Smoking a turkey is an easy way to highlight the turkey’s natural flavors while keeping it tender and juicy
Fresh herbs and hickory smoke come together to produce a tender and juicy smoked turkey that is absolutely delicious. While this turkey recipe is an easy way to step up your Thanksgiving, it’s also the type of dish that should be eaten all year long, especially in the fall.
How to Smoke a Turkey
What makes this recipe so tasty is how the smoke brings out the flavor in the turkey while cooking it so gently that everything stays moist and juicy. Here are a few tips for learning how to smoke a turkey.
The reason it’s so important to spread the seasoning under the turkey’s skin is so you flavor the meat and not just the outside. If fresh herbs aren’t available, you can substitute dried thyme and rubbed sage; the dried version will not have quite as much flavor as one with fresh herbs but will be much better than nothing.
The reason smoking works so well for whole turkeys is that the smoke infuses a deep subtle smokey flavor in the turkey as it slowly cooks. This helps make sure the bird is tender and juicy and that there are interesting flavors in every bite.
When we’re smoking a whole turkey we like to cook it until the inside of the breast has hit at least 162℉ and then cover the bird in aluminum foil and let it rest for 30 minutes before serving. Letting the turkey rest will let the internal temperature come up to at least a 165℉, which is where it needs to be before serving and let the bird relax and reabsorb all of its juices.
The question of how long to smoke a turkey really comes down to the type of smoker you’re using and how well it can maintain it’s temperature. What we’ve generally found is that a 12lb turkey smoked at 250℉ will take around five hours to cook all the way through. Because there is so much variation between smokers and turkeys we highly recommend using a digital thermometer to decide when the turkey is done cooking.
Do not cook stuffing inside a turkey cooked at this temperature. The stuffing will not get hot enough to kill off the bad stuff. Instead serve this Mushroom, Onion, and Sage Stuffing, which is delicious and baked in the oven.
There’s also no reason you have to go without gravy when you’re smoking a turkey. When you’re getting dry rub ready remove the turkey neck and follow this recipe for some of the best gravy you’ve ever had.
Smoked TurkeyPrint Pin Recipe
- 1 10 to 12lb turkey
- 1/2 cup salt for brine
- 2 tbsp butter
- 1/2 tbsp salt
- 1/2 tsp pepper
- 1/4 tsp cumin
- 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
- 1 tsp sage
- 1 tsp thyme
- In a large pot brine the turkey overnight, using 1/2 cup of salt and approximately 6 quarts of cold water. Once the turkey is completely submerged in the water, cover it with plastic wrap and place it into the fridge.
- Finely mince the thyme and sage and add them to the salt, pepper, cumin, and smoked paprika.
- Using your fingers, loosen up the skin on the turkey to spread the seasoning under the skin. Also rub the spice mixture all over inside of the bird and on the outside of the skin. If you have some extra thyme and sage feel free to throw them inside the bird.
- Smoke the turkey at 250℉. Hickory and mesquite both work well and add a lot of flavor without overpowering everything when you're smoking a whole turkey.
- The amount of time it takes to smoke the turkey will vary some by smoker but generally takes around 5 hours for a 12-pound turkey.
- When the turkey is getting close to done, brush the outside with butter, making sure to brush the whole bird a couple of times. This adds flavor and helps to brown everything. It's also really fun to give the turkey a butter bath.
- Cook the turkey until the temperature inside the breast is around 162℉. Take the turkey out of the smoker and wrap it up with foil and let it rest for 20 to 30 minutes. This will let it finish cooking to 165℉ while absorbing back all of its juices.
- For a great show carve it table side.