This smoked turkey recipe is a whole turkey that’s coated in homemade spice rub then slow smoked to tender and juicy perfection. A super easy and impressive holiday main course that won’t take up any oven space!
Looking for something a little different than your standard roasted turkey? This smoked turkey is a unique and show stopping Thanksgiving meal, but it’s simple enough that even a novice cook can produce a beautiful and delicious end result.
I love to make a turkey for the holidays, but I don’t love how it takes up all my oven space for hours and hours on the big day. Instead of roasting my turkey, I’ve started making a smoked turkey and the end result is nothing short of fabulous.
How do you smoke a turkey?
The first step is to prepare your turkey for the smoker. You can use a fresh turkey or a frozen turkey that’s been completely thawed. It’s best to use a smaller turkey in the 10-12 pound range. If you go with a larger turkey, you run into the potential for food safety issues. A turkey must pass through the temperature range from 40-140 degrees F within 4 hours of being in the smoker, otherwise it could start to spoil before it cooks through.
I like to stuff the cavity of my turkey with aromatics, and then coat the outside of the turkey in my homemade BBQ rub. For extra moisture and flavor, you can brine the turkey before prepping it for the smoker.
How long does it take to smoke a turkey?
Smoking a turkey can be a long process, so be sure to start early in the day so that the turkey will be done by dinner time. Typically, it takes at least 6 hours to smoke an average sized turkey at 250 degrees F. Plan on having your turkey cook for about 30 minutes per pound.
What type of wood is best for smoking a turkey?
I like to use apple wood to smoke poultry, as it imparts a mild and sweet flavor. Apple wood is readily available in most stores. Other great choices are cherry wood or hickory.
When is a smoked turkey done?
A turkey is done when a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh registers 165 degrees F. I use a digital thermometer that I leave in the turkey while it smokes so I can monitor the progress with a temperature remote from the house.
Do you have to baste a turkey?
I prefer to baste my smoked turkey because no one wants a dry turkey! I occasionally baste the turkey with a little chicken broth as it cooks to ensure a moist end result. If you’ve brined your turkey before hand, you can skip the basting step.
How much turkey per person?
You can estimate the size of turkey that you need by planning on one pound of turkey per person. If you want a lot of turkey left over, plan on 1 1/2 pounds of turkey per person.
The end result is a beautifully browned turkey that’s tender, juicy and full of flavor. You can never go wrong with a smoked turkey, and I love that it frees up my oven space to bake the sides and desserts for the big meal.
More recipes for your holiday meal
Smoked Turkey Recipe
- 1 recipe turkey brine optional, if you choose to brine your turkey, you can skip the chicken broth basting
- 12 lb whole turkey giblets and neck removed
- 1/2 cup BBQ rub
- 1 onion quartered
- 1 lemon quartered
- 4 sprigs fresh herbs such as thyme, rosemary or parsley
- 3 cups chicken broth
- fresh herbs for garnish
- cooking spray
- Preheat the smoker to 250 degrees F. Load the smoker with apple wood.
- Coat a large disposable aluminum pan with cooking spray. Place the turkey in the pan and tuck the wings under the body.
- Stuff the cavity of the turkey with the onion, lemon and herbs, then use kitchen twine to tie the legs together.
- Sprinkle the BBQ rub all over the surface of the turkey.
- Place the turkey in the smoker. Cook for 6-7 hours, basting with chicken broth every 30-45 minutes, until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh registers 165 degrees F. Refill the wood chips as needed.
- If the turkey starts to get too dark, cover it with foil.
- Let the turkey rest for 10-15 minutes then transfer to a serving plate. Garnish with herbs if desired, then serve.