The Best Smoked Turkey Recipe

This Smoked Turkey Recipe is a whole turkey coated in a homemade spice rub and slow smoked using a smoker or grill. The end result is nothing short of delicious juicy perfection.

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Are you looking to level-up your next holiday meal or special occasion?

Of all the Thanksgiving turkey recipes, you’ll definitely want to make this one. You’ll love the juicy inside to the perfect smoke flavor.

During the holiday season you realize just how valuable oven space is. So many dishes to make, and so little room to do so. Yet that’s not really the case, is it?

I make Slow Cooker Stuffing, and Air Fryer Green Beans to free up my oven space. Yet on the big day we all know that it’s the turkey that occupies the space for hours upon hours.

Sneaking in a side dish or dessert becomes a stressful balancing act of square inches, times, and temperatures. Yet as the main course and star of the show, it is the ultimate risk.

  • Tender and juicy
  • Incredible flavour
  • Makes the best leftovers
  • Frees up oven space
  • Simple and easy recipe

The last couple of years saw a rise in popularity of smokers (such as the traeger brand). Many that don’t replicate the process using a using a gas grill or charcoal grill.

Whichever method you choose to use, this best smoked turkey recipe is going to be a huge hit this Thanksgiving and Christmas.

It’s going to be the perfect turkey for your friends and family. Everyone will be impressed at the flavour, and you’ll love how easy this great recipe is to make.

Bird, Thanks to this easy smoked turkey recipe – you’ve been evicted from the oven.

food on a dinner table, with Smoked Turkey

  • Ingredients Required

You’ll need the following simple ingredients to make this thanksgiving turkey recipe. As always, the printable recipe card is at the end of the post.

  • apple wood chips – gives a subtle sweet taste
  • whole turkey – completely thawed, or a fresh turkey
  • onion – a bit of savory taste
  • orange – citrus to compliment the apple
  • apple cider – helps to keep meat moist and juicy
  • brown sugar – to caramelize the rub into the turkey skin
  • simple spice blend for the smoked turkey rub – listed below
food on a table, with Smoked Turkey

Preparation Tips

  • THAW THE TURKEY

If you have a frozen turkey, the first step is to always thaw the turkey fully. It always seems to take a lot longer than I expect, so I make sure to leave plenty of time to thaw.

The general rule of thumb is 24 hours of thawing time in the fridge, for every 5 pounds of turkey.

  • PREPARE THE SMOKER

Preheat your smoker or grill to 325°F. Place the apple wood chips in a bowl of water to soak.

  • Why applewood chips? Apple wood gives a nice light flavour that won’t overwhelm the flavour of the turkey. You could also another type of wood such as cherry wood or hickory if you’d like.

How to Smoke a Turkey

  • PREPARE THE TURKEY

When the turkey is thawed, remove the innards from the cavity of the turkey. You can discard these, or save them for soup. Either way, you won’t need them for this recipe.

Rinse the turkey with cold water and pat the turkey dry with paper towels. Then stuff the turkey cavity with the onion and orange pieces.

Place the turkey onto a roasting pan that has a rim, with breast side up.

  • COVER TURKEY WITH DRY RUB

You can use a spice rub and fresh herbs of your preference, and make sure to rub it all over the skin of the turkey. If you don’t have a favourite yet, I suggest:

The Best Smoked Turkey Rub:

  • smoked paprika
  • kosher salt
  • garlic powder
  • crushed rosemary
  • onion powder
  • thyme
  • rubbed sage

Make sure to rub the spices into all the nooks and crannies of the turkey.

You can also slide your fingers between the skin and the breast meat to create a little pocket, and sprinkle some of the rubs directly onto the turkey breast.

To finish getting this turkey ready for smoking, pour the apple cider into the aluminum tray.

Pro TIP: The best way to add this might be once the pan is on the grill. In a pinch, you could substitute the apple cider with chicken broth.

  • Why add apple cider into the pan? It adds a nice subtle apple flavor to your turkey, and helps it stay moist as the apple juice evaporates as it cooks. 
turkey with spice rub on a table, with Smoked Turkey
  • SMOKE THE TURKEY

Add the smoke chips to the smoker or grill and place the aluminum pan with the rubbed turkey onto the grill grates. If you haven’t already done so, pour the apple cider into the pan.

Cook until the internal temperature of the turkey reaches 165°F, in the thickest part of the breast. For best results, I highly suggest using a meat thermometer. Even at 200°F, your turkey could be very dry.

I love this grill thermometer because it allows for checking different parts of the turkey. It’s much better than poking around and checking different parts with one probe thermometer.

How Long to Cook a Smoked Turkey

Our recipe, for a 10-13 lb turkey will be smoked in a cook time of about 3.5 hours at 325°F.

If you’d like to use a larger bird than 10-13 lbs, just make sure you’re cooking about 20 minutes per pound.

I would not suggest a larger turkey than 15 pounds, because I’ve found the inside takes too long to cook, and the exterior gets too dry for my liking.

You can baste the whole bird using the apple cider in the pan, yet I haven’t found it to be too necessary.

As an added bonus, the leftover apple cider plus the smoked turkey drippings make the best smoked turkey gravy ever.

  • Note: The brown sugar in the rub causes the skin to darken and caramelize. It is not burned, and won’t taste burnt. It will have a nice crispy skin.

Can I use a Grill to Smoke a Turkey?

Yes, you certainly can make Smoked BBQ Turkey using a charcoal grill or gas grill. Simply wrap wood pellets in aluminum foil (with some holes poked) and place on burner.

You could also get a wood chip smoker box for about $10. It’s such a frugal buy for something so handy.

Like an electric smoker does, make sure you’re cooking on indirect heat and that the grill is maintaining a consistent temperature. You will not want temperature spikes and dips when cooking.

  • REST THE TURKEY

When the turkey is done, from the heat and cover it with foil. Allow it to rest for 15-20 minutes before slicing and serving.

This is the perfect time to make that smoked turkey gravy from the drippings in the pan.

SMOKED TURKEY TEMPERATURE CHART: 

  • At 225ºF – 30 minutes per pound
  • At 250ºF – 25 minutes per pound.
  • At 325°F – 20 minutes per pound.
whole turkey on a table, with Smoked Turkey

Storage and Freezing

  • To Store: Place your turkey leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge, for up to 7 days.
  • To Freeze: Place cooled turkey into freezer safe bags and freeze for up to 3 months. This is a great way to have ready-cooked turkey for future soups, sandwiches or other turkey recipes.
  • Smoked Turkey Leftovers

A 10-13 pound turkey feeds about 8 people. If you are lucky, you’ll have leftover smoked turkey to enjoy for another meal.

I love to make Turkey Pot Pie with leftovers, Roasted Red Pepper Turkey Wraps, or these Mashed Potato Stuffing Cakes.

I think the best leftover turkey recipe is to take my Chicken Stuffing Bake recipe and swap meats to make Turkey Stuffing Casserole! YUM!

food on a table, with Smoked Turkey

What to Serve with Smoked Turkey

It’s not a turkey dinner without the best sides. Whether it’s Thanksgiving dinner or Christmas dinner, here are our favourite side dishes and holiday desserts to pair with our perfect smoked turkey.

  • Side Dishes:
  • Desserts:
food, whole turkey with Smoked Turkey

Smoked Turkey

Yield: 1
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 3 hours 30 minutes
Total Time: 3 hours 45 minutes

This Smoked Turkey Recipe is a whole turkey coated in a homemade spice rub and slow smoked using a smoker or grill. The end result is nothing short of delicious juicy perfection.

Ingredients

  • ½ pound apple wood chips
  • 1 whole thawed turkey, 10-13 pounds
  • 1 onion, quartered
  • 1 orange, quartered
  • 1 ½ cups apple cider
  • 2 Tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons smoked paprika
  • 2 Tablespoons kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon crushed rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon thyme
  • ½ teaspoon rubbed sage

Instructions

  1. Preheat your smoker or grill to 325°F. Place the wood chips in a bowl of water to soak. 
  2. Rinse the turkey with cold water and pat the turkey dry with paper towels. 
  3. Remove the turkey giblet and neck from the cavity of the turkey. Stuff the hole with the onion and orange pieces.
  4. Whisk together the brown sugar, paprika, salt, garlic powder, rosemary, onion powder, thyme, and sage in a small mixing bowl.
  5. Place the turkey into an aluminum pan and rub the spice mixture over the turkey. Fill the pan with the apple juice.
  6. Add the smoke chips to the smoker or grill and place the pan with the turkey in. 
  7. Cook the turkey to an internal temperature of 165°F—about 20 minutes per pound for turkeys. 
  8. Remove the turkey from the heat and cover it with foil. Allow it to rest for 15-20 minutes before slicing and serving.

Notes

  • If you'd rather cook at a lower slower temperature, I suggest 225ºF -or 30 minutes per pound.
  • You could substitute applewood pellets for cherry or hickory if you'd like.
Nutrition Information:
Yield: 8 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 95Total Fat: 2gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 1gCholesterol: 4mgSodium: 971mgCarbohydrates: 19gFiber: 2gSugar: 12gProtein: 2g

Did you make this recipe?

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