgin olive oil and a dry rub to the skin.

You can use your favorite store-bought dry rub, make a homemade dry rub, or simply use Kosher salt and pepper. The key here is to add a little additional flavor to the turkey.

homemade dry rub
Homemade Dry Rub mixed and ready to be placed on the skin of the turkey

We prefer to make our own Sweet Dry Rub recipe and sprinkle it not only on the skin, but inside the cavity as well.

This is the same dry rub recipe that we use for our Pulled Pork. It adds a little sweetness, but also a lot of additional flavor as well!

Once the turkey has been oiled and seasoned, be sure to tie the legs together with twine or tuck them under the flap of skin below the cavity.

Put The Turkey In The Smoker

turkey rub
Once the turkey is ready to go in the smoker, apply oil on the skin and in the cavity. Then sprinkle a dry rub all over the front, back, and in the cavity itself.

Then place the turkey, breast side up, directly on a lower rack of the smoker. However, don’t place it on the lowest rack. This is where you want to put a shallow pan to catch the turkey drippings.

Add 2 cups of water to the pan and place it directly underneath the turkey. Then, when your turkey is finished cooking, you can use the drippings to make Turkey Gravy.

Check The Internal Temperature

About one hour before your turkey is supposed to be done, insert a digital food thermometer in the thickest part of the thigh. Remove the turkey from the smoker when it reaches 165°F.

We love our Wireless Digital Meat Thermometer that allows me to be in the house and still check the temperature. It helps me plan out the rest of the meal so everything is ready at the same time.

turkey temperature
An hour before the turkey is supposed to be done, check the internal temperature in the thickest part of the thigh.

Once you remove the turkey from the smoker, let it rest under foil for 10 minutes before carving. Enjoy!!

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How To Smoke A Turkey

how to smoke a turkey

Once you have tasted turkey that has been cooked in a smoker, you will never cook your Thanksgiving turkey any other way! Moist and juicy meat with a slight smoky flavor. It will definitely become a new tradition in your house!


  • 1 whole turkey, 15 lbs or less, thawed
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons dry rub, homemade dry rub link in article
  • 2 cups of water, to catch the drippings

Brining Ingredients

  • water
  • Kosher or Pickling Salt
  • Sugar
  • 1 lemon, cut into wedges
  • 1/4 cup whole peppercorns
  • 2 bay leaves


  1. The day before you want to cook your turkey, be sure that it is completely thawed and remove the neck and giblets from the cavity.

Prepare Your Brine

  1. Because all turkeys are different sizes and all brining containers are unique, the amount of brine that is needed will vary from person to person. For every gallon of water, add 1/2 cup salt and 1/4 cup sugar and heat until it is just dissolved.
  2. Allow the brine mixture to cool. Then add your lemon pieces, peppercorns, and bay leaves to the brine.
  3. Pour the brine into a very large container and submerge your turkey inside the brine. Keep in the refrigerator and brine overnight.

Prepare Your Turkey For The Smoker

  1. In the morning, remove the turkey from the brine and rinse under cold water. Be sure to rinse both sides of the bird and inside the cavity. Pat dry with paper towels and let it sit on a large cookie sheet to air dry for up to 4 hours.
  2. Soak your wood chips in water 1 hour before you are ready to smoke your turkey. Use apple, cherry or hickory whenever possible.
  3. When you are ready to smoke your turkey, pat it dry with a paper towel one last time. Then rub oil all over the skin and inside the cavity.
  4. Next, sprinkle a dry rub mixture over both sides and inside cavity.
  5. Preheat the smoker to 225°F and once at temperature, place the turkey, breast side up on the second from the bottom rack.
  6. Place a shallow baking pan filled with two cups of water on the bottom rack, directly below the turkey to catch the drippings (optional).
  7. Add the wood chips and smoke for approximately 30 minutes per pound, then add another 30 minutes to the final anticipated cook time.
  8. One hour before the turkey is supposed to be done, insert a digital meat thermometer in the thickest part of the thigh, being sure not to touch bone.
  9. The turkey is done when the internal temperature reaches 165°F. Remove it from the smoker and let it rest under foil for at least 10 minutes before carving.
  10. Use the pan drippings to make your gravy, if desired.


Recipe provided by Make Your Meals

Nutrition Information:

Serving Size:

1 grams

Amount Per Serving: Unsaturated Fat: 0g
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