Smoked Turkey Recipe: Ultimate Smoking Guide for Juicy Turkey in a Smoker

Looking to impress your guests with a succulent and flavorful holiday feast? Look no further than this ultimate smoked turkey recipe! With careful preparation and the right techniques, you’ll achieve a tender, juicy, and delicious centerpiece that will leave everyone asking for seconds.

Key Takeaways:

  • Preparing the smoker is crucial for a successful smoked turkey recipe.
  • Choosing the right turkey is key to achieving a flavorful and moist result.
  • Brining is an optional but highly recommended step to enhance the flavor and juiciness of your smoked turkey.
  • Smoking the turkey requires careful temperature control, wood selection, and smoking times.
  • Alternative cooking methods, like using an Instant Pot or air fryer, can also yield delicious results.

How to Prepare a Smoker

Before you can smoke a turkey, you need to make sure that your smoker is properly set up. Smoking is a cooking method that uses the smoke from burning wood to cook and flavor food . It’s important to have the right equipment and knowledge to ensure that your smoked turkey turns out perfectly. Here are some essential tips for preparing your smoker:

Gather Your Supplies

First, gather everything you need to set up your smoker. This includes your smoker, wood chips or chunks, a charcoal chimney starter, matches, and a meat thermometer.

Choose Your Wood

Next, choose the type of wood you want to use for smoking your turkey. Different woods produce different flavors, so consider your personal preferences when making your selection. Some popular options for smoking turkey include apple, hickory, and mesquite.

Season Your Smoker

Before you start cooking, you’ll need to season your smoker to remove any manufacturing residues and flavors. To do this, simply start your smoker and let it run for a few hours with no food inside. This will help get rid of any unwanted flavors and odors.

Set Up Your Smoker

Now it’s time to set up your smoker. Start by adding charcoal to the bottom of the smoker and lighting it with a chimney starter. Once the charcoal is hot and ashed over, add your wood chips or chunks to produce smoke. Place a water pan in the smoker to help regulate the temperature and keep the turkey moist.

Control the Temperature

Temperature control is critical when smoking a turkey. The ideal temperature range is between 225-275°F. Make sure to monitor the temperature throughout the smoking process and adjust the airflow and wood as needed to maintain a consistent temperature.

Smoke the Turkey

Now that your smoker is properly set up, it’s time to smoke the turkey. Follow our detailed instructions in Section 6 to achieve a succulent and flavorful smoked turkey.

Follow these tips for preparing your smoker and you’ll be well on your way to smoking the perfect turkey. Happy smoking!

Choosing the Right Turkey

When it comes to selecting the perfect turkey for your smoked turkey recipe, there are a few things to keep in mind. Picking the right turkey ensures a moist, flavorful, and tender outcome that will have everyone asking for seconds.

The first thing to consider is the type of turkey you want to use. There are several options available, including traditional turkeys, turkey blends, and specialty turkeys like the Traeger turkey.

Turkey Blends

turkey blend is a mix of different breeds of turkey that result in a unique flavor profile. These blends are specially selected to provide the best attributes of each breed, resulting in a more flavorful and juicy turkey.

If you’re looking to switch things up and try something new, a turkey blend might be just the thing. Be sure to ask your local butcher or grocer if they carry any blends.

Traeger Turkeys

Traeger turkeys are raised on a diet of hardwood pellets, which infuses them with a delicious smoky flavor even before they hit the smoker. These birds are also raised without antibiotics or hormones, making them a healthier option.

If you want to take your smoked turkey recipe to the next level, consider using a Traeger turkey. They’re widely available online and at select retailers.


The size of your turkey is also an important factor to consider. As a general rule of thumb, plan for around one pound of turkey per person. This will leave enough leftovers for everyone to enjoy.

Fresh vs. Frozen

You can use either a fresh or frozen turkey for your smoked turkey recipe. If you choose a frozen turkey, be sure to allow enough time for it to thaw fully. A good rule of thumb is to allow one day of thawing in the refrigerator for every four pounds of turkey.

When selecting a fresh turkey, look for one that is plump and moist with no signs of bruising or discoloration.


Choosing the right turkey is an important step in creating a delicious and flavorful smoked turkey. Whether you opt for a traditional turkey, a turkey blend, or a Traeger turkey, selecting the right bird will ensure a succulent and juicy outcome that will impress all your guests.

Preparing the Turkey

Before you get started with preparing your turkey for smoking, make sure you have a thawed turkey. If you’re using a frozen turkey, give it enough time to thaw in the fridge. As a general rule, allow 24 hours for every 5 pounds of turkey.

Once your turkey is fully thawed, it’s time to season it. You can use your favorite turkey seasoning or create a homemade blend. Apply the seasoning generously inside the cavity and all over the outside of the turkey.

For a more intense flavor, you can also apply a turkey rub. This is a mixture of oil and seasonings that you massage into the turkey’s skin. Let the turkey sit with the rub for at least an hour before smoking.

Turkey Rub Recipe:

1/4 cup olive oil

1 tablespoon paprika

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1 teaspoon dried rosemary

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Massage the mixture into the turkey’s skin, making sure to coat every inch of it. Let it sit for at least an hour before smoking.

By now, your turkey is fully seasoned and ready to be smoked. But if you want to take it up a notch, consider brining your turkey before smoking. Brining can add extra flavor and moisture to your turkey, resulting in a juicier and more flavorful bird.

Brining the Turkey

While brining your turkey is optional, it’s highly recommended to take your smoked turkey recipe to the next level. Brining involves soaking the turkey in a saltwater solution before smoking, which enhances the flavor and juiciness of the meat.

Here’s a simple and delicious turkey brine recipe that’s perfect for the holiday turkey:


  • 1 gallon water
  • 1 cup kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoon dried thyme
  • 1 tablespoon dried rosemary
  • 1 tablespoon dried sage
  • 1 gallon ice-cold water

To make the brine, combine the first seven ingredients in a large pot and bring to a boil, stirring until the salt and sugar dissolve. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.

Once cooled, place the turkey in a large container or brining bag and pour the brine over it. Make sure the turkey is fully submerged in the brine, adding more water if necessary. Refrigerate for at least 12 hours, or overnight.

Before smoking, remove the turkey from the brine and rinse well under cold water. Pat dry with paper towels and proceed with seasoning and smoking according to the smoked turkey recipe.

By brining your holiday turkey, you’ll ensure that every bite is packed with flavor and juicy tenderness. Your guests will be impressed with your culinary skills and will be asking for your secret recipe!

Smoking the Turkey

Congratulations, you’re almost there! Smoking the turkey is the heart of this recipe, and it’s crucial to get it right. Follow our detailed instructions, and you’ll have a succulent and flavorful turkey that will be the star of your holiday feast.

Setting Up the Smoker

Before you begin smoking the turkey, make sure your smoker is set up correctly. If you’re new to smoking, read our previous section for tips and advice on preparing your smoker. Make sure you have enough wood chips or pellets and that the smoker is at the right temperature. You can use a digital thermometer to monitor the temperature inside the smoker accurately.

Preparing the Turkey for Smoking

Ensure that the turkey is completely thawed before smoking (if you’re using a frozen turkey). Rinse the turkey with cold water and pat dry with paper towels. Apply your preferred turkey rub all over the turkey, making sure to get some under the skin. A flavorful rub will enhance the flavor of the turkey and help it form a delicious crust. You can also stuff the turkey with aromatic herbs like rosemary, thyme, or sage for an extra burst of flavor.

Smoking the Turkey

Once the smoker is up to temperature, it’s time to smoke the turkey. Place the turkey on the smoker’s grate, breast-side up, and close the lid. Add wood chips or pellets to the smoker box or hopper as needed, following the manufacturer’s instructions. Most smokers will require you to add wood chips or pellets every 30-45 minutes, depending on the smoker’s size and heat output.

For optimal flavor, we recommend smoking the turkey low and slow at a temperature between 225-250°F. Smoking times will vary depending on the turkey’s size, but a general rule of thumb is to smoke for 30-40 minutes per pound of turkey. Use a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the turkey’s thigh to determine when it’s done. The temperature should reach 165°F.

If you want to add some more flavor, you can baste the turkey with a mixture of melted butter and your favorite liquid (apple cider, beer, and orange juice are popular options) every hour or so. This will add moisture and flavor to the turkey and help create a delicious crust.

Once the turkey is done, remove it from the smoker and cover it with foil. Let it rest for 20-30 minutes to allow the juices to redistribute. Carve the turkey, serve, and enjoy your delicious, perfectly smoked turkey!

Alternative Cooking Methods

If you’re looking to switch things up, using an Instant Pot or an air fryer is a fantastic way to cook a delicious smoked turkey. Here are some tips and techniques to help you get started:

Instant Pot Smoked Turkey

Using an Instant Pot to smoke a turkey is an incredibly easy and efficient method. Here’s what you’ll need to do:

  1. Season your turkey with your preferred blend of spices, then add 1 cup of chicken or turkey broth to the Instant Pot.
  2. Place the turkey in the Instant Pot and close the lid, ensuring that the steam vent is in the sealed position.
  3. Set the Instant Pot to “Manual” mode and cook on high pressure for 6 minutes per pound of turkey
  4. Once the cooking time is complete, allow the pressure to release naturally for at least 10 to 15 minutes before doing a quick release.
  5. Remove the turkey from the Instant Pot and let it rest for 10 minutes before carving and serving.

Air Fryer Smoked Turkey

An air fryer is a great option for those who want a crispy skin on their smoked turkey. Here’s how to smoke a turkey in an air fryer:

  1. Season your turkey with your preferred blend of spices, then place it in the air fryer basket.
  2. Cook the turkey in the air fryer at 325°F for 15 minutes per pound of turkey.
  3. After the turkey has cooked for the allotted time, check the temperature using a meat thermometer to ensure it has reached an internal temperature of 165°F.
  4. If needed, cook the turkey for additional time until it reaches the desired temperature.
  5. Once the turkey is done, let it rest for 10 minutes before carving and serving.

Whether you choose to smoke your turkey traditionally or experiment with alternative cooking methods, the key is to enjoy the process and have fun in the kitchen. Happy cooking!

Serving and Enjoying the Smoked Turkey

Now that your delicious smoked turkey is ready, it’s time to serve and enjoy it with your loved ones. Here are some tips and tricks to make the most out of your turkey feast:

  • Get creative with the presentation. Arrange the sliced turkey on a platter with fresh herbs, sliced fruits, or colorful vegetables to make it look extra appetizing.
  • Carve the turkey like a pro. Be sure to let the turkey rest for at least 15 minutes before carving to allow the juices to redistribute. Use a sharp carving knife and start from the breastbone, slicing thin pieces against the grain.
  • Make a delicious gravy to accompany the turkey. Use the drippings from the smoked turkey along with some chicken or vegetable broth, flour, and your favorite seasonings to make a flavorful gravy that will elevate the taste of the turkey.

If you want to learn more about serving and enjoying your smoked turkey, there are many online resources available, including videos and articles with step-by-step instructions. You can also check out forums and communities where food enthusiasts share their tips and experiences.

“Food is not just eating energy. It’s an experience.” – Guy Fieri

Don’t be afraid to experiment with different flavors and techniques when it comes to cooking and serving your smoked turkey. With a little bit of creativity and a lot of passion, you can make every meal a memorable one. Enjoy the process and have fun!

Tips and Tricks for Perfect Results

Smoking a turkey is a bit of an art form, but anyone can master it with practice! Here are a few tips and tricks we’ve learned over the years.

  • Plan ahead: Make sure you have plenty of time to prepare and smoke the turkey. It’s better to start early and have extra time than to be rushed and risk overcooking the turkey.
  • Thaw the turkey correctly: Thawing your turkey is an essential step to ensure it cooks evenly. Avoid leaving the turkey on the countertop to thaw at room temperature, as it can cause bacterial growth. Instead, place the turkey in the fridge for one day per 4-5 pounds of turkey. If you’re short on time, you can also thaw the turkey in cold water, changing the water every 30 minutes.
  • Use a meat thermometer: The only way to ensure your turkey is cooked to perfection is to use a meat thermometer. Insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the turkey (usually the thigh) to check the temperature. The turkey should reach an internal temperature of 165°F to be safe to eat.
  • Consider a brine: Brining your turkey can add flavor and moisture to the meat, creating a juicier final product. There are many different brine recipes to choose from, so experiment until you find one you like.
  • Don’t baste too often: While basting can add flavor, opening the smoker too often can cause temperature fluctuations and extend the cooking time. Limit your basting to once per hour.
  • Let the turkey rest: After removing the turkey from the smoker, let it rest for at least 15-20 minutes before carving. This allows the juices to redistribute throughout the meat and makes for a more tender turkey.
  • Reply on your senses: Cooking times can vary based on the size of the turkey and the smoker, so trust your senses rather than relying solely on a timer. Look for a golden brown color and a crispy skin. The meat should also pull apart easily.

“The key to a perfect smoked turkey is patience and practice. Don’t be afraid to experiment and make adjustments based on your individual preferences. With time, you’ll become a smoked turkey pro!”

Wrapping Up Your Smoked Turkey Experience

Congratulations! You have successfully prepared the ultimate smoked turkey recipe that will leave your guests in awe.

Remember, the key to a delicious smoked turkey is in the preparation and execution. Ensure that you have selected the right turkey, have a properly prepared smoker, and have carefully followed the steps for seasoning, brining, and smoking the turkey.

Don’t forget to have fun in the process! Smoking a turkey can be a labor of love, so take your time and enjoy the experience.

Now that you have a perfect smoked turkey, it’s time to serve and enjoy it. Whether you’re hosting a large gathering or having an intimate dinner, your guests will be raving about your delicious turkey for weeks to come.

Thank you for following our recipe, and we hope that it has brought joy and delight to your holiday festivities. Happy cooking!

FAQ Regarding The Smoked Bird!

Can I use a gas grill instead of a smoker?

While a smoker is recommended for the best results, you can use a gas grill with a smoker box or a foil packet of wood chips to achieve a similar smoky flavor.

How long does it take to smoke a turkey?

The smoking time depends on the size of the turkey and the temperature of your smoker. As a general guide, plan for around 30 minutes of smoking time per pound of turkey at a temperature of 225°F to 250°F.

Do I need to brine the turkey?

Brining is optional but highly recommended as it helps to tenderize and flavor the turkey. If you choose not to brine, make sure to season the turkey generously with a dry rub to enhance its flavor.

Can I stuff the turkey before smoking?

It is not recommended to stuff the turkey before smoking as it can increase the cooking time and lead to uneven cooking. It’s safer to cook the stuffing separately to ensure it reaches a safe internal temperature.

What type of wood is best for smoking turkey?

Fruit woods such as apple, cherry, or maple are excellent choices for smoking turkey as they impart a mild and sweet flavor. Avoid using stronger woods like mesquite or hickory, which can overpower the turkey’s taste.

How do I know when the turkey is done?

The turkey is done when the internal temperature in the thickest part of the thigh reaches 165°F. To ensure accuracy, use a meat thermometer to check the temperature. Let the turkey rest for 15-20 minutes before carving.

Can I smoke a frozen turkey?

It is not recommended to smoke a frozen turkey as it can lead to uneven cooking and potential food safety issues. Thaw the turkey completely in the refrigerator before smoking for best results.

How long should I let the turkey rest before carving?

It’s important to let the turkey rest for 15-20 minutes before carving. This allows the juices to redistribute, resulting in a moister and more flavorful turkey.

Can I use a marinade instead of a dry rub?

While a dry rub is more commonly used for smoking, you can use a marinade if desired. Just make sure to pat the turkey dry before smoking to avoid excessive moisture on the surface, which can hinder the formation of a nice crust.

How long can I store leftover smoked turkey?

Leftover smoked turkey can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days. Make sure to place it in an airtight container or wrap it tightly in foil to maintain its freshness.

Smoked Turkey

Smoked Turkey

Savor the delectably moist and rich flavors of this smoked turkey, infused with a symphony of herbs and spices that'll make it the star of any festive gathering.
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Keyword: smoked turkey, smoked turkey recipe
Servings: 1 turkey


  • 1 Smoker
  • 1 Meat Thermometer
  • 1 Turkey Brine or Injector
  • 1 Aluminum Foil
  • 1 Charcoal or Wood Pellets


  • 1 whole turkey 12-15 lbs
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil or melted butter
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • Fresh herbs for stuffing e.g., rosemary, thyme, and sage


  • If desired, brine turkey for 12-24 hours before smoking.
  • Remove turkey from refrigerator 1 hour before smoking to allow it to come to room temperature.
  • Preheat your smoker to 225°F (107°C).
  • Rinse the turkey under cold water and pat dry with paper towels.
  • Rub the turkey with olive oil or melted butter.
  • Mix together salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, thyme, rosemary, and paprika in a bowl. Apply this seasoning mix liberally all over the turkey.
  • Stuff the turkey cavity with fresh herbs.
  • Place the turkey, breast side up, on the smoker grate.
  • Smoke the turkey until the internal temperature reaches 165°F (74°C) in the thickest part of the thigh, typically taking 4-6 hours.
  • Remove the turkey from the smoker and wrap it in aluminum foil. Let it rest for 20-30 minutes before carving.
  • Carve, serve, and enjoy!


Note: Adjust the cooking time for larger or smaller turkeys. It’s crucial to always check the internal temperature to ensure safety and the perfect doneness.
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