How to Smoke Turkey in an Electric Smoker

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Not sure how to cook a tasty turkey dinner?  Try just simply popping it in the smoker!  Because smoking cooks by applying low heat over a long period of time, this is a great way to ensure that the meat of your turkey will be moist and infused with delicious smoky flavor.  As if this isn’t reason enough, smoking a turkey will also free up your oven for baking yummy side dishes and desserts, instead!

Choose it
There are plenty of options to choose from when purchasing a turkey.  We suggest buying a whole turkey with no added ingredients or flavors.  The bones in the whole turkey will help keep the meat moist as it cooks and you can add your own favorite flavors through brines, injectors, or rubs.

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Select a whole turkey with no added ingredients or flavors.

Thaw it
You want to make sure that you smoke a thawed turkey. Do not try to cook a frozen turkey.

Clean it
Remove the neck, gizzard and other internal parts that are inside the turkey.

Brine It
Before you smoke turkey, you need to brine it. Submerge the turkey (breast down) in a gallon of water and 1 cup of kosher salt. The salt will break down the muscle, which will help tenderize the meat and increase moisture absorption.

Let the turkey brine for about 1 hour per 1 pound of meat.

Rinse it
Remove the turkey from the brine, rinse it in cold water. Be sure to rinse all surfaces of the bird, including the body cavity.

Dry it
Dry off the turkey with a towel, and let it rest for about 12 to 24 hours so that the salt and flavors can really disperse throughout the meat.

Season it
Season the brined turkey with a mix of spices and herbs. If you’re smoking a whole turkey, use a dry rub in the cavity and a wet rub on the outside. The wet rub will stick to the meat better and it will help moisture retention.

For the wet rub, mix vegetable oil and seasonings into a thick paste. You want the rub to get under the skin of the breast, so gently separate the skin from the meat and massage the rub under the skin. Don’t completely remove the skin off the bird; when you’ve completely rubbed the meat, use toothpicks to hold the skin on the turkey. Take any remaining rub and coat the outside of the bird.

Smoke it
Preheat your smoker to 225 degrees Fahrenheit. Oil the grate to prevent the turkey from sticking. Add your turkey, and insert a temperature probe into the breast.

If you have a Char-Broil Digital Electric Smoker, you can set the desired internal temperature to 160 degrees Fahrenheit, and your smoker will automatically turn on warm mode when the turkey has reached the desired temperature. Otherwise, keep a close eye on your turkey temperature so that you don’t over cook and dry out your turkey. Calculate about 30 to 40 minutes per pound.

Baste the turkey with a little vegetable oil or melted butter a few times during the cook to keep it moist.

Let the turkey smoke until the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove the turkey, and let it rest until it’s reached an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

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Using the smoker is a no-fuss way to prepare a beautifully cooked whole turkey.

Tips for Smoking Turkey

Choose the Right Smoke

Turkey tends to absorb smoke easier than red meat, so use mild woods.  Apple and cherry woods have a sweet taste that compliments turkey well.

Hickory and mesquite are heavier woods that can quickly overpower a turkey, but if you blend about ¼ of the heavier flavored wood with ¾ milder wood, you can offset the strong hickory or mesquite flavor.

Spatchcock the Turkey

To spatchcock a turkey, you cut out the spine and loosen, or remove, the breastbone to make the turkey lay flat. (For a “how to”, check out How to Spatchcock a Chicken, the process is the same.)

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Spatchcocking a turkey isn’t hard and is absolutely worth the extra time.

There are two benefits to spatchcocking the turkey.

  1. The turkey will absorb more smoke because there is more surface area.
  2. The turkey will cook faster than a whole turkey because the bird is about the same thickness throughout.

Keep the Goodness Going 

Be sure to prepare some delicious sides to serve alongside your smoked turkey.  We suggest a cheesy potatoes au gratin dish and a classic green bean casserole.

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A smoked turkey dinner, complete with all the best side dishes!
Smoked Turkey Rub

Ingredients

  • 1/4-cup vegetable oil
  • 2-tablespoons onion powder
  • 1-tablespoon paprika
  • 2-teaspoons garlic powder
  • 2-teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2-teaspoons white pepper
  • 1-teaspoon powdered ginger
  • 1/2-teaspoon powdered sage

Instructions

  1. Mix all the dry ingredients together.
  2. Take one tablespoon of the dry ingredients and dust the inner cavity.
  3. Mix the remaining dry ingredients with the oil to make a paste.
  4. Smear this under the skin of the turkey breast and over the outside of the entire bird.
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62 thoughts on “How to Smoke Turkey in an Electric Smoker

  1. This has stood up very well to weather and still works flawlessly. (It is kept outside, but always covered.) The optional rib hooks work very well. I can cook 4 short racks of ribs at a time. Great flavor and no burning. The BBQ sauce added near the end of the cook time caramelizes very evenly. They accidentally sent me a rack for chicken legs, so I tried it, and it makes great legs in quantity. Still love this thing.

  2. I have a Tru Infrared gas unit, I tried cooking with a thermometer the breast. The temperature reached 165 f, but when the turkey was opened we still rare meat. Inside temperature was around 375 f and cook time was 1 hr 35 mins.
    Would I get better results by cooking at lower temp, say 265 f, and a longer time. The turkey, was seared on the outside, mostly blacken but the cooked meat was great in the breast area, legs seemed a little uncooked.

  3. Little lower temp and longer cook time will help. Keep in mind, when smoking that the internal meat color will not look like it does if your grilling or baking. Thats why the internal temperature of the breast or thigh is very important to indication of meat being done

  4. + Follow the manufacturer’s directions for preparing the smoker.
    + Prepare an 8 to 18 lb. thawed or fresh turkey by removing the giblets and neck draining the juices, and drying with paper towels. The turkey should be completely thawed for even, safe cooking.
    + Do not stuff your turkey. Brush the skin with vegetable oil and insert an oven-safe meat thermometer deep into lower thigh.
    + Set the smoker to 225° F. Place the turkey on a cooking rack and cook for 8 to 12 hours or until the inner thigh temperature reaches 180° F.
    + Check the temperature of your turkey after 3½ hours. Your turkey must pass through a critical range of 40° F to 140° F in 4 hours or less. If the internal temperature is low after 3½ hours, take your turkey off the smoker and finish it in the oven.
    + Cover the turkey and chill or let stand for 20 minutes before carving.

  5. I have followed the recipe on this page as far as cooking times and found it to be flawless.
    it is important to remember that when it comes to cooking times that it is an exact science if all criteria are met.

  6. How often do you add chips? I see the section about using milder wood, but not how much and how often.

    1. Hi Chris, you will want to add chips as soon as the chips that are in the smoker box have stopped smoking. You may want to do this 2 or 3 times during the cooking process.

  7. If you “spatchcock” the turkey, do you follow the same rules regarding time to cook, i.e., “Calculate about 30 to 40 minutes per pound”? Thanks

    1. Hi Cathy, yes, you will follow the same rules if you spatchcock the turkey of 30-40 minutes per pound.

      1. Hey, you say in the hints above that spatchcocking reduces cook time? I’ve read on other smoker sites that it reduces the cook time per pound to 11-13min. Why do you not factor in the faster cook time?

        1. Hi Stephen, cooking times can vary when cooking a turkey in an electric smoker. For general guidelines, this recipe follows the 30-40 minute per pound ratio based on the cooking temperature and how the turkey was prepared beyond spatchcocking.

  8. Do you recommend smoking the turkey on a pan or directly on the grates? We have an electric smoker. Thanks.

  9. This is going to be mine my 1st time smoking a turkey. I will be going exactly by your direction, wish me LUCK, but I have 1 question should I put the turkey directly on the rack or put on a pan.

    1. Hi C. Cooper, we recommend putting the turkey directly on the rack. The drip pan underneath will catch any drippings that come off the turkey. Good luck!

    1. Hi S. Hunt, yes, you will want to smoke the turkey breast side up, much like you would if you were cooking it in a roasting pan in an oven.

  10. I am seeing a huge variance in cook times for turkeys depending on the site. Some say 10-15 minutes per pound, some say 30-40. How can that be? We just purchased the smoker and plan to cook a turkey in it for Thanksgiving.

    1. Hi Jo, for the Digital Electric Smoker, when the temperature is set to 225F, your cooking time will be 30-40 minutes per pound for a whole, bone-in turkey. The higher the temperature is set, the quicker the cooking time is going to be. For smoking a turkey, a low and slow method is preferred, which is why it takes longer at the optimal temperature of 225F.

      1. I smoked a 10 lb turkey a few weeks ago, it was about 30 mins per pound, electric charbroil smoker

    1. Hi Tommy, you can smoke a turkey and ham at the same time. You will want to cook them on separate shelves on opposite sides of each other if you do not want any drippings to fall on top of the other. Smoke at 225F and cook until the turkey reaches an internal temperature of at least 165F and the ham reaches an internal temperature of at least 145F.

    2. I like to put a ham directly over the turkey and let the juices run over the turkey. This adds an incredible flavor to the turkey.

  11. Has anyone ever heard of mixing buttermilk with the brine solution? I always soak chicken breasts in buttermilk before I cook them. Just wondering…..

  12. We put our ham on the rack above the turkey and let the ham juices drip down on the turkey. It’s delicious!

    1. Hi Michael, there should be a separate water pan and a smoker box included with a gas smoker. The smoker box will hold your wood chips and the water pan is meant to hold water only.

  13. We have just received our smoker and are anxious to try it out. My husband is reading the instructions and the book says not to refill the wood smoker box during cooking. I read in your comments that for a 18 lb turkey, you will need to refill the box 2 or three times. He’s confused. We don’t want to turn the smoker off and have to build up again to the desired temperature. Or do we?
    Sandi

    1. Hi Sandi, it will be alright to remove and refill the smoker box during cooking. It will be hot, so handle carefully and dispose of the chips in a heat and fire-proof disposal container. Add new chips to the smoker box and replace. It may take a bit longer for the chips to start smoking than the first batch, but that is normal. Hope this helps!

  14. I’m smoking a 11lb bone in turkey. I plan to brine it for 5 hours then rinse and let it sit for 12 hours before smoking. I’m using applewood chips, what do you recommend for basting ?

  15. We’re smoking a turkey for the first time this year. I’m the one who will get up early on Thursday to put the turkey in, but am afraid I won’t have the strength, time, and/or ability for the spatchcocking process that morning. Can you spatchcock the turkey before brining it? It will save me time and stress in the morning!

  16. Just saw your reoly to smoking a ham and a turkey simultaneously on a double rack smoker. If I smoked two 12 pond turkeys on an electric smoker how much time should I allow?

    1. Hi Ben, the time should be the same for cooking one turkey in the electric smoker, but you should always base your cooking more on the birds reaching an internal temperature of 165F.

  17. I am going to smoke 2, 15# turkeys at the same time in a Char-Broil 505 Electric smoker. I will be using cherry wood chips at a desired temp of 225. Does anyone have any ideas or tips on doing 2 at a time. This will be a first for me.

  18. I have always smoked my birds breast side down. Is there a reason I shouldn’t I don’t care how they look, I just feel it keeps the meat moist.

    1. Hi Teresa, how you cook the bird is based on preference, as it can be cooked on either side. For this recipe, we prefer to cook the turkey breast side up.

  19. Good morning , I have a 15 lb turkey I spatchcocked for the smoker. Will about 4 hours at 225 be sufficient?

    1. Hi Bernadine, cooking times will vary. Make sure to cook the turkey until it reaches an internal temperature of 165F in the breast and 180F in the thigh.

  20. I know that brining makes the bird more moist and tender, but my sister is very hypertensive so we don’t cook with too much salt. Will the turkey be dry if I don’t brine. This is my first time smoking a turkey. I have always used an oven bag in the oven.

    1. Hi Tracy, if you do not prefer to brine a turkey, you can use a rub instead. A brine may moisten the turkey, but as long as you watch it during cooking you should be fine.

  21. Cooking a 14lb turkey at 225 and it reached internal temp of 170 very fast it seems…just over 5 hours, does that seem right?? Directions say 30-40 mins per pound and mine cooked much quicker than that??

    1. Hi Mike, the cooking time may vary based on the size of the bird. You want to make sure that the internal temperature of the breast reaches 165F and the thigh reaches 180F.

    1. Hi Dee, it is best to rinse a turkey before brining, but if you follow proper cooking procedures the turkey should be fine. You can spatchcock the turkey after brining if you prefer.

  22. I put my dry-brined 14 lb. turkey in the electric smoker at 9:20am, figuring 6–8 hours of smoking until done. After only three hours, the breast is at 160. Is that possible?

    1. Hi Lee, this may be possible. Cooking times may vary, and you may hit the “stall” when cooking the turkey, as the last 20-25 degrees may take the longest to cook. To extend to cook without drying out the meat, try spritzing with water and wrapping the turkey in foil to maintain heat without drying out..

    1. Hi Steve, when smoking with wood chips, the smoke produced has a combination of gases and water vapor produced inside the smoker that produces a crust on meat, making it appear black. This is a natural part of the smoking process.

  23. I just got the Char-broil 725 with remote. I’m about to start smoking a turkey and would like to know if I can set the cook temp while using the meat probe to stop cooking at a set temperature of inside the turkey?

    1. Hi James, when using the meat probe, you can set the temperature you would like the smoker to cook your food until it reaches a target internal temperature, at which time it will stop cooking.

  24. Hi, thanks for the help!
    I can’t set the temp on my electric smoker. You plug it in and the heating element at the bottom of the “Little Smoker ” just goes. Its been cooking for 4 hours and I just checked deep breast temp & got 137 degrees. Do you think it will be ok to finish out in the smoker?
    The deep thigh temp was 155 degrees…

  25. I’ve heard about injecting turkeys… I have an injector, but wondered what mix to use to inject??

    1. Hi Steve, we can recommend using an injection of 1/2 of each: butter, white wine and honey. For more information, check out All-Star blogger Chris Grove’s recipe here.

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