5 Tips for Smoking a Thanksgiving Turkey

Smoked turkey with a dry rub being carved on a dish

This Thanksgiving could be the best yet with a little extra planning and prep. Maybe it’s your first year hosting in a new home or perhaps you’re just ready to shake up tradition. Anyone can pop a turkey in the oven and call it dinner, but what if you went the extra mile by serving your guests smoked turkey

Add sweetness and intrigue to your Thanksgiving menu by smoking your turkey this year!. Your guests will love it so much that your mother-in-law may be asking you for your recipe for once.

If you’re up for a new adventure, but you’re not sure how to smoke a turkey or how long to smoke a turkey, you’ve come to the right place. Here are five tips from the best smokehouse Seattle has to offer that will help you impress your Thanksgiving guests. 

1. How to smoke a turkey without a smoker.

If you’re hoping to make smoked turkey for Thanksgiving, but you don’t have a smoker, that’s actually not a problem. As long as you have a grill, you’re good to go. In order to smoke your turkey, you’ll need wood chips. Don’t forget to grab a bowl of water and soak your wood chips for 30 minutes before putting them into the fire. Smoking your wood chips will prevent them from burning while simultaneously providing your turkey with that delicious smoky flavor you’re after. Once you’ve drained the bowl and preheated the grill between 275 and 300 degrees Fahrenheit, you’re ready to add your chips. 

For a charcoal grill, you can add the wood chips onto the coals. A gas grill is slightly more complicated, because you need to wrap up the chips in foil, and then poke holes in the foil, so the smoke can escape. Before putting your package of wood chips on the heating element, it’s important to remember to turn off the gas. Then, you can relight it on low. If you actually have a smoker or pellet grill, just follow the instructions on your user guide. 

Wood chips soaked in water on a charcoal grill.

2. How long to smoke a turkey.

As you know, you don’t want to mess with uncooked poultry, because it’s a health hazard. You’ll definitely want to make sure that your bird is thoroughly cooked before serving it, but how long does it take to smoke a turkey? The general rule of thumb is to smoke your turkey between 15 and 20 minutes for each pound. So, a 12 pound turkey could take up to four hours to smoke depending on the temperature setting. 

You’ll want your smoker to maintain a temperature between 275 and 300 degrees the entire time. To keep the temperature up and the smoke trapped, try not to check on your turkey too often. When you get close to time, insert a meat thermometer at the thickest part of the thigh to properly check the temperature. You’ll know it’s done when the temperature reads between 170 and 175 degrees Fahrenheit. 

3. How to keep your turkey moist when smoking it.

Obviously, you want a turkey that’s smokey and juicy, so to accomplish this, consider smoking the turkey with a roasting pan filled with about an inch of water underneath the grill grates. If you try to smoke the turkey in water, it’s just going to get soggy. This method will keep the environment moist without sacrificing the integrity of your Thanksgiving bird. You can also spatchcock your turkey before putting it in, so that it cooks faster and more evenly, helping it maintain moisture. 

4. Should you wrap turkey in foil while smoking?

Unlike cooking a turkey in an oven, you won’t want to wrap your turkey in aluminum foil for smoked turkey. If your turkey’s wings are baking too quickly, you can cover them with foil, but otherwise, there’s no need. While you’re letting it rest, you can tent your turkey in foil for about 15 minutes, but smoking it the whole time in foil is unnecessary and could lead to soggy skin. 

5. How should you season your smoked turkey?

You can either brine your turkey or use dry rub to add an extra kick of flavor to your Thanksgiving meal. There are a number of great brine recipes, but if you want to use a dry rub, stop by Lady Jaye’s smokehouse Seattle meat shop, and pick up one of our highly recommended rubs. Think of it as your secret ingredient. 

Row of dry spice ribs that can be used on seafood, chicken, beef, turkey, or chicken.

The main event of Thanksgiving is definitely the turkey. Impress your relatives and friends alike by using these tips to make an amazing smoked turkey. Be careful, you may just be the designated turkey maker, ahem master, from here on out.

Published by Jessica Ervin-Eickhoff

Jessica is a Chicago writer and actor who's originally from Kentucky. In addition to M&P, she's written for Complex, Eve's Disclosure, MightyScribes, and Honey Colony.

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