Wondering how to smoke a turkey? This can feel overwhelming to people doing it for the first time, but once you learn the right steps, it's not so hard at all. Your smoker will do most of the work for you. You just need to know how to set everything up properly. A good rule of thumb for a successful smoke is to know your smoker well.
You have chosen one of the best electric smoker money can buy and have even tried your hand at cooking some great sausage, ribs, and even fish. You just need to know how to make a smoked turkey! Making your turkey in the smoker is different from using a charcoal grill and your cook time will also vary. The smoking process can vary from one smoker to the next also, which is why knowing your smoker is the first step.
That delicious smoky flavor on a turkey just makes it a whole new kind of experience. Now you are looking forward to wowing your family by making a moist and succulent smoked turkey for the holidays (or just anytime).
You are armed with a great recipe and are just looking for a few tips that will help make your smoked turkey just a little bit better so that you can blow your guests away with your smoking prowess.
For example, how many pounds of turkey are you smoking? This will impact the cooking time. Larger turkeys take longer, as does an entire turkey vs. a small or partial bird. Are you ready to learn all the ins and outs?
These few tips on how to make smoked turkey will help you to accomplish your goal, and earn you the title of master smoke chef.
More Help For Turkey Day
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A Guide On How To Make Smoked Turkey
Ready to learn how to get that sweet flavor on your frozen turkey or fresh turkey that will make everyone say "Wow!" and "compliments to the chef"? Smoking a turkey is different from cooking on a gas grill or baking it in the kitchen. Let's look at some guidelines.
1. Slow and steady wins the race
One of the most important things about preparing a really great smoked turkey is to slow-cook that bird so that it gets a chance to absorb that smoking flavor from the wood chips. The cooking process is one that takes time to get a nice, crisp skin and smoky flavor, but without burning or having an undercooked middle.
You need to cook your turkey for about 30 minutes per pound at 250 degrees Fahrenheit or 121 degrees Celsius. This is again why knowing the weight of your turkey is important.
Keep your temperature as steady as possible for the juiciest turkey that is evenly cooked. And let's not forget your seasonings.
2. Spices to use for your smoked turkey
The right spices and herbs make all the difference when it comes to the flavor of your bird. There are no rules about which flavors to use on a Thanksgiving turkey but there are some that are more traditionally used for this purpose than others. When you've chosen your flavors of spices, you'll want to create a good rub out of them and apply it to the turkey before cooking.
While a rub isn't essential for a good smoked turkey, it can certainly help to make your turkey even more flavorful. Some people use brine or rub. A good holiday season may become a tradition when you make your Thanksgiving turkey.
While there are rubs you can buy, it is even better to make your own specialty rub to make turkey uniquely your own. Some ingredients people use for a turkey rub include:
- salt or Kosher salt
- garlic powder
- onion powder
- smoked paprika
- ground black pepper
A rub made of salt, pepper, poultry seasoning, onion powder, and garlic will make a great holiday-tasting turkey.
Although, if you prefer your smoked turkey to be a tad on the sweet side, try making a rub of honey, garlic, onion, and a little soy sauce. Again, it's all about finding the right flavor combinations that you enjoy most.
3. Get under that turkey's skin
When applying the rub to your turkey, it is best to apply it well to the turkey underneath the skin, with a lighter coating on top of the skin. You want to be sure that even when the turkey is slowly smoked, the flavors stay in.
To apply rub under the skin, start at the turkey’s bottom (butt) end, where the skin is loose, and work your fingers under the skin and up the chest to loosen the skin. And then loosen as much skin along the thighs and legs as you can.
Using your fingertips, apply the rub to your turkey under the skin and inside the cavity and then a light coating on the outside of the skin.
You should apply the rub at least 1 to 3 hours before you begin smoking and set it into a disposable roasting pan in the refrigerator until you are ready to begin roasting.
4. Add liquid
When you use a water smoker, you will need to add liquid as part of the process. If your smoker has a place to add water, then you can fill the water pan about an inch from the top.
Hot water is better than cold. If your smoker doesn't have any place to add water, don't despair, you can add warm or hot turkey broth, cola, or even apple juice to the cavity of the turkey itself and a small amount in the bottom of the roaster.
Then every couple of hours you can use this liquid, which will become mixed with the turkey dripping to baste your bird.
5. Lightly tent your bird
For moister turkey, try using tin foil to lightly tent your bird, leaving some space for the smoke to get through to the bird.
Then for the last two hours, you may want to remove the tent altogether.
Do keep in mind, however, that since the turkey is cooking at such a low temperature that tenting is not really necessary, it just makes it a little moister.
6. Use the right wood chips
The last key ingredient you need when smoking a turkey is the right type of wood chips or wood chunks that you use.
Always use hardwood chips, never soft woods such as pine.
Turkey seems to come out extra flavorful if you use Hickory, oak, cherry, or apple wood chips, and make sure that the wood chips you use are seasoned.
7. Oven and meat thermometers
Even if your smoker comes with a thermometer, you might want to invest in an oven or grill thermometer unless you know that your smoker thermometer is very accurate, because you want to smoke your turkey at as close to the perfect temperature as possible.
You also might want to use a meat thermometer to ensure that your turkey is up to the right temperature before removing it from the smoker.
The drippings at the bottom of the pan make a wonderful smokey gravy that is a perfect addition to your turkey dinner.
Last but not least, always try out your recipe at least once before cooking for guests, so that you know if you need to make any adjustments to the temperature or the flavor profile before serving your turkey to your guests.
Smoked Turkey Companion Dishes
How to Smoke a Turkey - Conclusion
You can use these tips any time of year when you feel like enjoying a tasty turkey. However, it's common around Thanksgiving since this is a traditional meal during that particular holiday.
As you can see, it's not that hard to learn how to smoke a turkey. However, when you invest the time into learning some tips and tricks, it will make the entire process easier for you. This means it will be more enjoyable to make and even more flavorful to eat! Are there any tips on smoking a turkey that you'd add to our list? Let us know in the comments.