Mix up your Thanksgiving Dinner Recipe this year by serving a smoked turkey recipe. This smoked turkey is coated in a homemade BBQ Rub (or use a classic Turkey Rub) and smoked low and slow, to create a perfectly seasoned crust to compliment the juicy interior.
Smoke a turkey and leave your oven open for all the other Thanksgiving recipes you have on tap this year! Other turkey recipes to check out: Smoked Turkey Breast, Smoked Turkey Wings and Instant Pot Turkey.
Table of Contents
How To Smoke A Turkey
Smoking a whole turkey is easy when using the best smoked turkey recipe plus have 20 Tips from a Pitmaster to mastering the art of smoking a turkey! This turkey recipe can be made on any grill. Smoking a turkey on an electric smoker works great, as does as gas grill, electric smoker or manual smoker. We provide instructions for all methods. Just make sure you have the supplies called out below.
- Gas Grill – depending on the brand, a good setting to test out is turning half the burners (on the same side of the grill) to medium-low while the other burners are off. You’ll create smoke by using a smoker box to add chips/chunks. This route isn’t recommended due to the amount of propane you’ll need.
- Charcoal – Pre-heat the coals until just washed over. Dump them on the far side (either left or right) of your grill and open the vents to 25%. Create smoke by placing wood chunks directly on the pre-heated coals.
- Pellet/Electric Smoker – Pre-heat your grill to 225 degrees F. Follow the manufacture’s instructions to get an even smoke.
Grilled Turkey Temperature
The goal is to keep the ambient temperature as close to 225 degrees F as possible. If you’re opting to use a manual smoker or gas grill, aim to keep it between 225 – 250 degrees F. No matter what method you use, make sure the smoke coming off the grill is thin and has a light blue tint.
Turkey Smoking Recipe Supplies:
- Turkey – The turkey should be 100% defrosted and weight under 15 pounds.
- Energy Source – The turkey will be on the grill for hours so make sure you stock up on your selected energy source: charcoal, pellets, propane, gas, etc.
- Smoking Wood – Chunks, chips or pellets.
- Disposable Drip Pan – A big bird = extra drippings. Using a drip pan to catch the juices is highly recommended. Plus you can use it for gravy.
- Thermometer – Always use a thermometer. Always. Our go-to digital thermometer is the Thermaworks Dot. It never fails.
- Water Bottle – Use it to spritz the turkey while cooking. We use inexpensive spray bottles from Amazon.
- Smoker Box – You’ll need one to impart the smoke flavor if using a gas grill. We’ve used this one from Amazon in the past.
What Is the Best Smoker For Smoking Turkey?
As mentioned above, they all work great. Each has its own benefits. Just remember the most important thing is to create indirect heat and maintain the temperature.
- Electric Smoker – Perfect for beginning smokers. It’s easy to maintain the temperature over long periods and is easy to add extra wood when required.
- Pellet Smoker (Smoking A Turkey Traeger Style) – Any brand will work. Pellet smokers are awesome for painting smoke and temperature without much effort, which is very helpful come turkey day!
- Gas Grill – The upside of a gas grill is consistent temp. The downside? Make sure you have enough propane to last upwards of 6-7 hours.
- Charcoal Grill – Quite a bit more “manual” labor going on when you use a charcoal grill. You’ll have to see your eyes on the temp and add more charcoal or wood as needed. This is the method we prefer, simply because we enjoy managing the grill. It’s not the easiest, but it’s pretty fun. Just make sure you have enough charcoal and wood to last upwards of 6-7 hours.
How Long To Smoke A Turkey?
A great guideline is 30 minutes per pound at 225 degrees F. A 10 pound turkey should take about five hours. If you’re smoking it at 250 degrees F, it will take about 25 minutes per pound.
This recipe maxes out the bird size as 15 pounds because it will take way too long to get out of the food safety danger zone (40-140 degrees F). At that point bacteria can set in and spoil the turkey. Shoot for the turkey finishing about 30 minutes prior to when you want to serve it. You’d rather have it done a bit early, and cover with foil then have the other food waiting for the turkey to be done.
What Do You Stuff A Turkey With?
We don’t stuff anything in the big beast. We don’t notice the VERY slight flavor it may impart after smoking. If you must, feel free to add some aromatics like rosemary and thyme or even garlic and onions. Just don’t stuff it full as you need space for the air to circulate. Feel free to brine it prior if that’s your thing (we use this turkey brine recipe). Don’t try and make stuffing in the cavity and it won’t be finished cooking when the turkey is ready to be pulled.
What Type Of Wood Is Best For Smoking Turkey?
What’s the Best Wood To Smoke Turkey? Depends what you’re going for. Cherry wood and apple wood are great options. We enjoy Pecan when smoking poultry, but maple imparts a great sweet flavor as well. If you prefer a stronger smoke flavor for your Thanksgiving Smoked Turkey, opt for hickory.
Make sure to reference the list of the Best Wood For Smoking Turkey.
Whole Smoked Turkey Temperature
When making a smoked turkey the thickest part of the leg should register 165 degrees F on a digital thermometer. Take the temp on both sides of the birds (unless you’re using a rotisserie). You’ll use the lowest temperature as the temperature. We typically start measuring the temp about an hour before it’s suppose to be done, to avoid overcooking. Each bird has a unique shape and size so this helps overcome these oddities.
What Do You Baste A Turkey With?
We make a batch of our Instant Pot Bone Broth and spritz the bird every hour or so. You can use store bought turkey or chicken broth if you don’t want to make a homemade broth. Grab a Substitute for beef broth or chicken broth substitute if you need to.
You can also make a double batch of a Turkey Injection Recipe to use as a baste.
Skip basting if you brined the turkey. Make sure to order a cheap water bottle if you don’t have one on hand for basting.
How Much Turkey Per Person?
Calculate about 1.5 pounds of turkey per person. Why so much? Much of that weight it bones, etc. that isn’t edible.
Just make sure to fill the dripping pan with a few cups of water as it cooks. You’ll have to re-fill it every time the water starts to get low.
Roasted Brussel Sprouts with Balsamic Glaze
Garlic Mashed Potatoes
Roasted Butternut Squash
Roasted Mushrooms in Garlic Butter
Slow Cooker Mashed Potatoes
Instant Pot Mushrooms
Ensalada de Coditos
Ensalada de Papa
Have fun making this Smoked Turkey for Thanksgiving!
If serving wine, check out our list of the best wine with turkey.
- 1 10-15 Lb Whole Turkey, Giblets and Neck Removed (*Note 1)
- 2 TBSP Olive Oil (*Note 2)
- 1 Batch BBQ Rub (*Note 3)
- 2 Cups Instant Pot Bone Broth (*Note 4)
Prep The Turkey:
- Remove the neck and giblets from the cavity. Pat the turkey dry with paper towels. If you brined the bird, rinse off the brine with cold water prior to patting dry. Stuff the turkey, if desired, and tie the legs together with kitchen twine.
- Coat the turkey with olive oil and then generously coat with the BBQ Rub.
Prep The Smoker (Pellet or Electric):
- Pre-heat the smoker to 225 degrees F and set up for indirect heat. Load the smoker with your wood of choice and a drip pan full of water.
Prep The Grill (Gas or Charcoal):
- Pre-heat the grill to 225 degrees F and set up for indirect heat. Aim to keep the temperature between 225 – 250 degrees F. Gas Grill- turn half the burners (on the same side of the grill) to medium-low while the other burners are off. Use a smoker box to add chips/chunks of wood to create a thin blue smoke. Charcoal – Pre-heat the coals until just ashed over. Dump them on the far side (either left or right) of your grill and open the vents to 25%. Create smoke by placing wood chunks directly on the pre-heated coals.
Smoke The Turkey: Directly on The Grill/Smoker
- Transfer the turkey to a pre-heated grill.
- Cook for 30 minutes per pound at 225 degrees F, spritzing with the broth every 45-60 minutes. When spritzing, check the drip pan to see if more water needs to be added. Replenish the wood chips/pellets/charcoal, as needed, to maintain the temperature.
- Smoke until the thickest part of the thigh reaches 165 degrees F. Check the temperature on both legs and use the lower of the two temperature readings. Cover the turkey with foil, if the skin starts getting overly dark.
- Remove the turkey to a large cutting board and let rest for 15 minutes. If not serving right away, cover with foil and wrap with towels to keep in the heat until you're ready to serve.
- Remove the twine before carving and serving.