This Smoked Turkey recipe has amazing smokey flavor, is super moist, and very easy to make! My smoked turkey is great for Thanksgiving but is also perfect for other times of the year.
When my family has a gathering for a special occasion, a smoked turkey is on the menu because everyone loves the awesome smokey flavored meat.
This turkey recipe can be made in any smoker such as a pellet smoker, a Masterbuilt smoker, Traeger Smoker, Pit Boss or a Brinkmann smoker.
No heating up the oven and kitchen to make an oven turkey! This best smoked turkey recipe will become your new holiday tradition.
Thanksgiving turkey is a holiday meal that is well worth the extra steps. An entire turkey is brined overnight, then covered in a special blend of spices and slowly smoked until it has tender and juicy turkey meat.
If you have never had a smoked turkey for Thanksgiving, you are missing out! My step-by-step instructions is even easy enough for the novice chefs who have never made a smoked turkey before.
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Supplies Needed for Smoke Turkey
- Electric Smoker with appropriate wood chips or smoker pellets
- Whole Turkey (Frozen Turkey or Fresh Turkey)
- Salt (Kosher Salt or Table Salt)
- Seasoned Salt and Pepper (Onion Powder, Garlic Powder, Smoked Paprika, or Your Favorite Turkey Rub will also work!)
- Celery, Quartered Onion, and Apples
- Cooking String
How to Clean the Turkey
Make sure to clean the fresh turkey properly before it’s cooked. Remove anything that might be on the inside of the turkey cavity.
It’s not uncommon to find a “turkey giblets bag” that contains the turkey neck, gizzards, liver, and heart. In a clean sink, take your thawed turkey and carefully clean all the guck out of the inside of the bird making sure not to splash water all over the place.
With your fingertip, scrape each side of the spine to remove as much guts as you can. Discard any bits and rinse the inside of the turkey clean with cold water.
Smoked Turkey Brine Recipe
Do not skip this step! Make sure to brine your whole turkey overnight. This gives your cooked turkey extra flavor and also helps to make it juicy and tender.
We like to use a “food only” 5-gallon bucket. Add cold water to the clean bucket making sure to not fill more than halfway. Remember that you have to add the turkey and not have the water spill all over the place.
If you are smoking a smaller turkey, add about 1 cup of salt to the cold water. When making a medium to larger sized turkey, add about 1 ½ to 2 cups of salt to the cold water and stir to dissolve.
Carefully, place the cleaned turkey into the salt brine. Make sure the whole turkey is covered with cold water.
Place the bucket into a refrigerator overnight or for 24 hours. Make sure to keep the brined turkey cold. The last thing that you want is for the turkey to spoil because it was not held at the proper temperature.
Soaking Wood Chips
If you are using a smoker that requires wood chips, you will want to soak them in water. This can be done the night before or the morning that you plan to smoke the turkey.
Just don’t forget to soak them! We have gotten in the habit of when the turkey is placed in the bucket to brine, we start soaking the wood chips in water. The type of wood chips that you use is a personal preference.
How to Prepare the Smoked Turkey
Gather all the ingredients that is needed to smoke the turkey. You will want your favorite seasoning.
Remove the turkey from the salt brine and let the excess water drip from the bird. Do not rinse the turkey.
Place on a clean work surface such as a cutting board, a baking sheet pan, or a roasting pan. Using your favorite seasoning, sprinkle a generous amount on the inside of the cleaned turkey.
Place several stalks of celery, the sliced apples, and onion pieces inside the turkey. Sprinkle some of your seasoning on the inside of the wings and leg creases.
Tuck a few pieces of the onion and apple slices into the wing and leg creases. Then season on top and all sides of the turkey.
With cooking string, tie the wings close to the turkey so the apple and onion stay in place. Tie the legs together with string or the attached holder if one is provided.
How to Smoke a Turkey
Preheat your desired smoker. Every smoker is different so follow the manufacture settings. The grill temperature should be between 225°F and 350°F.
We like to use the Brinkmann smoker for our smoked turkey. It uses a drip pan (which we cover the edges with aluminum foil for easy cleanup), soaked wood chunks, and a cooking grate.
If you like a sweeter piece of smoked turkey, then use apple wood, cherry wood, or pellets such as cherry or apple. Other great pellet or wood chips choices would be hickory wood, walnut, or oak wood pellets.
Add the rack to the smoker. Once the smoker is at the right temperature, place the prepared turkey onto the smoker rack.
If you have a digital temperature probe, insert it into the turkey breast close to the bone. Close the lid and let the turkey cook.
How Long to Smoke a Turkey
How long to smoke a turkey is a loaded question. Every smoker is going to vary on smoking time.
This size if the turkey will factor in on the cooking time. The temperature outside will affect the cooking process.
Cooking time for smoked turkey is going to vary! When we use our Brinkmann smoker, it takes about 4 hours to smoke a medium sized turkey.
Use an instant read thermometer to check the exact temperature of the smoked turkey. The internal temperature of the smoked turkey should be 165°F at the thickest part of the whole bird.
Make sure to check several places on the cooked bird to insure it’s 165°F. You want the perfect smoked turkey to have a crispy skin.
The turkey skin should be a deep golden-brown color. Let the cooked turkey rest before cutting into it.
Check out this “Cooking Time Guide for Smoked Turkey” by Charbroil.
How to Hold Your Own Smoked Turkey
Did your best smoked turkey cook faster than you thought? Utilize your oven space and turn it on low or a warm setting. Place in a warm oven until you are ready to carve the turkey.
How to Serve the Smoked Turkey
Do not cut the smoked turkey until you are ready to serve it. Use a sharp kitchen knife and a carving fork to cut the turkey.
Have a large serving platter ready to arrange all the turkey meat pieces on. Start by removing the leg and thigh pieces off by cutting at the joint.
Next, cut the turkey wing pieces off and placing them on a large serving tray. Slice pieces of the turkey breast meat and arrange them on the platter.
Continue working all the way around the turkey carcass until you have removed as much of the smoked meat as possible. If desired, remove the meat from the legs, thighs, and wing pieces. Serve right away with your favorite side dishes.
Smoke Turkey Tips
- Make sure to soak the whole turkey in the salt brine to achieve a perfect smoked turkey recipe with minimal fuss.
- Keep it simple! Less is more, so don’t try fancy techniques like injecting the turkey meat.
- No need to add brown sugar to the outside as the turkey cooks.
- How much turkey meat will I get from a perfect smoked turkey? Check out this article from Dolly Domestic Blog – How Much Meat Does a Turkey Yield?
- Do not cover a smoking turkey! You want the turkey to infuse flavor from the smoke around the cooking turkey.
- No need to use paper towel to pat dry turkey. The spice rub will stick to a wet turkey better.
- A meat thermometer is a must. Do not rely on the pop-up timer or the recommended cooking time.
What to Serve with a Smoke Turkey
This is some of my favorite recipes that pairs beautifully with my smoked turkey. I am certain you’ll enjoy them! Try my mashed potatoes, homemade gravy, cranberry stuffing, and mashed butternut squash. This simple and easy kale salad is also a great addition to a turkey dinner!
And let’s not forget this beautiful chocolate truffle cake for dessert or this amazing red velvet marbled pound cake!! For a classic fall dessert, try this pumpkin cake roll. It’s one of my favorites and my family devours every crumb!!
Smoked Turkey Recipe – FAQ
I have used several different types of smoker grills. Our Brinkmann smoker is an older smoker but produces a very tasty smoked turkey. I think you should use what smoker you have and just focus on the techniques used in the smoking process.
Chef Sherry’s Online Cooking Classes
Smoked Turkey Recipe
Get the full recipe along with nutrition serving and nutrition calories as well as nutrition information below!
- Turkey, Whole 1 each
- Salt (Kosher Salt or Table Salt) 1 cup
- Water 2 gallons
- Salt, Seasoned 4 tablespoons
- Pepper, Seasoned 2 tablespoons
- Celery, Stalks 5 each
- Onion, White, Quartered. 1 each
- Apples, Sliced 2 each
- Thaw, clean, and rinse the whole turkey.
- In a large "Food Safe" 5-gallon bucket, fill half way with cold water.
- Add the salt (1 cup for a small turkey, 1 1/2 cup for a medium turkey, or 2 cups for a large turkey) and stir to dissolve.
- Carefully, place the cleaned turkey into the smoked turkey brine.
- Refrigerated for 8 to 24 hours.
- If using wood chips, place into a container and soak with water.
- Remove the turkey from the salt brine. Do not rinse.
- Place onto a baking sheet pan or a roasting pan.
- Prepare the celery stalks, onion pieces, and apple slices.
- Season the inside of the turkey cavity with seasoned salt and pepper.
- Fill the inside of the turkey with several pieces of the celery, onion and apple slices.
- Season the insides of the turkey wings and the turkey legs. Stuff the insides of the wings and legs with any remaining celery, onion and apple pieces.
- Tie the wings together and tie the legs together with cooking string.
- Generously season the outside and sides of the whole turkey.
- Preheat the smoker of your choice. Add the pellets or wood chips.
- Once the smoker is preheated, place the prepared whole turkey onto the smoker grill grate. If using a meat probe, insert into the turkey and close the lid.
- Smoke the turkey until it reaches an internal temperature of 165°F at it's thickest point.
- Remove from the smoker and let rest for several minutes before cutting it.
- Carve the smoked turkey right before serving into smaller pieces and place on a serving platter. Serve right away with your favorite side dishes.
- Not serving your turkey right away? Store in a warm oven until ready to serve.
- Keep the smoking turkey process simple! Less is more, so don't try fancy techniques that you have not done before.
- Not sure how much meat to cook. Check out this post from Dolly Domestic Blog - How Much Meat Does a Turkey Yield?
- Do not cover a smoked turkey as it is cooking! You want the whole turkey to infuse flavor from the smoke around the cooking turkey.
- An instant read meat thermometer is a must. Do not rely on the pop-up turkey timer.
As an Amazon Associate and member of other affiliate programs, I earn from qualifying purchases.
Pit Boss 20 lb Competition Blend Hardwood Pellets
Recteq RT-340 Wood Pellet Smoker Grill
Taylor Precision Products Programmable with Timer Instant Read Wired Probe Digital, Meat, Food, Grill BBQ Cooking Kitchen Thermometer with Timer, Gray
Morton Nature’s Seasons Seasoning Blend – (7.5 OZ 2 pack)
Lawry's Seasoned Salt, 16 oz
Amount Per Serving Calories 35Total Fat 0gSaturated Fat 0gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 0gCholesterol 3mgSodium 567mgCarbohydrates 7gFiber 2gSugar 5gProtein 1g
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