How to Smoke a Turkey

Every year I see people lined up at local smokehouses to pick up a pre-ordered turkey for Thanksgiving. The average price per pound to buy a turkey at your local grocer is 40-99 cents per pound in November and December. You’ll pay on average, between $3.50 to $6.50 per pound ordering a fully cooked, smoked turkey from places like Williams Sonoma or smokehouses.


What You’ll Need

  • One Turkey
  • 1-2 Cups Turkey Rub (hint: you can probably buy a premade rub from your favorite local smokehouse or make your own combining spices you love)
  • Charcoal (Preferably natural hardwood for best results)
  • Wood Chunks (Mesquite or Hickory for bold flavor or mild fruitwood for subtler flavor)
  • Drip Pan (Great to use in our homemade gravy)
  • Meat Thermometer
  • Yellow Mustard

How to Prepare

Remove the neck and giblets from the inner cavity and wash turkey under cold water. For best results, submerge the turkey in brine for 16-24 hours prior to smoking and refrigerate. Turkey brine consists of two cups kosher salt (or non-iodized salt) to two gallons of water.  Add spices and sugar if desired.

Fill a bowl with water and soak your wood chips.  This will keep them from burning up too quickly when added to the charcoal. Light up the smoker! Bring the temperature to between 200-275 degrees. Cook time will vary based on temperature, but a general guide is as follows:

  • At 235 F/115 C, your turkey will take 30 to 35 minutes per pound.
  • At 250 F/120 C, your turkey will take 25 to 30 minutes per pound.
  • At 275 F/135 C, your turkey will take 20 to 25 minutes per pound.

Remove the turkey from the brine and rinse thoroughly.  Pat dry. Carefully loosen as much of the skin as possible by slipping your hand under the skin, starting with where the leg attaches to the body. Push your rub into as many of these spaces as possible, including the inner cavity. Rub the outside of the turkey with mustard – this will help the rub stay in place and will not affect the taste of the turkey. Rub the outside of the turkey.

Smoking the Turkey

Place the drip pan under the grate where the turkey will sit. Lightly rub the grate with oil or use non-stick spray to coat the grate. Place the turkey over the drip pan. Start the ‘smoke’.  Shake off as much water as possible from the wood chunks and add a few at a time directly to the charcoal until smoke is full and consistent.

Smoke the turkey until the internal temperature reads 175-180 degrees.  You’ll need to check the turkey often, adding more charcoal and smoking wood as necessary to maintain a consistent grill temperature. If you are using a smoker that puts on more heat one side, rotate the turkey every two hours to prevent one side from cooking too quickly and drying out. If you like to baste your turkey, wait until the last hour. Let the turkey rest 30-40 minutes prior to serving or refrigerating.