Smoked turkey is a certified crowd pleaser!
It’s a great centerpiece, tastes great and it’s easy to create.
With its smoky flavor and rich texture, turkey is hard to resist. This recipe will give you legendary status at your next family gathering!!
When smoking a turkey, an expensive grill with all the bells and whistles is not going to help you.
You need to get your hands on an electric smoker. Any electric smoker will do to master smoking a turkey.
Let get stuck into this!
What this article covers:
- How Long to Smoke A Turkey in an Electric Smoker?
- How Long to Smoke a Turkey at 225
- The Best Smoked Turkey Recipe
How Long to Smoke A Turkey in an Electric Smoker?
As a general rule of thumb, you want to cook the turkey for around 30 minutes per pound at 225°F.
Like most meats, there is no set time you should smoke a turkey for. There are a few factors that come into play.
• The size and shape of your turkey
• The temperature of your electric smoker
• How often the smoker is opened once the bird is in
How to Choose The Right Turkey
Before you decide what size turkey to buy, you have to figure out how many people you are feeding.
I calculate you need half a pound of delicious smoked turkey meat per adult. You need to take into account the giblets and bones, so you need to allow 1 pound of raw turkey per adult.
Cooking for 8 – 10 people? That means you need to purchase a turkey that weighs around 8 -10 pounds.
You are better off sticking to turkeys 15 pounds and under. If you are cooking for 15 plus people I would recommend buying two turkeys.
As we will be cooking low and slow, larger turkeys can run the risk of sitting in the danger zone for too long/.
How to Thaw Your Turkey
You need to ensure your frozen turkey is completely thawed before smoking it. That way the entire bird cooks at the rate thought.
You also need to ensure your turkey is completely thawed before brining it. As brining takes a few days, you may need to ensure your turkey is that up a week before Thanksgiving or when you plan to cook it.
Per 4lbs it takes 24 hours to defrost. So if you have a 12lb turkey it may take 3 days to defrost in the refrigerator.
How to Clean Your Turkey
After the turkey is defrosted, make sure you clean your turkey. Start by removing the neck, gizzard, and insides. Once the insides have been removed, give the inside a good rinse.
How to Brine Your Turkey
Before starting to smoke your turkey you should to brine it.
Brining is a technique that makes the turkey more succulent and tedner by soaking it in a solution of salt, water and aromatics.
Allowing the bird to sit in the solution will mean the salt will seep into the turkey meat. This helps to break down the proteins as well as add flavor and moisture to the meat.
To make the brine, I like to allow one cup of salt per gallon of water. You may need something to keep the bird submerged.
Once yo have the core brine ready it’s time to add some flavor. The most are garlic, sugar, thyme, rosemary, and paprika.
Iys up to you what combination of spices and herbs you want to use. If you are not sure I have included our turkey brine recipe below.
Add all your ingredients to a large pot and bring it to a boil. Give the brine a stir and turn off the heat.
Allow the brine to cool. Then place all the liquid and thawed turkey in either a large container or brine bag.
Allow the turkey to brine in the refrigerator for 3 days at most.
When your preferred time is up, remove the turkey from the brine and rinse it thoroughly. Then you want to pat it dry with paper towels.
Make sure you are in no rush, smoking a turkey in electric smoker takes time. Be well organized and wait out the whole process. Your end result will be well worth the wait.Charlies Aunt Kathy
Try these turkey enchilada stuffed bell peppers. It’s the perfect way to use up that delicious smoked turkey (if there is any left!)
The Bare Bones Smoked Turkey Recipe
We have covered thawing, cleaning, brining, and rinsing turkey above. I have included them the steps below because they are so important to whipping uy a juicy, succulent turkey.
Thaw Your Turkey
The first thing that you need to do is to make sure your turkey is well-defrosted. Never start to cook meat when any parts are still partly frozen.
Clean Your Turkey:
After the turkey is defrosted, make sure you clean your turkey. Start by removing the neck, gizzard, and insides. Once the insides have been removed, give the inside a good rinse. If you plan on spatchcocking the turkey you should do it at this stage of the cooking process.
Tip: Save the neck and gizzard for an amazing soup later on! You can also smoke the turkey neck, they come out surprisingly declious!
Brine Your Turkey:
Before starting to smoke this masterpiece you need to brine it, This will enhance the bird’s moisture absorption, break down the muscles and tenderize the meat.
For a simple brine, submerge the bird in a mixture of cold water and kosher salt. If you need to weigh the bird down to keep it submerged.
Rinse and Dry Your Turkey:
Remove the bird from the brine and rinse it with cold water, making sure to not forget the cavity. Once well rinsed let dry for 12 – 24 hours.
This makes sure the flavors of the brine are evenly dispersed throughout the meat.
Season Your Turkey:
Once your turkey has been brined and rinsed it’s time to season it. You can go traditional with herbs and spices or go for a cajun spice.
Before you season the outside of the turkey we will stuff the cavity with aromatics such as garlic and rosemary.
Next, we want to apply the apply binder before you apply the rub to the outside. You can either butter, oil spray, or olive oil.
We find that applying butter and then oil spray leaves you with the crispest skin. Now apply all the rub, you want to ensure you it get it into all nooks and crannies of the turkey.
Next, I tie the legs of the turkey together with cooking twine. Then tie it next to the breast. This will ensure the turkey cooks evenly.
My Easy Turkey Seasoning
4 tsp dried oregano
3 tbsp dried thyme
3 tsp paprika
1 tsp dried rosemary
2 tsp garlic powder
1-1/2 tsp cracked black pepper
2 tsp sea salt or kosher salt
Smoke Your Turkey:
The time you have been waiting for! Smoking time! Preheat your electric smoker to 275°F. To get a really crispy skin you need to cook the turkey at 325°F-350°F. Most smokers don’t go this high.
So I usually smoke the turkey until it has an internal temperature of 160°F then place it in the oven at 350°F and allow the internal temperature to get up to 165°F. Not only do you get crisper skin but it reduces the cooking time.
Don’t worry if you can’t find the turkey in the oven, you can just cook it in the smoker but your skin won’t be as crispy.
Once you have fired up your smoker, place your wood chip of choice in it. I like to use a water pan for turkey. I usually add 2 cups of apple juice or beer.
Once the smoke is rolling put your seasoned turkey inside. I like to place it breast-side up. This allows for crisper skin.
Place a thermometer probe in the turkey breast meat. Then set your timer. I like to allow 30-35 minutes per pound of turkey. You need to remember that is a guideline, you should go by internal temperature, not time. If you’re not using a foil tray, oil the grates to stop the turkey from sticking.
Close the smoker and only open it every 45-60 minutes to check if you need more wood chips or baste the turkey with butter every 30 minutes.
When you get an internal temperature of 165°F in the breast meat (without touching any bones) remove the turkey from the smoker.
Cover the turkey with aluminum foil and let it rest for 25-30 minutes before you start carving.
How to Check The Internal Temperature of Turkey
Put a temperature probe in the breast and let it cook until the breast and legs both reach an internal temperature of 165°F. Make sure you don’t touch any bones when you insert the probe. .
Our Favorite Sides For Smoked Turkey
Sides are one of the most important things for smoked turkey, so make sure you have some declious ones picked out.
What Wood to Use to Smoke Turkey?
Our favorite types of wood for smoking turkey in an electric smoker are cedar, alder, cherry, maple, plum, and hickory. Fruitwoods have a sweeter flavor which works well with turkey. But our family’s favorite wood for turkey is cherrywood.
Different meats absorb smoke differently.
Turkey will absorb smoke faster than red meat so it’s very important that you use a very mild wood chip, this will stop the turkey from being overpowered by smoke. You need at least 1-2 cups of wood chips when smoking a turkey.
Should You Soak The Wood Chips or Dry Wood Chips?
There is great debate over what is better to smoke with wet wood chips or dry wood chips.
In your electric smoker, you can use both. As a general rule of thumb don’t soak wood chips if you are smoking low and slow.
If you are smoking low and slow be sure to soak your wood chips for at least 30 minutes.
Soaked wood chips release less intense smoke and burn far slower than dry wood chips. Whereas dry wood chips burn much faster with more intense heat.
Don’t have an electric smoker? Don’t worry I’ve also tried this method in my pellet grill. It came out wonderfully smokey, moist, and crispy skin! Yum!
Charlies 3 Tips For Smoking Turkey Using an Electric Smoker
Wait for Your Electric Smoker to Come to Temperature
As you can tell by the recipe, smoking a turkey is not a fast process. Some people get too excited and put the turkey in their electric smoker too early.
Wait until your smoker has had a chance to come to temperature and the smoke is rolling consistently
You can tell when the turkey is ready to go in when the wood chips start producing a thin blue smoke.
Make sure you thoroughly clean your drip pans before and after each cook, the last thing you want is a flare-up!
Use A Proper Knife for Carving Your Turkey
Not having the correct tools is a recipe for disaster. Make sure you check out my guide on the carving knives, to ensure you do justice to your delicious bird!
Plan Out Your Cook
You have to plan out your cook. You don’t want to start too late or have your smoked turkey done early.
If you have to reheat it you might find the skin isn’t as crispy as when you pulled it out of the smoker.
Find out what time your guests are arriving and plan accordingly.
Should You Spatchcock The Turkey?
Spatchcocking your turkey is a way to help the turkey absorb more smoke and cook more evenly.
This is because once the turkey is spatchcocked it has more surface area and is more uniform. The bird will also cook much faster because it is flatter.
Spatchcocking is a fairly simple process, all you need to do is remove the spine of the bird so it can lay flat, this is great for those of you who have a smaller smoker or fridge space.
What to Do With Leftover Turkey
There are always leftovers when you smoke a whole turkey.
There is nothing better than a turkey sandwich with cranberry sauce, although you might be wondering how long is smoked turkey good for? Just make sure you eat it within 3-4 days of refrigerating it.
Here are some of our families’ favorite ways to use leftover turkey
Looking for more poultry recipes? We have everything you need here.
Smoking A Turkey In A Electric Smoker
- 1 whole turkey
- 1 pound of brown sugar
- 1 cup of kosher salt
- 2 quarts of apple juice
- 3 quarts of cold water
- 3 oranges cleaned and quartered
- 4 ounces fresh ginger thinly sliced (skin on)
- 6 bay leaves
- 6 garlic cloves peeled and crushed (the bigger the better)
- 15 whole cloves
- Add the apple juice, brown sugar, and salt into a large saucepan. Over a high heat bring to the boil and stir to dissolve. Once dissolved boil for 1 minute further and remove from heat. Let the mix cool to room temperature and refrigerate until 40°F.
- In a very large non-corrosive container, add the remaining ingredients together with the apple juice mixture. Place the turkey into the brine breast side down. If you need to weigh down the turkey with a weight to keep it fully submerged. Set aside in the fridge for 12 – 24 hours (for best results leave for 24 hours).
- After 24 hours remove the turkey from the brine. Thoroughly pat dry with paper towels and set on a rack with baking paper below and set in the fridge to air dry overnight. This step is not essential but will give you a nice crispy skin.
- Remove the turkey from the fridge. Tie the legs together and fold the wings under the body. Set aside and let rise to room temperature. Now you can start to prepare your smoker.
- Fire up your electric smoker and get it to 350°F. Once it starts to produce smoke, turn it down to 230°F and get your turkey in there!
- You need to smoke the turkey until a meat thermometer reaches 165°F in the thickest park if the breast. You can use the rule of thumb that your turkey will take around 30 minutes per pound at 230°F (always allow a little bit of extra time just incase)
- Once the turkey is cooked remove from the electric smoker and rest for 20 – 30 minutes uncovered.
- Carve and serve!
Smoked Turkey Benefits
If you follow the smoked turkey recipe below you will know how delicious this is it!
However, this smoked turkey recipe doesn’t only taste good, it has lots of health benefits over other meats and cooking methods too:
- Turkey is a great source of protein, which means it will keep you fuller for longer.
- Turkey has a very lean muscle mass, which means that it helps the body keep a stabilized insulin level in the body.
- Turkey has high levels of B-6 & B-12 vitamins, as well as choline and zinc.
- Turkey breast has far fewer calories than other meats, so it is a great healthier alternative to other meats.
Struggling to carve your turkey? I recommend you get yourself a knife for carving the turkey, this will save your pride, bird and fingers!
Wrapping it Up
Electric smokers are an easy and very tasty way to cook your turkey. All the hard work is done in the prep, and let’s be real it’s really too difficult.
Once the turkey has been brined simply plug it in, set the timer, and let it cook until beautiful and smoky.
What’s your favorite turkey rub?
Author: Charlie Reeves
Hi, I’m Charlie, I am head taste tester at Simply Meat Smoking! I love it grilling, smoking, and getting out in the yard with the kids! The family also love to test all my recipes (especially my EXTRA CRISPY pulled pork, smoky pork loin, and ANY SEAFOOD I grill)
You will usually find me playing with the kids, perfecting my brisket bark, or sipping beers with boys around the fire. Can’t wait to share all my delicious smoking and grilling adventures with you!
You can read more on our About Us page.
Hungry For More?