How to Smoke A Turkey

Guide to Smoking a Turkey

Whether it’s for Thanksgiving, Christmas, or simply for a delicious soup or sandwich, the perfectly smoked Turkey is hard to top. From prepping your turkey to letting it rest, this blog outlines how to make it happen.

Safe Defrosting

Safely defrosting your turkey is important as doing so inappropriately can cause food bourne illnesses. The easiest way to thaw your turkey is in the refrigerator. Simply place it, in the package, in a large pan (for drippings and melted ice) for 24 hours for every 5 pounds of the bird’s weight. If you don’t have days to defrost the turkey, you can also submerge it in cold tap water, ensuring to change the water out every 30 minutes. You should estimate 30-45 minutes of defrosting for every pound of its weight. 

To Brine or Not to Brine

Many people prefer to brine their turkey prior to cooking as oftentimes it provides for depth of a flavor as well as a juicier and moister outcome, however this part is totally up to you. Whether or not you choose to go with the brining option, start by removing the neck and giblets from the turkey.  

The contents of the brining mixture are ultimately your choice, but some key basics include 2-3 gallons of water, salt, sugar, garlic, apple cider vinegar and bay leaves. Feel free to get creative and add other herbs, citrus fruits and more seasonings. If you’d like to go with a dry brine, which draws out the turkey’s natural moisture rather than infusing it, typical ingredients include salt, and your choice of spices and/or herbs.

For a wet brine, place the turkey in a large container, breast side down and pour the brine over, ensuring that the turkey is fully submerged. Refrigerate overnight or up to 24 hours maximum to ensure it doesn’t infuse too much saltiness. Optionally, you may remove from the wet brine and refrigerate overnight once more to allow the skin to dry for a crispier exterior in the finished product.

For a dry brine, ensure the entirety of the turkey is dry with paper towels then thoroughly coat the surface and cavity with your choice of a combination salt, dry spices and herbs (Ensure you use about 4-5 Tbsp of Kosher Salt. The rest of the spices are up to your discretion.) Refrigerate overnight up to 24 hours. Once you remove it from the refrigerator, either leave on the brine or brush off any excess.

Prepping for the Smoker

Remove the turkey from the brine or start with an unbrined defrosted turkey. Rinse it thoroughly in cold water. Pat the entire turkey dry with paper towels on both the inside and outside. Try to get it as dry as possible for even crispier skin. 

First, get your smoker preheated to about 225°F using either your offset smoker, AKORN or the indirect method in your barrel. With olive oil, canola oil, or butter, coat the outside and inside of the turkey then coat with your rub of choice or simply use garlic, salt and pepper.

Optionally, fill the cavity with aromatics including Coca-Cola (poured inside), apple, onion, garlic and more ingredients of your choosing.

Smoke It!

Once your turkey is ready and your smoker is up to temperature, . Plan on cooking it 30 minutes for every pound that it weighs. Place a drip pan filled with water underneath the turkey in the smoker. Every hour, baste the turkey with the juice that it produces throughout the cook. If you opted to brine it prior, there’s no need to baste. Throughout the cooking process, if the skin becomes too dark, some people prefer to cover with aluminum foil to prevent it darkening further. Cook until the internal temperature of the thickest part of the thigh and breast reaches at least 165°F.

After a long smoke, resting is one of the most important parts of the cooking process. It allows the juices to redistribute amongst the meat, letting you reap the delicious benefits of all your hard work. Allow your turkey to rest for at least 30 minutes before slicing and serving.