How to Smoke a Turkey

When you smoke a turkey, you ensure a moist, flavorful bird. We're sharing our must-have tips for how to smoke a turkey, including recipes, videos, cooking times, and more! For even more delicious flavor, check out our expert ideas for turkey brines and turkey rubs. Use this handy guide for juicy, smoky turkey every time!

Step 1: Pick the Right Bird

Smoked Turkey

When smoking a whole turkey, use a small bird. A turkey larger than 12 pounds stays in the temperature "danger zone" too long before it cooks and could cause foodborne illness.

Step 2: Brine and Rub for Best Flavor

Smoked Turkey

Brining your turkey first is our key to a moist, tender, and flavorful bird. Be sure to plan ahead, since most brines require 8 to 12 hours of marinating time. 

Find out how to brine a turkey here

A rub is a blend of herbs, spices, and seasonings. Adding a rub to smoked turkey gives it great flavor. 

Get our favorite rub recipes: Cajun Rub Mole Rub Garlic and Herb Mix

Step 3: Prepare the Turkey

Smoked Turkey

To ensure even cooking, prep your turkey for smoking. If a band of skin crosses the tail, tuck the drumsticks under the band. Otherwise, tie drumsticks to the tail. Twist wing tips under the back to avoid burning. 

Step 4: Prepare the Smoker

Smoked Turkey

Prepare the smoker according the manufacturer's directions. Add five soaked and drained wood chunks to smoker. Place turkey, breast side up, on the top rack of your smoker. 

Add one to two additional chunks when only a wisp of smoke comes through the top vent.

We like to use cherry wood or apple wood chunks. However, oak and hickory impart great flavor as well.

 

Step 5: Smoke Your Turkey

Smoked Turkey

For an 8- to 10-pound whole turkey, smoke for 4 to 5 hours at 225 - 250 degrees F until no longer pink. The internal temperature should read 180 degrees F in the thigh muscle.

Remove turkey from smoker and cover with foil. Let the turkey stand for 15 minutes prior to carving for the juiciest meat.

Try Wet Smoking

Smoked Turkey

Wet smoking or water smoking uses a pan of water in the smoker to maintain moisture and tenderness.

Some tips for wet smoking:

  • Keep the water pan full, replenishing as needed with hot tap water.
  • Check the pan once per hour.
  • Place the pan in the middle of the smoker.
  • Follow manufacturer's directions for cooking times and temperatures.

Wood Chips vs. Wood Chunks

Smoked Turkey

Wood chips burn too quickly in the smoker, so opt for chunks of hardwood instead. Soak wood chunks in water for 1 hour prior to adding to the smoker. Add them to the smoker once the charcoal is hot and ashed over. When only a little smoke is coming out of the vent, add additional soaked wood chunks. 

Put food in smoker 10 to 15 minutes later. Stop adding wood when the food is halfway done, and continue to cook without smoke until food is finished. Smoking for too long can give food a bitter flavor.

Charcoal Tips

Smoked Turkey

Use charcoal briquettes for your fire. They burn slowly, are readily available, and are inexpensive. We like to use a cylindrical chimney starter and wadded-up paper rather than lighter fluid to start the charcoal. Once ash forms, the briquettes are ready to be distributed.

Be sure to distribute the briquettes evenly in your smoker. 

Learn More About Smoking!

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