How to Smoke a Turkey
How to smoke a turkey!
Smoked turkey. People, this is the way to cook a turkey! Not all smoked turkey recipes are created equally and not all smokers are either. But with this recipe, you can learn how to smoke a turkey and it will be one of the best turkeys you’ve ever had. See more Thanksgiving recipes!
So here’s the deal…I’m actually new to smoking. But I’m not new to good food. This smoked turkey is one of the first few things I’ve made in my new Camp Chef Woodwind Pellet Grill. (By the way, pretty sure I’m already falling in love!)
My newness to smoking is good news! Since I can make an amazing smoked turkey without much experience, so can anyone. And I can tell you that this smoked turkey recipe is worth making!
If my turkey is already injected with a saline solution, I often skip the wet or dry brining. But I don’t want to skimp on the flavor, so in this recipe I use an herb butter and an herb citrus salt! Super easy and super delicious without being overpowering.
Another way to add flavor and moisture is by using a liquid, like chicken broth or water, and aromatic fruits and/or vegetables. There are a few ways to do this and many ingredient choices. I use chicken broth, some of the citrus herb salt, and half of a lemon in this recipe.
I have a Turkey Cannon Infusion Roaster and I use it because it helps infuse flavor and moisture, plus it cuts the turkey cooking time in half. Same idea as beer can chicken. The Cannon isn’t necessary though, just a nice tool to consider!
If you don’t have a Turkey Cannon, you can place the liquid and lemon in a large disposable aluminum roasting pan beneath the turkey. I like having a large pan beneath the turkey anyway to catch the drippings. You can use these drippings to make gravy afterward, in which case you will want your liquid to be something with flavor like chicken broth or white wine.
Honestly, with this go around I expected the turkey to cook for about 2 hours. But when I checked on it after 1 hour on the high smoke setting, it was already done! Maybe even a little overdone, but it didn’t dry out and still tasted amazing!
If you tuck the wings and tie the legs together, the final product will look even prettier. Tastes good either way though. 😉
How to Smoke a Turkey:
Turkey size: Plan for about 1-1 1/2 pounds of turkey per person. Of course, leftover smoked turkey is almost always a good idea! If you need more than 14 pounds of turkey, consider cooking multiple smaller turkeys instead of one large turkey. Smaller turkeys cook faster!
Thaw the turkey: Keep in mind that if your turkey is frozen, it may take quite a while to thaw! Plan for about 6 hours per pound thaw time in the refrigerator. For a 14-lb turkey, that’s 3 1/2 days in the refrigerator. (Be sure to place the turkey in its original packaging on a rimmed baking sheet or something similar to catch any leaks!)
Alternately, expect about 30 minutes per pound when submerging the turkey in cold water, replacing water every so often to make sure the water is always cold.
Brining: When it comes to brining, there are basically two methods: wet or dry. And you need to plan to start brining the turkey a day or three in advance, depending on the method. Brining can be an awesome way to add more flavor and moisture!
First of all, you want to check the packaging to see if your turkey has already been injected with a saline solution. If the turkey is pre-injected or pre-brined, then you may want to skip doing your own brine or the turkey could end up being overly salty. Up to you though! I think it is personal preference.
Spatchcock vs Traditional: A spatchcocked turkey is basically flattened, or butterflied. The advantages of spatchcocking are that you get more surface area for seasoning, faster cooking time, and crispier skin. It also takes up less vertical space.
A traditional turkey looks a little more pretty and takes up less horizontal space. There’s also a little less prep time up front, but it usually takes longer to cook.
Cooking time: Cooking time will vary depending on a lot of things, like the size of the turkey, temperature of your smoker, weather, if the turkey is spatchcocked or not, and so on. You’ll need to keep an eye on it and get a meat probe or thermometer so you will know when it is done! If the turkey is 8 to 16 pounds, it can take anywhere between 1 and 4 hours in a smoker.
The most commonly recommended hardwood pellets for smoked turkey are apple, cherry, hickory, or herb blend. Competition Blend pellets are what I used and were awesome! The guide to the perfect turkey from Camp Chef is a great source for more info.
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How to Smoke a Turkey
- 10 to 14 pound whole turkey, thawed
- 3 tablespoons cooking oil or melted butter
- 1/2 cup chicken broth, water, or liquid of choice
- 1 lemon
Sage Compound Butter
- 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1/4 teaspoon ground thyme
Herb Citrus Salt
- 1/4 cup Kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh chopped rosemary
- 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
- 1/2 teaspoon lime zest
- 1 clove garlic, peeled and chopped
- Preheat pellet grill to high smoke.
- Remove turkey giblets and neck. Trim extra skin around the neck and any extra fat. Rinse turkey with water, then pat dry with paper towels.
- In a small bowl, mix together the butter, sage, rosemary, parsley, garlic, and ground thyme for the sage compound butter.
- In a small food processor or something similar, blend together the kosher salt, fresh thyme, rosemary, lemon zest, lime zest, and garlic for the herb citrus salt.
- Work the sage compound butter all over under the skin of the turkey, gently separating the skin from the breast and legs without tearing the skin. Spread in an even layer. Then rub the oil over the entire outside of the turkey and season with the herb citrus salt, reserving about 1 tablespoon of the herb citrus salt for the liquid, if desired.
- Fill the Turkey Cannon with 1/2 cup liquid (water or chicken broth), or you can use a disposable aluminum pan filled halfway with liquid, placed beneath the cooking grate and turkey. Add half of a lemon and reserved tablespoon of herb citrus salt to the liquid. If possible, place other half of lemon over the hole where the neck was to help retain moisture.
- Place the turkey breast-side up on the Turkey Cannon or onto the cooking grate of the pellet grill. If desired, place a large disposable aluminum pan beneath the Turkey Cannon or grate to catch the drippings.
- Cook for 1 hour on high smoke setting, checking after 30 minutes. After the first hour or once the skin is browned enough for you, turn the pellet grill to 350 degrees F and cook until the internal temperature of the thickest part of the breast reaches 165 degrees F. If turkey starts to brown more than you would like, tent it with foil for remainder of cooking time. Cooking time will vary depending on your pellet grill/smoker, weather, size of turkey, if you use a Turkey Cannon, etc.
- When turkey is done, remove from grill, tent loosely with foil, and let rest for about 20 minutes before carving and serving.
Cooking time will vary depending on your pellet grill/smoker, weather, size of turkey, if you use a Turkey Cannon, etc.
Recipe Adapted From: Grillocracy