Perfect Smoked Turkey
Nov 19, 2021, Updated Dec 14, 2022
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Perfect smoked turkey – the best recipe for a restaurant style turkey that is juicy, tender, and full of smoky flavor the family will love!
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Turkey is always one of the most feared parts of Thanksgiving for most home cooks- which stinks, since it is the star of Thanksgiving dinner!
But there is no need to be worried of dry, tasteless Turkey- this Perfect Smoked Turkey recipe has been our family’s secret for delicious, juicy, perfectly-smoky flavored turkey.
And the best part is, it’s pretty foolproof.
If you’re somewhat familiar with using a smoker grill, you know how easy it can be to create wonderful flavor without much actual work.
All you need to do for the tastiest turkey ever is just Brine, Stuff and Smoke. Of course, you can also season your bird to your heart’s content as well (this is a base recipe, so you can add on all the flavor you love to your bird with confidence in the techniques we’re going to show you!)
Save your oven space for other foods and keep your kitchen from overheating- smoke that turkey outside! My husband LOVES breaking out our smoker to make pork shoulder, brisket and other meats- but we don’t use it nearly enough. It is so easy to get delicious, melt in your mouth, perfectly smoky meat using a smoker grill and indirect heat.
We’ve made our last few Thanksgiving turkeys on the smoker, and we should do more!
This method won’t make a gravy, however. Simply remove the giblets and neck of the turkey and roast those in the oven for your gravy. They take up much less precious oven space and cook more quickly.
How To Smoke a Turkey
Make Brine. Boil brine and mix, then remove from heat and let cool completely. This is important to mix the brine.
Brine Turkey. Once brine is completely cool (so you don’t start to cook the turkey), add to brine. This will help add flavor to your turkey and keep it from drying out while smoking.
Prepare smoker. Light your smoker 30-45 minutes before you intend to start cooking your turkey.
Prepare Turkey. Add herbs to the bird, stuff with aromatics, cover with seasonings, inject with seasoning – however you’d like to add any extra flavors is up to you (we love simple garlic butter, or cajun spices, but often just leave smoked turkey as-is.) Cover the turkey with a wet cheese cloth or thin kitchen towel (one you’re prepared to throw away.)
Smoke. When your smoker reaches 235-250 degrees, add the turkey directly on the cooking grates.5. Check your fire and rotate your turkey every 30 minutes, adding charcoal and wood chips/chunks as necessary. 6. Smoke your turkey at 235-250 degrees for 30-40 minutes per pound (a 12lbs turkey will take approximately 6 hours to smoke), until it reaches an internal temperature of 160 degrees.
Rest. Turkey should rest for at least 30 minutes before carving.
How To Tell When Turkey Is Done Smoking
It can be a bit tricky to tell when your smoked turkey is done – because smoking turkeys can give it a pinkish hue. This isnt because it is uncooked- it is because smoking meat gives a little bit of a purple-ish color. When you carve your turkey, you will notice a “ring” of darker color around the meat.
This is the coloring from the smoke- and where your flavor is coming from! You might notice in the photo above the legs look especially purple- it’s from the smoke.
Your turkey will be cooked when a digital thermometer inserted into the fattest part of the turkey breast reads 160 degrees (it will carryover cook to 165 degrees after tenting with foil out of the oven).
The USDA recommends getting turkey’s internal temperature to 165 degrees.
How To Finish Smoked Turkey in Oven
If it is especially cold outside (we made the turkey photographed when it was under 40 degrees outside, not uncommon for Colorado), you can finish your turkey in the oven if you haven’t brought it up to 170 degrees yet.
Just pop it in the oven and cook at 350 until internal temp reaches 170 degrees (it will continue to cook to 175 degrees when you remove it from the oven). You can baste the turkey with a little melted butter for extra crispy skin like I did below – it makes a lovely crunch and finishing touch to your smoked turkey.
Tips For Smoked Turkey & FAQs
If you’re not very familiar with using a smoker, I asked my husband to add some tips and tricks to make smoking a turkey easy. Here’s his best tips:
-Use a chimney to bring your lump charcoal up to temperature.
– Use real lump charcoal. Briquets tend to give off a petroleum aftertaste.
What Wood To Use For Smoked Turkey
If you’re using wood-chips or chucks, you can control how much smoke your meat gets.
- Want a lot of smoke? Use more wood chips, for longer amount of time.
- Want less smoke? Use less chips, for a shorter amount of time.
- White oak, pecan and cherry are beautiful, mild smoking woods for poultry.
- Mesquite has a stronger smoke flavor, but still very tasty with poultry.
- Hickory is a very strong wood, which is great for beef, but I would avoid for poultry.
The USDA recommends getting turkey’s internal temperature to 165 degrees.
A 12 pound turkey takes about 6 hours.
You can smoke turkey and then fry or bake after smoking for a few hours for smoky flavor to get a crispier skin.
If your turkey stalls on the smoker, you would like to speed it along, or you only want some smoke flavor, you can finish your turkey in the oven. Continue in an oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit until the turkey reaches 175 degrees internal temperature.
If you have an electric smoker, you can use it! Be sure to add wood chips for flavor – but note that it is not necessary to soak wood chips for an electric smoker, though you do need to use the right box or tin for them if your smoker doesn’t come with one.
What to Serve With Smoked Turkey
If you’re looking for the best sides to serve with smoked turkey, I am rounding up my favorites below:
- The Best Easy Keto Garlic Butter Rolls Recipe
- Brown Sugar Bacon Wrapped Scallops Recipe
- The Best Easy Baked Scalloped Corn Recipe
- Easy Sausage Stuffed Acorn Squash Recipe
- The Best Oven Roasted Garlic Parmesan Asparagus Recipe
- Pan Roasted Butter Carrots
- Brown Butter Bacon Baked Brussels Sprouts Recipe
- The Best Keto Air Fryer Brussels Sprouts Recipe
- Easy Slow Cooker Pumpkin Bread Pudding Recipe
- Easy Blueberry Peach Cobbler Recipe
- 10 Minute Broccolini Recipe
You can find more of our Thanksgiving side dish recipes here.
Perfect Smoked Turkey Recipe
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- 1 cup kosher salt
- 1/2 cup light brown sugar
- 1 gallon vegetable stock
- 2 tablespoon black peppercorns
- 1 1/2 teaspoons allspice berries
- 1 1/2 teaspoons rosemary
- 2 teaspoons savory
- 1 gallon iced cubes
- 1 turkey, 12-14lb
- Bag of charcoal
- Chips or chunks for smoking (fruit wood or oak)
- Bring all ingredients, except ice to a boil.
- After you reach a rolling boil, turn off heat and let cool.
- Combine cooled brine with ice inside a garbage bag in a beverage cooler.
- Submerge turkey and seal cooler.
- Remove turkey from brine and allow to come to room temperature. Leave uncovered and allow to air dry.
- 2. Light your smoker 30-45 minutes before you intend to start cooking your turkey.
- 3. Cover the turkey with a wet cheese cloth or thin kitchen towel (one you’re prepared to throw away).
- 4. When your smoker reaches 235-250 degrees, add the turkey directly on the cooking grates.
- 5. Check your fire and rotate your turkey every 30 minutes, adding charcoal and wood chips/chunks as necessary.
- 6. Smoke your turkey at 235-250 degrees for 30-40 minutes per pound (a 12lbs turkey will take approximately 6 hours to smoke), until it reaches an internal temperature of 160 degrees.
- 7. Remove for smoker, cover, and let rest for 30 minutes before carving.
Nutrition InformationYield 8 Serving Size 1
Amount Per Serving Calories 110Total Fat 2gSaturated Fat 0gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 1gCholesterol 4mgSodium 8917mgCarbohydrates 21gFiber 2gSugar 15gProtein 3g
Nutrition is automatically calculated by Nutritionix - please verify all nutrition information independently and consult with a doctor or nutritionist for any and all medical and diet advice.