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!
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.
You want to make sure that you smoke a thawed turkey. Do not try to cook a frozen turkey.
Remove the neck, gizzard and other internal parts that are inside the turkey.
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.
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 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 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.
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.
Tips for Smoking Turkey
Choose the Right Smoke
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.)
There are two benefits to spatchcocking the turkey.
- The turkey will absorb more smoke because there is more surface area.
- The turkey will cook faster than a whole turkey because the bird is about the same thickness throughout.
Keep the Goodness Going
- 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
- Mix all the dry ingredients together.
- Take one tablespoon of the dry ingredients and dust the inner cavity.
- Mix the remaining dry ingredients with the oil to make a paste.
- Smear this under the skin of the turkey breast and over the outside of the entire bird.