February 10

How to make Smoked Turkey Online Turkey Smoking Course


Smoked turkey done right is mouth watering and succulent. More flavorful and tender than their oven roasted cousins a smoked bird is a true delicacy, especially around Thanksgiving.

If you long for the wonderful taste of smoked turkey but deny yourself the luxury due to cost, rejoice! It’s surprisingly easy and cost effective to make your own home made smoked turkey. This tempting fare is fun to make, fun to eat, and will become an instant family classic.

Any Meat Smoker will work, but did you know you can also use your gas or charcoal grill? See our Charcoal Grill and Gas Grill Smoking pages for details.

Smoking turkey involves a little more time and effort than oven roasting, but the rewards are delicious! To properly smoke a turkey you need to…

  1. Purchase the right bird

  2. Prepare the brine

  3. Prep the turkey

  4. Brine the turkey

  5. Rinse and dry the bird

  6. Cure the turkey

  7. Season and Spice

  8. Smoke the turkey

  9. Set the turkey

Buying the Right Bird 

For the best results you want a fresh turkey. If you can afford it buy a free range Turkey. If you can’t get a free range bird get one that is not frozen. Freezing and thawing can be pretty rough on turkey meat.

Try a meat shop or high end grocery store when you purchase your turkey. You may pay a little more but it is worth it. If you must get a frozen bird make sure you thaw it completely before proceeding.

Making the Brine

Prepare you favorite turkey brine. If you don’t know how see our Turkey Brine Made Easy page. The page Making Turkey Brine gives a detailed explanation on how this is done.

 Prepare the Turkey

Remove the neck and giblets body and neck cavities. If there is any excess fat on skin remove it, taking care to leave as much of the skin on the turkey as possible. Clean the cavity and outside with cold water, again try not to damage the skin.

Now it’s time to separate the skin from the breast. You will pull the skin free of the breast, take care not to tear the skin as you pull it free. This will allow the brine to penetrate the breast meat. Start at the rear of the turkey. Using you fingers slowly work loose the skin. Work forward then down the sides toward the legs.

Brine theTurkey

The brining effect chemically causes the moisture to stay in the turkey. Place the turkey into the brine neck first, making sure it is completely covered in the brine. I keep the bird submerged by placing an old plate on top of the brine with a have stone on the plate.

Every couple hours gently move the turkey around in the brine, just a twist here or rotation there. Don’t overdo it, you are just getting making sure the brine reaches every part of the bird.

Plan on brining anywhere from eight to eighteen hours. A ten pound bird needs around 8 hours of brining. I recommend staying under a 14 pound bird, a turkey that big will need a half days brining. Any thing bigger poses unique health risks during the smoking process. My personal favorite is an eleven pound bird, nothing magic about that number. I find it a nice comprimise between amount of food and reasonable time.

Taste Tips… If salt is a concern try brining about half the time called for. Then pat dry , covered in plastic wrap, place in the fridge. Do not cut the salt in the brine recipe.

The salt is important in creating the chemical reaction to retain the turkeys moisture.

Rinse off and Dry

Upon removing the turkey from the brine run cold water over it, rinsing it completely. Be sure to clean the body cavity also. Stand the bird upright in the kitchen sink and let drain. Let stand ten minutes then remove and pat dry the bird with towel.

Cure the Turkey

To really bring out the flavor and texture of the turkey cure it. Set the turkey uncovered in the refrigerator twelve to twenty four hours. During this gives the brine flavor plenty of time to infuse it’s way into the turkey.

Season the Turkey

Season the brined turkey to taste. Spices and herbs used as a dry rub will complement a fresh bird. If I use spices and herbs directly on the turkey I found it helps to apply a very thin coat of olive oil on the skin. This will help the seasonings to adhere to the skin. A wet rub is another great way to season a turkey. A wet rub is really a paste made with olive oil dry ingredients. In both methods the oil will help retain the moisture of the turkey.

To get the most out of your seasoning you need to get them under the brinded turkey skin. This is pretty easy to do, you already separated the skin from the breast before brining. Again, taking care lift the skin and cover the skin with your dry rub.
Replace the skin after seasoning and secure in place with toothpicks.

With the remaining wet rub season the outside of the turkey. Sprinkle your favorite spices and herbs.

Smoke the Turkey

Start your smoker and heat to 225 degrees Fahrenheit for about 15 minutes. I use non-stick oil based spray on the grate to prevent sticking later. Follow your smoker safe cooking instructions, however most tell you to maintain a cooking temperature of at least 225 degrees while smoking. I smoke turkey with hickory chips soaked in a mixture of red wine and apple juice.

A good rule of thumb is to smoke for about 30 minutes per pound. I reserve a mixture of wet rub and melted butter to baste the turkey periodically. Smoke the turkey until the breast is a minimum of 165 degrees. Your turkey is done when the thermometer, placed in the inner thigh, reaches 180° F (be sure the thermometer is not touching the bone). Carefully take the turkey out of the smoker.

Smoking Tips …

  • Test temperature in at least two places

  • Turkey bones heat fast, keep the thermometer away from bone

  • White meat cooks faster than dark meat

  • You will see a “smoke ring,” a pink layer of meat, under the skin

  • The smoke ring is not undercooked meat.

  • Outside air temp makes a big difference

  • Expect longer cooking times in winter.

 The temperature will rise about 5 degrees after removing it from the smoker. When the breast reaches 160F, cover it with foil to prevent it from being overcooked.

All that remains is to cover the smoked turkey with a foil tent, and let it rest for at least one-half hour, breast side down, before slicing. This allows the juices and smoke flavor to evenly disperse throughout the flesh as it firms up.

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