This Smoked Turkey is the perfect turkey to serve on Thanksgiving or other special occasions. The steps below are loaded with info and are very detailed, please take the time to read through them all before you smoke your first bird. Following everything below will bring you joy and you will become a turkey day of legend.
HOW TO SMOKE A TURKEY
You can make a smoked turkey at home, no matter what kind of grill you’ve got on your deck. In fact, our first ever smoked turkey was done on our old gas grill, and to date, is one of the best smoked turkeys I’ve ever had (you never forget your first!).
Nowadays, I prefer to use a barrel or cabinet smoker because it maintains the smoke and temperatures for me. But you can make this smoked turkey on a gas grill, charcoal grill, or any type of smoker you have. The most important thing is to use a grill where you can create indirect heat, maintain consistent temperatures, and add in the element of wood smoke.
Smoking a turkey definitely takes a bit longer than roasting. Read up and plan in advance so you can have plenty of time for the perfect turkey!
SUPPLIES NEEDED FOR A SMOKED TURKEY
Here’s what you’ll need to assemble in advance to make sure your smoking is a success:
Turkey. Make sure it is fully defrosted and around 15 pounds or less for food safety reasons.
Fuel. Ensure you have plenty of propane, gas, pellets, etc. prior to smoking this turkey.
Smoking Wood. This may consist of chips, chunks, or pellets. I definitely prefer apple, cherry, or hickory for smoked turkeys
Drip Pan. This turkey is gonna be juicy, so make sure you have a drip pan on hand to catch everything.
SMOKED TURKEY BRINE AND RUB
If you are using a pre-brined store bought turkey you should be ready to build a fire and get smoking. If you have planned ahead, you can create your own brine for a turkey and add in some amazing flavor (make sure you purchase a turkey that hasn’t been injected with a brining solution from the store).
I also recommend using a Smoked Bros Cherry Blast Rub on the surface of your turkey to add some authentic BBQ flavor. Just note that the sugar in the Smoked Bros Cherry Blast Rub will cause the skin of the bird to get quite dark and caramelized.
SMOKED TURKEY TEMPERATURE
The key to a great smoked turkey is indirect heat and consistent temperatures. The goal is to keep your ambient grill temperature at an even 225 degrees F for the duration of the cook. If you’re using gas, turn on half of the burners to medium-low and leave the other half off. For a charcoal grill, preheat your coals until just ashed over, dump them on one far side of your grill, and set the vents to about 25% open. If you are using a dedicated smoker, preheat your grill to 225 degrees F.
For a gas grill, use a smoker box to add chips and generate smoke. If you are using charcoal, place wood chunks directly in the preheated coals. For a smoker, follow manufacturer’s instructions to get even smoke. Whatever method, you want the smoke coming from your grill vents to be thin, swirling, and just lightly tinted blue.
PREPARING THE TURKEY FOR THE SMOKER
First up, remove your defrosted turkey from the packaging. Remove the neck and giblets from the inside cavity of the bird. If your turkey has been brined, carefully rinse the exterior of the turkey with cold water.
Next, pat the turkey down on all sides with a paper towel. Tie the legs together with butcher’s twine and tuck the wing tips behind the shoulder joint. This will help prevent the tips from burning and create a more beautiful presentation with the final bird.
At this point, I like to coat the exterior of the bird with olive oil or melted butter and then season on all sides with Smoked Bros Cherry Blast Rub. If you brined your turkey, it will be sufficiently seasoned and won’t require any additional seasoning on the exterior. I would still coat lightly with olive oil or melted butter for crispier skin.
I do not recommend stuffing a turkey with dressing before smoking. By the time the inside of the stuffing reaches a safe temperature, the meat of the bird is typically overcooked. You can add in apples, onions, herbs, or citrus to the interior of your turkey for additional flavor, just don’t pack it in there tightly so the air can still circulate and be sure to discard whatever is inside the bird after you’re done smoking.
HOW LONG TO SMOKE A TURKEY
Once your smoker is ready to go, it’s time to get that bird on the grill! Place the turkey on the grill grate breast side up (no need for a roasting pan) on the indirect heat side of the grill. If you are cooking on gas or charcoal where you have slightly higher temperatures on one side of the grill, be prepared to rotate the turkey several times during the cooking process for even cooking.