Fabulous Smoked Turkey

smoked turkey photo by citymama

If turkey is at the top of your Thanksgiving recipes list, try this recipe. Of course, you don’t have to wait for Thanksgiving to enjoy this delicious treat! Smoked turkey is much better than oven-roasted turkey. The bird doesn’t dry out because you cook with moist heat. Also, the woo you use gives the turkey flesh a wonderful smoky flavor. We always smoke at least one turkey, and we deep fry a couple, too. Most of the family prefers the fried turkey, but we do have a few members who like smoked turkey better. For our crowd, we have to cook more than one turkey, anyway, so why not use more than one cooking method?

The Smoker

We use an electric smoker to smoke our turkeys. It’s easy, it’s consistent, it’s practically foolproof, and it provides excellent results. When we smoke a turkey for Thanksgiving or Christmas, or any time we’re having a big crowd, we smoke a ham or a pork roast at the same time. The pork juices and fat do the turkey basing for you as the pork cooks, so place the turkey on the bottom rack, under the pork.

Before placing the turkey on the smoker, get the heat up.

The Wood

Our favorite wood to use for smoking a turkey is pecan. It gives the poultry an awesome flavor. We’re fortunate enough to live in the Deep South, so we can get plenty of pecan wood for free. We use small twigs and soak them in apple juice or water for several hours before cooking. If you can’t get pecan wood locally, you can order some below.

Once your wood has been soaked in water or juice, place the twigs, chips, or chunks on the burner before you start cooking the bird.

The Water Pan

Our smoker has a water pan, so our poultry and meats never dry out, even when we cook them for a little too long. The ingredients in the water pan can add flavor as well as moisture, too. You can add fruit juice, beer, wine, herbs, and/or spices. Of course, you can always use plain ole water, too. For smoked turkey, we like to use apple juice in the pan. For more flavor, we sometimes add a sprig or two of fresh rosemary.

Fill the water pan before you plug in the smoker. We start the smoker about 30 minutes before adding the meat.

The Turkey

Many “experts” recommend cooking only smaller birds on a smoker – up to fifteen pounds. We’ve cooked numerous 25-pound turkeys on our smoker with no ill effects. Maybe we all just have great immune systems. If you’re concerned about this aspect of smoking a turkey, stick with the smaller birds.

Before smoking your turkey, it needs to be completely thawed. If the bird has a pop-up timer, remove it. Rinse the bird well with cool water and pat it dry with paper towels. Rub the cavity with salt. Next, I apply a dry rub to the turkey.

Holle’s Turkey Rub recipe

  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon poultry seasoning

Directions: Combine all ingredients and rub into turkey flesh, making sure to get some under the skin. If you’re not smoking the turkey under a piece of pork, you’ll need to include some olive oil in your rub.

Wrap the turkey in plastic cling wrap and leave it in the fridge for several hours.

How to Smoke a Turkey

Remove the turkey from the fridge and unwrap it. Inside the cavity, place ½ tart baking apple, ½ onion, cut celery stalks, and a carrot that has been peeled and cut into three-inch sections. Once the smoker has heated for 30 minutes and the water pan has been filled and the wood is on the burner, place the turkey on the smoker.

To be honest, we never time our smoked turkey. We cook them for 12-15 hours, depending on the size of the bird. After a few hours, we check the water pan and the wood supply and add more, if needed.  To be sure the meat is done, use a meat thermometer. The breast needs to be 165-170 degrees, and the thigh should be 175-180 degrees.

After removing the turkey from the smoker, let it rest at room temperature a few minutes before carving.