Recipe for Smoked Turkey: The Best Method for Juicy BBQ Turkey

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This smoked turkey dish is a delicious spin on the traditional Thanksgiving roast turkey.

Spatchcocking turkey is a terrific technique to shorten the cooking time and apply a lovely, uniform coating of tasty herb rub.

Because you have a lot of choice with this dish, we’ve broken it down into a step-by-step approach, or you may jump straight to the recipe.

Supplies you’ll need

Smoked Turkey Recipe: The Best Method for Juicy BBQ Turkey

Before you begin, you need ensure that you have a few items on hand.

  • a fresh or frozen turkey Allow 24 hours in the refrigerator for every 4 pounds, so a 12-pound turkey will need three days to thoroughly defrost.
  • Depending on your swmoker, fuel Check to see whether you have adequate charcoal, propane, or pellets.
  • Using wood to smoke Both apple and cherry work well; for a complete list, see our piece on the finest woods for smoking turkey.
  • An injector for meat Injecting is an excellent approach to provide taste and moisture to the bird.
  • Spatchcocking the turkey is considerably simpler with poultry shears or a sharp knife.
  • Pouring pan for gravy Even if you’re not cooking gravy, a pan to collect the drippings can help keep things clean.
  • Thermometer for meat A dual probe remote thermometer, such as the Smoke, is ideal for determining when the turkey breast has reached 165°F.
  • Jug for fat separation It’s not necessary, but it makes separating the fat from the gravy much simpler.

Choosing a turkey

Smoked Turkey Recipe: The Best Method for Juicy BBQ Turkey

Before you go out and grab the biggest bird you can fit into your smoker, you need know something.

A smaller turkey has a superior taste and will be farjuicier in the end. Cook two smaller chickens if you need additional flesh. The golden rule is to allow one pound of turkey for every adult who has to be fed.

The sweet spot is between 8-14 pounds.

If the label on a turkey reads basted, self basted, or enhanced, it signifies the bird has been injected with a salt solution.

Both the interior and exterior of Kosher turkeys have been seasoned.

There is nothing wrong with either approach. If you want to serve a moist turkey, pre-salting or brining is crucial.

I like to purchase unsalted turkey since I want to control the whole process and what goes into the bird.

Check out our article on how to choose the greatest turkey for additional information.

Brining your turkey

If you are fortunate enough to obtain an unsalted chicken, you should brine it ahead of time.

When it comes to brining a turkey, there are two schools of thought.

1 – Soak the turkey overnight in a wet brine

This is the strategy that has long been suggested. You soak the turkey in salted water for at least 8 hours.

The brine is typically flavored with liquids, herbs, and spices such as beer, vegetable broth, rosemary, sage, and thyme. This approach works, however it has certain drawbacks:

  • Finding space in your refrigerator for the brine tub may be a pain, particularly on the day before Thanksgiving.
  • The procedure wastes a lot of materials since, other from salt, none of the components truly permeate into the meat.
  • The moist brine softens the skin at a time when it should be as dry as possible.

If you’re still not persuaded, here’s what Meathead Goldwyn says about wet brining:

I stopped wet brining since it wastes a lot of herbs, spices, salt, and fruit juice in certain recipes. Only a little amount of salt goes in. The remainder are squandered since the majority of their molecules are too big to permeate the skin or flesh, which cannot absorb any more water in any case.

Meathead Goldwyn

2 – Dry brine the turkey

Per pound, use 2 teaspoons kosher salt.A simpler way that provides all of the advantages without the same amount of mess is to just dry brine your turkey with 1 teaspoon of salt.

I prefer to spatchcock the chicken first so that the salt coats it evenly all over.

Once seasoned, refrigerate the turkey uncovered overnight. The procedure absorbs the salt into the meat, which improves taste and helps it retain moisture.

It also dries out the skin, allowing it to crisp up nicely.

How long does it take to smoke a turkey?

A full, unstuffed turkey weighing 12-14 pounds will take two to two and a half hours to smoke at 325°F. If the turkey is bigger, you should allow up to four hours.

It can be done in an hour and a half to two hours if the turkey has been spatchcocked.

When the breast temperature of the smoked turkey reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit, it is done.

Using a digital meat thermometer or a leave-in type probe is the only method to tell when the turkey is done.

You may remove the turkey from the grill when it reaches 160°F since it will continue to cook while resting.

It is crucial to remember that these are broad recommendations that might vary greatly depending on a variety of conditions.

Cooking the turkey at a lower temperature may take longer, and we do not suggest it since the skin will develop an unpleasant, rubbery feel.

Stuffed turkeys may take longer to cook, but to prevent overcooking the breast, make the filling separately.

Cooking the stuffing separately also improves its flavor.

Try our deep fried turkey recipe for a quicker way.

What type of wood is best for smoking turkey

A moderate fruitwood, such as apple, pecan, or cherry, is ideal for smoking turkey. This adds a subtle, sweet taste and color to the meat without dominating it.

Avoid hickory, mesquite, and some oak since they tend to overshadow the taste.

You must be cautious not to overdo the smoking. Two fist-sized bits of wood at the start of the cook on my charcoal barbecue is sufficient.

Should you brine and inject a turkey?

We’re doing a lot to the turkey with brining, rubbing, injecting, and basting!

Overdoing it is definitely a concern.

The fact is that you may use a variety of marinating methods to add moisture and flavor to the turkey as long as you don’t over-salt it.

If you purchase a self-basting or kosher chicken, for example, you can generally skip the dry brining step.

To optimize the taste and softness of your turkey, we suggest utilizing a mix of brine, rub, injection, and baste.

What is the difference between white and dark turkey meat?

The color of the meat varies depending on the kind of muscle and the amount of myoglobin present.

Because white flesh from the breast is regarded to be healthier, many people prefer it first.

The actual calorie difference is minor, with white flesh comprising 46 calories and 1 gram of fat per ounce vs 50 calories and 2 grams of fat per ounce of boneless, skinless thigh.

Other advantages of dark meat include increased iron, zinc, riboflavin, thiamine, and vitamins B6 and B12.

Is pink turkey meat safe to eat?

Cooked turkey with a pink hue is okay to consume as long as the internal temperature reaches 165F.

We’ve been trained to be suspicious of pink meat, although there are many of scientific reasons why correctly cooked meat may be pink:

  • Cooking causes chemical changes. When fuel is burned, it creates a number of compounds that interact with myoglobin to give it a pink hue.
  • Baby birds Younger birds have more pink because their skin is thinner, allowing more gases to access the flesh.

So, as long as the turkey was cooked to a safe temperature, don’t be concerned about the pink tint.

The flesh has a pink tint in the shot above, particularly around the drumstick.

Smoked turkey prep work

Cooking a whole turkey might be frightening, particularly if you’re doing it for the first time.

The good news is that you can do the majority of the job early.

I suggest preparing the rub, injection, and gravy (if making it) ahead of time so you can concentrate on smoking the turkey.

If you need to leave early, you can even do this the night before.

1. Assemble the gravy tray

I usually combine all of the dry gravy ingredients on an aluminum dish and leave it aside until the smoker is ready. This will make moving the tray much simpler, and you will prevent spilling liquid all over yourself.

  • Because you’ll be throwing everything but the liquid at the end, the veggies may be coarsely chopped.
  • There’s lots of opportunity to experiment with the gravy, so feel free to substitute white wine or water for the chicken stock.
  • You leave the skin on the onions because it has a pigment that gives your gravy a deeper, more attractive hue.
  • Dont add salt until the very end.
  • When you pull the turkey out of the bag, you’ll be emptying the fluids and the backbone into the gravy.

2. Get the dry rub ready

I love this herb rub from on turkey since it gives it a gorgeous crust and a moderate taste that won’t offend anybody.

For this recipe, I omitted the crushed sage in favor of fresh sage leaves, which I placed beneath the skin of the turkey around the breast.

  • In a small mixing basin, combine all of the dry ingredients.
  • If you have a spice grinder or blender, blitz the ingredients to make a powder.
  • To form a wet rub paste, combine four teaspoons of the rub with four tablespoons of olive oil.
  • You don’t need to add salt to the rub since the turkey has already been brined in most situations.

Feel free to experiment with the rub. We also offer a smoked turkey rub that combines traditional spices with barbecue taste.

3. Get the turkey injection ready (optional)

This is an optional step, particularly if your bird has already been brined. Some individuals believe that the taste of the injection overwhelms the flavor of the smoked turkey.

Although you can go wild with cajun or honey beer injections, I believe a basic butter-based injection works best.

Melt the butter in a small saucepan over low heat, then mix in the other ingredients until completely incorporated. Keep aside until you’re ready to inject.

Getting the turkey ready for the smoker

Remove your turkey from the refrigerator and gently remove it from its packing.

Pour the juices from the package onto the tray of veggies for creating gravy.

Depending on the sort of turkey you purchased, the neck and giblets may be found within the cavity. Include them in your gravy as well.

If you brined your turkey, give it a cold water rinse.

1. Spatchcock the turkey

There are various benefits to spackcocking (or butterflying) a turkey:

  • Because there is no cavity, it expedites the cooking process.
  • Allows for greater surface area on the turkey to brown, resulting in more flavor.
  • Allows the turkey to cook more evenly, avoiding dry breast.
  • It makes it easy to season the whole bird.

It may not look like a typical turkey, but I’ll pick flavor above appearances any day.

To spatchcock a turkey:

  • Place the turkey breast side down on a big clean butcher block or chopping board.
  • Get your scissors out and start cutting from the other end, and you should be OK.Starting at the neck, cut down the side of the backbone towards the legs with a sharp boning knife or poultry scissors. Take your time, and you may need to use some effort to chop through certain bones. If you encounter a lot of opposition, you may use the knife.
  • Repeat on the other side of the backbone.
  • Add the backbone to the gravy pan.
  • Make a tiny incision at the neck end of the breast bone, then turn the bird over and push down with your hands to flatten and spread out the bird.

Remove any extra fat or skin from the cavity. Wear gloves because the small bones surrounding the backbone may be razor-sharp.

2. Applying the rub

Use paper towels to dry all around the turkey before applying the rub, being care to dry under the wings and within any nooks and crannies.

You want the turkey to be as dry as possible so that the skin can crisp up nicely.

You may not need to do this if you dry brined the turkey overnight in the fridge.

To apply the rub

  • Start by placing the turkey breast side down
  • Spray the turkey well with olive oil. This isn’t necessary if you’re using the rub paste, but if you’re using a dry rub, it will help the rub stay and the skin brown.
  • Spread about two teaspoons of the herb rub all over the underside of the turkey, ensuring a uniform coating.
  • Carefully turn the bird over, and now we want to get some of the wet rub beneath the skin to assist that delicious taste reach the flesh.
  • Starting at the wing end of the neck, run your fingers beneath the skin and press down to create some room. Although the skin is fairly strong, take care not to damage it.
  • Pour in some of the rub and distribute it about with your fingers, pushing it down towards the thigh.
  • Rep on the second side, then distribute the rub all over the exterior, being careful to obtain an equal coating all around the wings and drumsticks.
  • Slide a few fresh sage leaves beneath the skin to help flavor the meat.

3. Injecting the turkey

You have the option of being pretty generous with your injections. Make sure to hit both breasts, the drumstick, and the thighs.

How to smoke the best turkey

1. Get your smoker ready

Cooking at a higher temperature is essential for smoking poultry. The standard 225-250F temperature range will not produce crispy skin.

For turkey, I suggest 300-325F, however anything above 275F would suffice.

This turkey was smoked on my Weber Smokey Mountain. I burned a complete chimney of charcoal and dumped it into my Smokey Mountain once it was ashed over. We also offer instructions on how to smoke a turkey in an electric smoker.

On top of the burning briquettes, I built another entire chimney of unlit briquettes.

This was perhaps a little excessive, but it was a chilly day and I didn’t want to run out of fuel before I completed the turkey.

Add two fist-sized bits of apple-flavored light smoke wood.

Depending on how long it takes you to prepare your smoker, you may begin this procedure and then return to preparing your turkey.

Place the tray in your smoker if you’re preparing gravy. Wait until the dry components have been carefully put in the smoker before adding the liquid ingredients.

2. Smoking the turkey

When your smoker reaches 300-325°F, add your turkey, breast side up.

At this temperature, a little turkey like this one that has been spatchcocked would only take 1.5-2 hours to cook.

For further details, see the section on turkey cooking time lower down.

Place the turkey on the top rack of a smoker with many levels, such as the Weber Smokey Mountain, so that liquids trickle down into the gravy pan as it cooks.

3. Basting the turkey while it cooks

After an hour on the smoker, we’ll baste the turkey with a simple butter herb and garlic baste to help the skin crisp up.

In a small saucepan, melt the butter and add a few garlic cloves and a bunch of fresh herbs (thyme, sage, and rosemary) and simmer on low for a few minutes to flavor the butter.

Apply the butter on the turkey using a basting brush or a mop. You may spread it if you wish, however I find that this only wipes the rub off.

Insert a thermometer probe into the thickest area of the breast at this time as well.

Just make sure you’re not touching any bones, since this can throw off the temperature measurement.

Continue smoking until the interior temperature of the breast reaches 165°F. You may baste it again with the butter, but it isn’t necessary for lovely crispy skin.

Carving and serving the turkey

Depending on the size of your turkey, taking it off the smoker might be a challenge.

You may need two barbeque spatulas, or if you’re feeling adventurous, a pizza paddle or even pig shredding claws might work nicely.

Bring your turkey indoors on a big chopping board or butcher block.

You don’t need to rest your turkey for an extended period of time, and you certainly don’t want to tent it with foil since the steam will soften the skin.

If you’re concerned about not getting enough rest, I find that the time it takes to get the gravy pan inside and everything ready is more than enough.

Getting the gravy ready

If you’re cooking gravy, now is the time to finish it.

Begin by straining the liquid through a strainer after eliminating the backbone and any other big fragments.

Use a fat separator jug to swiftly remove the undesirable fat.

That liquid might be served as a thin jus or reduced on the heat until it becomes more concentrated.

But I prefer my gravy richer, so I cook a medium roux in a skillet with butter and flour before whisking in the gravy.

How to carve a turkey

There are several ways and instructions for cutting a turkey. Before separating the thighs and drumsticks, I gently remove the thigh and drumsticks and then remove the wings.

This makes removing the breasts before slicing them much simpler.

To carve the turkey:

  • Place the turkey breast side up on a large chopping board, legs facing you.
  • Remove the leg and thigh from one side gently using a sharp knife. Lifting the leg with one hand allows you to use the other to delicately slice the skin, making it simpler to remove the leg and thigh from the bird.
  • Cut through the joint that links the drumstick and the thigh to separate them.
  • Pull back the wings and cut at the joint
  • Repeat the process on the other side
  • It’s simpler for me to take each breast intact and then slice into parts so that each piece has some skin attached. Simply slide your knife along one side of the backbone, then pivot and cut towards you.
  • After removing the breast, cut it into separate parts.

You may chop the flesh off the thigh depending on how many people you’re serving, but I like to serve it whole.

Check out our guide on how to cut a turkey for additional information.

How to serve the turkey

I prefer to place the turkey halves on a tray so that everyone can pick and choose what they like.

You can pour some of the gravy on top, but you may prefer to offer it on the side so guests can chose.

Side dishes may vary depending on the season. Stuffing Muffins are perfect for a Thanksgiving feast (or any other occasion).

If you’re going to create gravy, you’ll probably want some mashed potatoes to soak it up.

Side dishes for turkey

  • Smoked Sausage Stuffing
  • Smoked Potatoes


How do you keep a turkey moist when smoking?

While smoking the turkey, baste or spritz it with chicken stock to keep it moist and crisp up the skin. This recipe’s butter will really make your skin crisp, thus the spritzing is more to protect it from drying out.

Is it better to smoke a turkey at 225 or 250?

Temperature of Grilled Turkey

The objective is to maintain the temperature as near to 225 degrees Fahrenheit as feasible. If you’re using a manual smoker or a gas grill, maintain the temperature between 225 and 250 degrees F. Whatever technique you use, make sure the smoke from the grill is thin and has a faint blue hue.

What liquid to use when smoking a turkey?

1 – Soak the turkey in a moist brine overnight.

The brine is typically flavored with liquids, herbs, and spices such as beer, vegetable broth, rosemary, sage, and thyme.

How to smoke a turkey in a BBQ?

For a small (12 to 14-pound) turkey, plan on smoking it for 12-15 minutes per pound. A little turkey is ideal because it can sit away from the coals and roast from the indirect heat and smoke next to the coals rather than directly over them.

Should I spray my turkey while smoking?

To prevent the meat from drying out, spray it every half hour to 45 minutes. It also creates a layer that helps the smoke to spread over and adhere to the meat.

Should I rub oil on my turkey before smoking?

Before using it on your smoker or grill, just spray it with oil. If the turkey was wet brined, treat the dried body with oil before applying the dry rub. After seasoning the turkey, place your oven-safe wireless thermometer into the thickest section of the bird thigh.

How long to smoke a 12lb turkey at 225?

Preheat the smoker to 225°F. Cook the turkey for 8 to 12 hours, or until the inner thigh temperature reaches 180° F, on a cooking rack.

Can you overcook a turkey in a smoker?

Temperature of smoked turkey breast

To begin, let’s get straight to the point: if you want juicy turkey breast, you can’t overcook it. While it is usual practice to roast chicken at 165°F (74°C) “for food safety,” lower temperatures kept for longer periods may produce the same bacterial kill-off levels.

How long to smoke a 13 lb turkey at 250?

When smoking a turkey at 225-250 degrees Fahrenheit, allow 30 minutes per pound. This 13-pound turkey took around 7-8 hours to reach temperature. Remove the turkey from the smoker and let it rest for 10 minutes, still wrapped in foil, before slicing.

What is the best smoke flavor for turkey?

What are the finest woods for smoking a turkey?
Pecan. Pecan, one of the most often used woods in meat smoking, adds a fantastic balance of sweetness, smokiness, and sharpness to your turkey flesh.
Oak. Mesquite.

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