Our Easy Smoked Turkey Recipe for Your Grill

You don't have a smoker?

No problem with our smoked turkey recipe! Smoking a turkey is easy with this recipe as we walk you through the steps for either a gas or charcoal barbecue grill. All to assure your backyard chef fame! We use the indirect cooking method to attain a remarkable, smoke flavored, succulent bird.

We believe that "Barbecue is the Mystical Communion of Fire, Smoke and Meat"...

With this in mind, let's start with the "Cookin' Cousin's" ...

6 Secrets to Smoking Meat

  1. Great Meat
  2. Great Spices
  3. Great Tools (grill, tongs, thermometers, etc...)
  4. Heat Control
  5. Timing
  6. Smoke

You can review these in detail at our "6 Secrets to Smoking Meat" page.

Lets start with the stuff you'll need for this smoked turkey recipe:

Patience Low and slow is the real secret to a great smoked barbecue turkey recipe. We're talking temperatures of 230-250°F/110-121°C for an extended cooking period. This is not the fastest method, but the "bestest"! You'll need a bucket of this virtue when smoking turkey on the grill. Figure about 2.5-3.0+ hours.

Charcoal barbecue grill  Our smoked turkey recipe is written for both the horizontal, or the "kettle" style grill. A covered grill is necessary to attain an even distribution of heat, smoke and moisture. Our favorite kettle comes from Weber because it is easy to use, produces exceptional results, and is extremely sturdy. We love the American classic Weber 22 1/2-Inch One-Touch Silver Kettle Grill for its unbeatable versatility.

Gas barbecue grill A gas grill with at least two burners, is preferable for indirect cooking (you will use only one).

Meat Buy the latest dated turkey (frozen or fresh) you can find. Get one of the smaller birds, like 10-14lbs/4.5-6.4kg as you can expect 6-8 hours cooking time. Bigger bird = more cooking time. See our "6 Secrets to Smoking Meat" page for more on buying a turkey.

Spices Although this smoked turkey recipe doesn't call for spices, sometimes we use a rub when smoking a turkey. We've learned to use the best, freshest spices available. There is a huge difference between the better quality fresh stuff and the old, been-in-the-cupboard-way-to-long, "buck-a-bottle" spices (one important difference between a "tenderfoot", and top competitors).

You can review our rub secrets in detail at our "Dry Rub Secrets" page to enhance our smoked turkey recipe to make it "yours"!

Or you can try our Magic Turkey Rub. This wonderful turkey rub recipe uses Italian seasoning herbs, and Smoked Paprika, to greatly enhance your spice rack's common rub ingredients.

Charcoal/charcoal briquettes  There are advantages to both fuels, however just one maxim applies to both...buy the best you can find. Kingsford brand briquettes top the list for quality, and availability. But please don't buy the "instant light" of any brand! Real charcoal (for you purists) can be difficult to find, and rather expensive, however...

We have found a great resource, reasonably priced, from Milazzo Industries. Their 20LBS of Lump Charcoal is a bargain.

Hardwood chips/chunks  For this smoked turkey recipe(or any meat in a smoker), use only seasoned (never "green") hardwood chips/chunks like Hickory, Oak, Mesquite, Cherry, fruit woods, etc., to suit your taste. These are generally available during the summer, wherever barbecue accessories are sold. Never use softwoods such as the conifers fir, pine, spruce, cedar, cypress, oleander,etc. Many trees and bushes/shrubs are toxic to humans, so stay with the known traditional woods used by the experienced "smokers".

Aluminum disposable pan For either type grill, you'll place it under the cooking rack, below the turkey, to control the inevitable flare-ups. Add about an inch of water to assist in keeping the bird moist, and you'll have gravy makin's!

Smoker box, or aluminum foil pouch  Some gas grills come with a Smoker Box for the wood chips. If yours does not have one, just make a envelope/pouch from heavy-duty aluminum foil and put 2 cups of pre-soaked (in hot water for about an hour) chips on the foil; fold into a flat envelope/pouch shape, and poke a several slices in the top to release the smoke.

Oven/Grill thermometer  To ensure your success with our smoked turkey recipe, this tool is the only way you will really know what's going on inside your smoker! Our two favorites are the Taylor Connoisseur Oven Thermometer. , and the Taylor Precision 5932 Classic Oven Thermometer.They are both very accurate, durable (stainless steel), and exceptionally reasonable in price.

Instant Read probe-type thermometer  This is fowl! Be safe and ensure the meat has reached the temperatures stated in our recipe; turkey is never good "almost done"! Our "hands down" choice for speed of read, accuracy, and price, is the CDN Proaccurate Stainless Digital Thermometer. The only instant-read thermometer that that we know to be faster, and another choice of professionals (albeit rather expensive), is the Splash-Proof Super-Fast Thermapen - Instant Read Thermometer, Perfect for Barbecue, Home and Professional Cooking

Insulated Food Gloves  These things are fantastic for handling the finished bird! There are many food handling gloves out there, however we have found these insulated barbecue gloves exceptionally well designed, and very easy to clean!

Chimney-type charcoal starter  This is by far the easeist way to start, and maintain, charcoal. Our favorite top performer is the Weber Rapidfire Chimney Starter. Lot of chimney starters out there, but this is the champ.

Turkey Cannon  Cook your turkey in half the time? Really sweet, juicy white meat? Yep! You can smoke, grill, or oven bake, an exceptionally succulent bird, with this ingenious tool. Our smoked turkey recipe can easily be adapted for this method. We love it! An extremely easy way to roast your bird to perfection every time. The Turkey Cannon's unique infuser allows you to use your favorite beverage (wine, beer, apple juice, etc.) to infuse the bird with moisture, and the flavors, of any added herbs or spices.

Want to see how it works? Click here to download the instructions...Turkey Cannon Instructions

Now, let's prepare the meat...

NOTE: Turkey should be always kept in the refrigerator (below 40°F/4.4°C) before preparation. If frozen, ensure turkey is completely thawed (in the refrigerator) before placing on the grill.

  • Take the thawed turkey from the refrigerator and remove the neck and giblets. Clean and rinse thoroughly, especially the cavity. Pat dry with paper towels.
  • If you use a rub, apply generously under the skin and in the cavity. For the maximum effect we like to do this at least a couple of hours, and preferably 1-3 days, before cooking. Our smoked turkey recipe doesn't require a rub, but it is fun! Remember to keep the turkey in the refrigerator until you are ready to put it on the fire.

Do not stuff the bird! No smoked turkey recipe should ever include stuffing the bird. It takes too long for the stuffing to reach the 165°F/74°C required to pass the "Danger Zone" of 40-140°F/4.4-60°C (bacteria heaven!).

Get the Grill Ready...

  • On a gas grill, fire-up all burners and get the temperature to hold at 230-250°F/110-121°C. We have found it imperative to use a good oven thermometer, placed on the meat side of the cooking grill, to ensure that the cooking temperature is true. Note that the grill's lid thermometer will indicate a higher temperature, and that number should be used only as a reference.
  • Shut down all but one burner. You need only one burner for for this smoked turkey recipe.
  • Now place the pre-soaked chips in the smoker box, or the prepared smoker pouch, over the hot burner.
  • Close the grill and let the smoke get started. This will be the last time, during the cooking cycle, you will have anything to do with the smoke. Too much smoke makes the meat bitter tasting, and smoking is actually done in the first couple of hours.

NOTE: No smoked turkey recipe should ever include petrol products! Please, do not use charcoal lighter fluid as it can taint the meat. There are several good "fire-starters" on the market that will not make the meat taste nasty, or impart potentially dangerous chemicals to the food. The chimney starters are the greatest.

  • On a charcoal grill, Fire-up the charcoal...we like the chimney charcoal starter because it's the quickest and easiest way to start the coals. When smoking turkey on the grill, you'll need to replenish the coals occasionally to maintain the ideal temperature of around 230-250°F/110-121°C. We have found it imperative to use a good oven thermometer, placed near the meat, to ensure that the cooking temperature is true.
  • Start with about 40 briquettes for a smaller grill, 50 for a medium sized grill, and about 60 for a big grill. Let them get a to white/gray color, and they will be ready for cooking. You will need to add more unlit coals (6-8, depending on cooker size), about every 45 minutes to an hour, to maintain the heat at 230-250°F/110-121°C. Watch the temperature, and anticipate adding with about a 15-minute lead.
  • Place an equal number of briquettes on each side of the charcoal grate, or grill pan. Leave an empty space in the center for the drip pan. When the temperature is correct, place a drip pan between the charcoals. Add water to the pan to a level of about 1/2".
  • You can control the temperature with the bottom/side vents on your grill. Open the vent for more oxygen (heat). Adjust the top vent to half open, and leave it alone.
  • Put a couple of handfuls of chips/chunks of hardwood (presoaked in hot water for about 20 min.) on the coals.
  • Now, close the grill and let the smoke get started. This will be the last time, during the cooking cycle, you will have anything to do with the smoke. Too much smoke makes the meat bitter tasting, and smoking is actually done in the first couple of hours.

Cook 'Em...

NOTE: Always use tongs/spatulas/oven mitts! Never use the forked, sharp, pokey thing that seems to come with all backyard barbecue tool sets. It will pierce the meat and allow the juices to run out.

Spray the grill with cooking oil to prevent the turkey from sticking, or...

When the temperature has reached 230-250°F/110-121°C...

  • Wet a piece of paper towel with cooking oil, pick it up with tongs and wipe the cooking grill (where the turkey will rest) with the oil.
  • Place the turkey (breast side up) on the cooking grill, centered over the drip pan on a charcoal grill. Place it on the opposite side of the hot burner, over the drip pan, on a gas grill. Close the lid and...
  • Resist peeking! You're loosing precious heat and smoke. Open the lid and quickly check the temperature and bird. You can loose 15-20 minutes of cooking time if you tarry!
  • You have time! If you have judiciously maintained the cooking temperature, you can leave your station several times before the bird is done. For our smoked turkey recipe, think 20-30 minutes a pound to completion.
  • Using your instant read probe-type thermometer, check the turkey at the inner thigh, looking for 165°F/74°C and check the breast for a temperature of 170°F/77°C. Ensure the thermometer does not touch a bone.
  • When done, remove turkey to a pan/platter to "rest" for 20 minutes before carving. This is an important step to ensure the juices return to the meat.

Let 'em rave!...

With this smoked turkey recipe, the smell alone will drive them nuts. Add your wonderful side dishes, say your prayer, and brace up for the accolades!

Lets eat!

Got a charcoal, gas or electric smoker? Fantastic! Our smoked turkey recipe is the easiest way to establish your fame with one of these ingenious cookers.

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