How To Smoke Turkey (The Easy Way)

Are you looking for a recipe for smoked turkey? 

You’re in the right place!

In this TheGrillingDad.com recipe, you’ll learn: 

  • Ingredients needed 
  • Step by step recipe on how to smoke a turkey
  • And much more! 
smoked turkey recipe

You don’t have to wait for Thanksgiving to have a good turkey dinner.

This smoked turkey will steal the show at any dinner, whether it is a special occasion or just because.

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How to Smoke a Turkey (7 Simple Steps)

  1. Thaw the Turkey
  2. Brine It
  3. Prep Time
  4. Start Smoking for 30 Minutes
  5. Cover Turkey and Smoke Until Done (About 7 Hours)
  6. Let It Rest 
  7. Carve It, Serve, and Be Thankful

More details on each step below. 

Ingredients for Smoked Turkey

  • 15-pound turkey
  • 1 whole apple, quartered
  • 1 whole lemon, quartered
  • 1 whole onion, quartered
  • 1 tbsp of garlic, minced
  • 4 tbsp of melted butter
  • 4-6 sprigs of fresh rosemary
  • 4-6 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 2 tbsp of salt (if brining)
  • 2 cups of apple juice (if brining)
  • Several cups of room temperature water (if brining)
  • A few chunks of hickory or pecan wood

How Much Smoked Turkey Per Person?

For a smoked turkey, you should plan around 1 ½ lbs.

per person you’ll be feeding. At 1 ½ lbs. per person, everyone will get their fill with plenty of leftovers for next day sandwiches.

A 15-pound turkey will feed around 10-12 people at this rate!

Read More >> Smoked Spatchcock Turkey (An Easy Recipe)

Catching the Smoked Turkey Drippings?

A foil drip pan to catch the juices of the turkey is important for making gravy later.

Place a pan under the smoker and put several cups of water in prior to smoking your turkey.

The water will evaporate during the process so make sure to fill it as needed.

This helps keep the smoking environment moist, so you don’t get a dry bird!

Once you’re done, you can make a delicious homemade gravy to go with your turkey.

Step 1: Thaw the turkey

Thawing a turkey usually takes about 24 hours for every 4 pounds. For a 15-pound turkey, you’ll want to put the turkey in the refrigerator 5 days before you want to smoke it.
 
The extra day is for brining the bird, which is in the next step. 
 
Leave the turkey in the original packaging and place it on a platter or cooking sheet so you don’t have a big mess to clean up after it thaws.

Step 2: The Brine

If you buy a higher-quality turkey, you won’t have to brine it yourself, but I still do because it’s now just a part of my process. 
 
Brining is just soaking your turkey overnight, usually in saltwater, which allows the turkey to absorb and retain more moisture.
 
I use a cooler and place the thawed turkey in it with 2 tbsp of salt, 2 cups of apple juice, and then I pour room temperature water until the turkey is submerged.
 
Let it stay in the cooler for 24-hours. 
 
While the turkey is in the cooler, you do not want it to exceed 40 degrees Fahrenheit. For some, that means setting the cooler outside, while for others, you may want to add a few pounds of ice. 
 
As a safety precaution, I always add a meat thermometer inside the cooler and I get an alert if it crosses 40 degrees. 
 
(Thanks for calling this out, Michael!)

Step 3: Prep Time

Go get your smoker started and set the temp to a steady 225° F.
 
Now that your turkey is brined, you’ll want to drain all the water from the cavity into the cooler or sink. You’ll also want to dab the turkey with a paper towel so it’s not soaking wet. Some moisture is okay, but you don’t want it so wet that it’ll slip from your hands or not hold your seasonings.
 
Place the quartered apple, lemon, and onion in the turkey’s cavity. I also put half of the rosemary and half of the thyme in the cavity in this step as well. 
 
After that, rub the melted butter and minced garlic all over the outside of the turkey. 
 
Put the remaining rosemary and thyme sprigs on top of the turkey. I usually break them apart for the outside of the turkey, but keep them whole in the cavity. 
 
Place the turkey in a roasting pan or cooking sheet. This makes it a lot easier to carry from the prep area to the smoker and it will be used again later. 

Step 4: Start Smoking for 30 Minutes

Place the turkey on the smoker. You can either put it directly on the grill grates with the pan underneath it or keep it on the pan inside the smoker. 
 
The pan being underneath it helps catch the drippings that can be used for dressing later and it also helps clean up. If you put the pan underneath it, I like to add water to cover the bottom of the pan so the drippings don’t burn. 
 
Keep it unwrapped during this stage, so the turkey can absorb some of the smoke flavors. I prefer hickory or pecan wood for turkey.
 

Step 5: Cover Turkey and Keep Smoking Until Done (About 7 Hours)

After 30 minutes to an hour of being on the smoker, the turkey has absorbs about as much smoke as it’s going to get.
 
At this point, we want to cover it with aluminum foil to preserve that nice golden color of the turkey. You can leave it uncovered, but the skin may crisp up more than you originally wanted–I learned this the hard way. 
 
After covering it, keep the turkey smoking until it reaches an internal temperature of 165° F. This should take about 7 hours. 

Step 6: Let It Rest For About At Least 15 Minutes

Before carving it up and serving it, you’ll want to let the turkey rest at room temperature for about 15 minutes. 
 
Be warned, you’ll have every person within smelling distance ready to dig in as soon as you bring it inside. 

Step 7: Carve It, Serve, and Be Thankful

Now that your turkey is smoked and rested, it’s time to carve it. 

Using a sharp knife will help eliminate unnecessary pressure and leads to far fewer accidents
 
After carving it, it’s time to serve it. 
 
There is usually a lot of pressure on making a perfect Thanksgiving dinner, so remember to reflect on all you’re thankful for and the turkey will magically taste even better. 
 
Enjoy!

2 thoughts on “How To Smoke Turkey (The Easy Way)”

    • Michael, I live in a cold enough area that I set my cooler outside and it never gets above 40 degrees inside the cooler (which is as high as you want it to get). Great catch as those in warmer areas should add ice to keep it under 40. Thank you!

      Reply

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Shawn Hill

Shawn Hill

Hey, I’m Shawn and I run this site. With a wife and 7 kids, I get most of my grilling practice from feeding my own family.

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