Have you ever wanted to smoke your own turkey? Smoked food are delicious and much easier to make than you think! Follow this recipe for a juicy smoked turkey, with an amazing flavored brine.
This will be the perfect holiday turkey this Thanksgiving dinner or for Christmas. If you're looking for smoked turkey recipe ideas, you've found the right place. Change up your holiday traditions and make something different. Trust me, everyone will thank you.
How to Smoke a Turkey
The first thing to you need is a smoker. I have a Chargriller Off-Set Smoker. This basically means the heat is on the side of the turkey, providing indirect heat. I like this way if smoking meats, as I use charcoals and then add wood to provide the smokey flavor. When possible, I like to find the real wood charcoals, but in this recipe I use bbq briquettes as my fuel source.
Some people use Traeger style pellet smokers and these are easy to use in the way they use pellets and the temperature is easily maintained. However, it kind of feels like cheating from traditional smoking, even though it's not. When I bought my smoker, I thought the Traeger pellets might have had chemicals, but they do not. They have 100% food grade products like soybean oil, so the bbq pellets are not dangerous. But I still prefer the more traditional way of smoking meats.
Pat dry your brined turkey, spread some oil and rub your spices of your choice. There isn't a right or wrong answer, just your preference. I used a seasoning salt, but other people use salt, garlic powder and dried rosemary. Another idea is to use Chipotle spice or Cajun spice, it's all up to you!
When stuffing your turkey, don't use traditional stuffing. You can stuff it with 2 small onions, and a sliced apple, or even add some garlic, that's it! If you want stuffing, you will need to make Stovetop Stuffing for your turkey dinner.
Finally you need to allow your turkey to rest, wrapped in a tent foil before serving. This allows the juices to redistribute in the turkey, leaving a flavorful turkey dinner!
Do I Need to Brine a Turkey?
In short, yes! If you brine your turkey for 12-24 hours in advance, you will get the best smoked results and a juicy and flavorful bird. Of course you can skip the brine, because it's a bit of a pain, however your turkey might be dried out and not juicy. Turkey is dry enough without smoking it without brining (is my humble opinion). Dry brining is an option, but it's not as juicy.
Check out my full Poultry Brining Recipe for step by step instructions, for a wet brine and a dry brine recipe. Some brining recipes are just salty water, but mine uses vegetables and spices for a flavorful turkey. It's worth the extra minimal effort!
When brining a turkey, you will need space in your fridge, as you cannot brine it on the counter top because you will get sick. I have a spare drinks fridge in my house which worked perfectly.
The second thing you need for brining is a large food safe bucket or pail. This is important as you don't want chemicals to leach into your turkey, and then into your loved one. So don't re-use an old paint bucket, that's the wrong type of recycling! Invest in a proper bucket, it's only gonna cost you ten bucks, and you will make this recipe again and again.
What Temperature Do You Smoke a Turkey?
When smoking a chicken or turkey, you want to go low and slow with temperatures around 250°F/120°C. However, I go slightly higher at 275°F/135°C. It's up to you, as the temperature variations will impact cooking time. The higher the temperature, the faster it cooks, also can dry out or burn.
There is an exception to the low and slow rule. If your turkey is large and over 15 pounds or 6.8 kilograms, you need to use a higher temperature of 350°F/175°C. This is because the larger turkey takes a longer time to cook, which leaves the turkey in a danger zone temperature wise for salmonella. So crank up the heat for a longer bird, or use 2 smaller turkeys.
How Long Does It Take To Smoke a Turkey?
So for planning purposes, it takes roughly, 30 to 40 minutes per pound or half kilogram to smoke your turkey. This is just a guide, as it can take longer, especially if you experience the dreaded cooking stall, but more on that in a sec.
The internal temperature of the turkey must be 165°F/75°C when measuring in the turkey breast. The turkey thighs must be 180°F/85°C. When I smoke it, I use a double internal thermometer to track the progress during the smoking process. When it reaches the cooked temperature, I then use a stick probe thermometer to check the temperature around the whole turkey. Some smokers don't cook evenly, so you want to make sure the whole bird is cooked properly.
Now back to the smoking stall. Sometimes when smoking meats, the temperature increase reaches a stalling point where it seems that the internal temp of the meat is no longer increasing. Usually I just wait it out, and it can add an hour to your cooking time, but have had it stall for even longer. This usually happens when the meat is close to being done, but not yet. My turkey stalled at 154°F/68°C in this recipe.
Alternatively, you can pop it into the oven to complete the cooking process. Every true meat smoker reading this just screamed in horror, but it is sometimes done. The smoked flavor has already penetrated the meat, so you can pop it into the oven on 350°F/175°C, and cover with foil until you reach the right temperature. Of course, like i said, smoking purists would not be necessarily happy with this, but sometimes it's necessary, especially if you have company waiting!
Which Wood for Smoked Turkey?
When smoking turkey or chicken, you want to use more gentle fruit woods, like apple wood or cherry wood. I have used both and it's turned out delicious. The woods you want to avoid are heavier flavored woods like Mesquite or Hickory, save those for your beef brisket. Although some people like the heavy smoked flavor, but maybe start with the more delicate woods.
What to Serve with Smoked Turkey?
The same usual side dishes and trimmings work perfectly with smoked turkey. Here are some of my favorites!
- Creamy Garlic Mashed Potatoes
- Homemade Cranberry Sauce
- Easy Stovetop Stuffing
- Creamy Scalloped Potatoes Bake
- Savory Mashed Sweet Potatoes
Smoked Turkey vs Deep Fried Turkey
There is a certain amount of theatre when smoking a turkey or making Deep Fried Turkey. Both versions have benefits and downfalls and I have made both. We are lucky in Australia, Christmas happens in the summer time and it's easy to smoke or deep fry, as the weather is co-operative. Definitely is harder to do in the snow!
The benefit of Deep Frying a Turkey is the speed. It only takes about 3½ minutes per pound when frying your turkey. This is fast and efficient, and in many ways an easy option to prepare a turkey for the holidays. The downfall is that you will need a few gallons of oil, and the right deep fryer to make it happen.
The benefit of this smoked turkey recipe is the smoked flavor. It's absolutely delicious, juicy and a different twist of making regular turkey. The downside of smoking turkey is the amount of time. You will need to start early in the day, as the turkey in this recipe took 7 hours to smoke!
Either version will be an interesting conversation starter at dinner, and something a little bit different from the usual. If it's all too hard, you can just make a traditional Butter Basted Oven Roasted Turkey or a tasty Citrus Roast Turkey. Either way, you have a few options on how to make a turkey.
Turkey Leftovers Ideas
- turkey sandwich on sourdough with Onion Jam
- puff pastry Turkey Turnovers with Cranberries and Cheese
- Leftover Turkey Soup with Bacon
- Leftover Turkey Broth
Whatever you're celebrating, you and your guests will love this smoked turkey recipe! Brined, smoked, and full of juicy flavor. It's a break from the ordinary! Bon Appetit! Приятного аппетита!
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- Off Set Smoker
- 1 whole turkey 10 to 12 pounds (4.5 - 5.5 kg) thawed
- turkey brine
- ¼ cup oil
- seasoning salt for rub
Smoked Turkey Stuffing
- 2 onions peeled and halved
- 2 small apples sliced
- Fully thaw the frozen turkey. It's best done in the fridge and a few days in advance. Prepare the turkey brine, and place turkey in the brine in a food safe container. Place in fridge for up to 24 hours to brine.
- Remove turkey from brine, pat dry, or place in fridge uncovered for a few hours to dry. Drizzle oil over the turkey and rub in seasoning salt all over the turkey, including inside the turkey cavity.
- Stuff the onions and apples inside the turkey. Using string, tie the turkey legs together. It looks nicer when serving.
- On day of smoking, light and heat your off set smoker to 275°C, according to your manufacturers instructions. Or place lit coals on the side of a bbq, away from where your turkey will sit. When charcoals are lit for at least 20 minutes, then add the apple wood chunks.
- Place internal thermometer probe inside the turkey breast and into the deepest part of the thigh, without touching the bone. Place turkey in your smoker and allow to cook for 30 to 40 minutes per pound. Internal temperature of the breast must reach 165°F and thigh at 180°F in the thickest part of the meat. Use a stick thermometer to check the temperature before removing the turkey to ensure correct temperature is reached.
- Wearing silicone gloves remove turkey from the smoker. Place it in a tray, cover with foil to allow to rest for 30 minutes before serving.