Learn How to Smoke a Whole Turkey

February 20, 2014
By Nick Distefano

Do you own a smoker and want to create a smoked turkey masterpiece like the one above? Then you are in luck because the following recipe and instructions will help you learn how to smoke a whole turkey!

Note: recipe is for a completely field dressed, 10-12lb whole turkey

1. Brine Turkey for 24 hours


  • 1 cup kosher salt
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 1 gallon of vegetable stock, 4 – 32 oz. containers
  • 1 tablespoon of black peppercorns whole
  • ½ tablespoon of whole allspice
  • ½ tablespoon of cut up candied ginger

Instructions: Combine all of those into a large, stainless steel pasta pan and bring to a boil. Boil for around 30 minutes or until all of the sugar and salt is completely dissolved. Let cool to a chilled temperature. Then add a gallon of ice water. After that, add the turkey and put into the refrigerator.

2. Rinse off turkey thoroughly and then place in the refrigerator to dry for 12 hours

  • Simply just spray the outside and inside out with water

3. Add a rub right before placing on the grill to smoke


  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons Lawry’s seasoned salt
  • 1 teaspoon of poultry seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon of paprika
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • ½ teaspoon of ground black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon of cayenne pepper (optional if you don’t like spicy food)
  • ¼ teaspoon of basil

Instructions: Mix all of those ingredients together.  When applying the rub, make sure to get a good, even coating over the whole turkey making sure it is completely coated and not clumpy. Also note that you may need to make more than 1 batch of rub.

4. Cooking Process

Instructions: Try to keep the smoker around 235-275 F and cook between 4-5 hours with apple and cherry wood.  You want to smoke it until the skin tightens and is that beautiful, dark, golden brown color like in the picture above, which could potentially be achieved sooner than 4-5 hours.  Monitor closely towards to make sure it doesn’t burn.

Remove turkey from the smoker and cook an additional 1-2.5 hours in the oven at 350 covered in foil with a little water or soda in the bottom of the pan.  To know when to take it out of the oven, you can slide the turkey out briefly and use a meat thermometer to make sure it is cooked thoroughly or just cut it in the deepest part and make sure it is white or a very light pink.

It is important to remember that if you run your smoker warmer or colder, the cooking times will vary.

Nick is a student at Rockhurst University in Kansas City and is an avid outdoorsman.  He loves to fish around his hometown of Omaha, NE and has developed a passion for turning his fish and game into delicious meals for family and friends.


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