Smoked Whole Turkey

Smoked Whole Turkey

My father-in-law, the same man who introduced me to smoked chicken 15 years ago, also introduced me to smoked turkey.  But not in quite the same positive way as chicken.  It was actually a nightmarish story that still lives in family lore…and scared me out of trying to smoke one myself until just a couple of years ago.

He set out to smoke a turkey for a delicious New Years Eve meal.  The whole family was excited.  He put the turkey on his Brinkman bullet smoker early in the morning, anticipating its completion in time for a tasty dinner.

Dinner came and went.  So did dessert.  Then midnight.  Then 3am.  Then the sun came up.  The turkey continued to smoke.

Beautiful Smoked Turkey with Stuffing

And smoke.

It was a 22 pound turkey.  And the poor little smoker has a hard time keeping its temperature above 200, especially on a cold December/January day.

So.  The family had turkey for New Years Day Lunch.

Thanksgiving dinner with decorations

So the lessons here are start with a smaller bird and know your smokers capabilities. You might even want to start with something as easy as smoking a three pound boneless turkey breast.

Now, don’t be afraid.  Try this recipe out and you will enjoy the results.  There aren’t many things more enjoyable than smoked turkey.  PLUS, this frees up a ton of space in your oven, which is always a problem on Thanksgiving.  That’s huge.  So…better flavor, juicier, more oven space…win-win-win.


Smoked Whole Turkey

Get your bird on the smoker with plenty of time!
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 7 hours
Total Time 7 hours 30 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Calories 219 kcal


  • 1 Turkey

For Injection

  • 1 stick butter
  • 1/2 c applejuice
  • 1 tbs real maple syrup
  • 1 tbs honey
  • 2 tbs salt
  • Combine first 4 ingredients in pot and bring to a boil. Once cooled a bit stir in salt until dissolved.

For Stuffing

  • 1 onion cut in large chunks
  • 1 lemon cut in large chunks
  • 1 celery stalk cut
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • a few sprigs of thyme and sage
  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • salt & pepper


  • Stuff the cavity of the bird.
  • Inject the breasts and legs all over - every inch or so.
  • Rub vegetable oil all over skin - this helps give a nice golden brown color.
  • Sprinkle salt & pepper all over.
  • Set up grill for indirect heat or use your smoker.
  • Smoke at 225-250 with fruit wood chips/chunks until internal temperature of breast reaches 165, thigh reaches 175. This usually takes me about 30 minutes per pound.
Keyword Smoked Whole Turkey


So I’m smoking a few turkeys this year for my family, and as I’m prepping them I realized I wanted to give you just a few more thoughts about how to make your turkey extra delicious tomorrow.  Here are 5 quick tips:

1.  Brine.  Keep it simple.  1 Gallon water, 1 cup salt, 1 cup brown sugar.  Add other herbs (sage, bay leaves, thyme) if you desire.

2.  Butter spread.  1 stick of butter softened, 1 clove of garlic crushed, 1 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp sage, 1/2 tsp thyme.  Gently lift the skin and smear this happiness directly on the turkey breasts.

3.  Aromatics.  Do NOT put stuffing inside your bird.  I know that’s tradition.  It’s called STUFFING for heaven’s sake.  But that stuffing will suck out all the juices from your meat!  Granted, the stuffing will be delicious, but your poor turkey suffers because of it.  Instead, please consider aromatics in the cavity:  Onion, apple, celery, lemon, garlic, thyme, salt & pepper.  Any or all.  They add GOBS of flavor and moisture.  Yes, dad, I’m speaking directly to you with this point.

4.  Inject.  Especially if you don’t brine, please consider injecting.  Again, keep it simple:  1 stick Butter, 1/4 c apple juice, 1 tbs honey, dash of salt.  That deliciousness is injected directly into your meat.  How can you not want to do that?

5.  165.  Not 180.  1 6 5 .  That’s the magic internal temperature for your turkey breast.  Not a degree over.  If your legs aren’t done, cut them off, put them back in the oven/smoker and finish them.  The legs need to be at least 175 to be safe.  But don’t let your breasts suffer because of your legs.  🙂

Lastly, don’t forget to let your turkey rest for at least 30 minutes before slicing.  These basic 5 ideas work for your smoker, oven, or roaster.  If you don’t feel like lighting your grill/smoker tomorrow – that’s ok!  But take a couple of these steps anyway and it will be the juiciest, tastiest turkey you’ve ever cooked.

Happy Thanksgiving everybody!

32 thoughts on “Smoked Whole Turkey

  1. First time trying this. I’ve had many success with your chicken recipe, so i decided to give it a go!
    Question, though.. Can I still brine the turkey overnight, as you would with the chicken, using the same recipe?


  2. I’m looking to smoke a turkey for Thanksgiving and was going to brine it and while it’s smoking put a slab of pork belly on one of the racks over the bird to baste the bird. Any suggestions on if I should put the belly in from the start of the bird or when I should add it( it’s raw belly). I will also be using bourbon soaked wood chips to smoke. Ideas/suggestions?

  3. Love the site, and the recipes!
    Was wondering if brown butcher paper would be a better option rather than aluminum foil to wrap the turkey once desired browning is achieved?

  4. I’m making this for Thanksgiving right now. This is my second time smoking this recipe, and I’ve used it on the oven many times. Thank you for all your help! Happy Thanksgiving from a huge fan!

  5. This will be my first year smoking a turkey. Wondering about the injection is it better to inject a bird after it has reached room temp?

    1. Brad – I’m not sure if it makes a big difference, but yes, I always allow all meat to come up to room temp – or at least take off the chill a bit – before injecting.

  6. For your whole chicken you recommended to cover the bird with bacon to prevent over browning.. Do you recommend this with the turkey?

      1. Do you put bacon on the breast from the start or once they are browned to your liking? Also do you put the turkey in a pan at some point?

        1. Josh – I add that bacon once it’s the brown I like. I usually cook in pans for ease, but you don’t have to. I put on a rack in a pan the whole time I smoke.

  7. Hey. Have used Sugar Maple many times with this. It’s an amazing recipe. Turkey turns out so moist and Soooooooo yummy. Wicked website.

    1. Nate – absolutely. Ironically I just had a conversation about maple wood yesterday during the radio show. It should provide a nice, smooth smoke for you.

  8. My smoking started a few days before thanksgiving when our oven crapped out. I Went and bought a brinkman electric smoker. Used the recipe from the manual and determined we had to start smoking the night before. It was so cold that night I stayed up and covered the top of the smoker with some old towels to help keep the heat in. the next afternoon we had one of the best turkeys I have personally eaten and I’m gearing up again this year. That smoker is almost 20 years old and continues to smoke.pardon the pun
    Matt Sauter

  9. Doing a practice run before thanksgiving. Based on your turkey tips I’m doing the brine and going to do an injection- minus the salt for injection. Is that ok to brine and inject?

  10. Made this last thanksgiving. I brined and injected. Absolutely the best turkey ever! With a group of about 20 everyone agreed. Kevin (and crew) are definitely my go to people for recipes on the smoker.

    1. How big a turkey did you use? Also, did you stuff it like in the recipe?
      A bunch of recipes say never to stuff beforehand as this could lead to dangerous undercooked meat (or perhaps stuffing touching undercooked turkey?)

      1. I think this particular turkey was around 15lbs. I’ve done several different sizes and had success with all of them. I ALWAYS stuff the turkey with aromatics – then I throw them away. I think the danger comes in eating whatever you stuff in the raw turkey. I stuff with onion, apple, lemon, herbs…then toss them. And the stuffing shouldn’t have anything to do with under-cooking the meat. Just use a probe thermometer to be safe and cook the thigh to at least 175 and you should be in great shape!

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