This Smoked Whole Turkey is flavored with a simple brown sugar spice rub and cooked low and slow in the smoker until perfectly tender and juicy. It’s an impressive way to save precious oven space and couldn’t be easier.
Best Smoked Turkey Recipe
If you are looking for something a little different this holiday season, give this delicious Smoked Whole Turkey recipe a try. Using the smoker to slow cook your turkey not only saves on oven space - it also produces the most juicy, tender and flavorful turkey with minimal effort.
We like to spatchcock, or butterfly, our turkey so that it cooks evenly, more quickly and gets a nice even brown on the skin. Before it hits the smoker, the turkey is covered with a basic brown sugar spice rub made with onion powder, garlic powder and paprika. Yum!
This recipe includes instructions, frequently asked questions and even how to store your leftovers. Why not pull out the smoker and give this Best Smoked Turkey recipe a try this holiday season? Be sure and let us know what you think.
Smoked Whole Turkey Ingredients
- Whole Turkey - you can use a fresh or frozen whole turkey for this recipe. We’ve given you a thawing guide below that is based on the size of your turkey.
- Salt and Pepper
- Brown Sugar - you can use light or dark brown sugar in the spice rub.
- Onion Powder and Garlic Powder - these add a nice sweet onion and garlic flavor to the rub.
- Paprika - use your favorite red paprika.
How to Spatchcock a Turkey
If you want a juicy, moist turkey that cooks quickly and evenly, spatchcocking your turkey is the answer. Spatchcocking means that you cut through the backbone and press the bird flat to cook. You’ll also sometimes hear it called butterflying.
Here’s how it works:
- Let your completely thawed turkey sit out for an hour to come to room temperature.
- Remove the packaging and anything inside the neck and body cavity.
- Turn the turkey, breast side down. Use heavy-duty kitchen shears to cut along one side of the backbone.
- Repeat with the other side, then press the turkey flat
How to Smoke a Turkey
Once you have spatchcocked your turkey, here’s how to smoke it:
- Season the turkey. Pat the outside of the turkey dry with paper towels. Mix the brown sugar, onion powder, garlic powder, and paprika in a small bowl, then rub over the entire turkey. Sprinkle salt and peppers generously on all sides.
- Place turkey in the smoker. Place the turkey breast side up on the smoker, preheated to 275 degrees, and insert a temperature probe.
- Cook. Close the lid and cook the turkey for 3-4.5 hours, or until the internal temperature in the deepest part of the breast reaches 160 degrees F.
- Wrap in foil and let rest. Remove the turkey from the smoker and cover with foil. Let the turkey rest for 15 minutes to allow the juices to redistribute.
- Slice and serve. Enjoy!
Tips For Making The Best Smoked Turkey
Making the best smoked turkey requires attention to detail and patience. By following these tips, you can create a mouthwatering turkey that will impress your family and friends.
- Choose a High-Quality Turkey: Start with a fresh, high-quality turkey that is plump and free from any bruises or tears in the skin.
- Prep the Turkey: Before smoking, pat the turkey dry with paper towels to ensure a crispy skin. Rub the turkey with a mixture of spices and herbs, such as garlic powder, paprika, and rosemary, to enhance the flavor.
- Preheat and Prepare the Smoker: Preheat the smoker to the right temperature according to the recipe. Maintain a consistent temperature throughout the smoking process for even cooking. Use wood chips or chunks, such as hickory or applewood, to add a smoky flavor.
- Position the Turkey: Place the turkey on the smoker rack, breast side up. Make sure there is enough space between the turkey and the walls of the smoker for proper airflow.
- Keep an Eye on Temperature: Use a meat thermometer to monitor the internal temperature of the turkey. The thickest part of the thigh should reach a safe internal temperature of 165°F (74°C). This will ensure that the turkey is fully cooked and safe to eat.
- Baste and Rotate: Baste the turkey with a mixture of melted butter and herbs every hour to keep it moist and flavorful. Additionally, rotate the turkey halfway through the cooking process to ensure even browning.
- Rest and Carve: Once the turkey reaches the desired internal temperature, remove it from the smoker and let it rest for about 20-30 minutes. This allows the juices to redistribute, resulting in a more tender and flavorful bird. Carve the turkey and serve with your favorite side dishes.
Frequently Asked Questions
At 275 degrees, it should take about 20-25 minutes per pound to smoke a turkey. It will depend on how much bone is in your turkey and your own individual smoker, so we give a range of about 3-4.5 hours for a 10-12 pound turkey.
The only way to be sure if your turkey has cooked completely is to check the thickest part of the breast with a meat thermometer. Once it has reached 160 degrees F, your turkey is done cooking.
The most common wood is apple wood for smoking chicken or turkey. Another great choice is apricot wood - really anything with a lighter flavor has the best results.
We generally assume 1-1½ pounds of turkey per person for adults. This might sound like a lot, but you have to remember that much of the whole turkey is bone.
This chart will give you a good estimate for how long it takes a frozen turkey to thaw. It is always a good idea to give yourself an extra day more than you think you will need just in case!
Up to 4 pounds: 1 day
5-8 pounds: 2 days
9-12 pounds: 3 days
13-16 pounds: 4 days
17-20 pounds: 5 days
Storing and Reheating Leftovers
- Refrigerator: store leftover smoked turkey in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days.
- Freezer: to freeze leftover turkey, place it in a freezer bag and remove as much air as possible. Store frozen for up to 1 month.
- To reheat: to reheat smoked turkey, you can either microwave until warm or rewarm in a 300-degree oven, covered in a shallow dish, for about 30 minutes or until warmed through. If your turkey is a little dry, pour a few tablespoons of chicken broth on your turkey before reheating.
Best Smoked Turkey Recipe
- 10-12 lb Whole Turkey thawed
- 2 teaspoons Sea Salt
- ½ teaspoon Pepper
Smoked Turkey Rub
- ½ cup Brown Sugar
- 1 teaspoon Onion Powder
- ½ teaspoon Garlic Powder
- ½ teaspoon Paprika
- Preheat your smoker to 275 degrees.
- Let your completely thawed turkey sit out for an hour to come to room temperature. Remove the packaging and anything inside the neck and body cavity.
- Turn the turkey, breast side down. Use heavy-duty kitchen shears to cut along one side of the backbone. Repeat with the other side, then press the turkey flat.
- Pat the outside of the turkey dry with paper towels. Mix the brown sugar, onion powder, garlic powder, and paprika in a small bowl, then rub over the entire turkey. Sprinkle salt and peppers generously on all sides.
- Place the turkey breast side up on the smoker and insert a temperature probe.
- Close the lid and cook the turkey for 3-4.5 hours, or until the internal temperature in the deepest part of the breast reaches 160 degrees F.
- Remove the turkey from the smoker and cover with foil. Let the turkey rest for 15 minutes to allow the juices to redistrubute.
- Slice and serve. Enjoy!
Here are more turkey recipes that we love!
- Herb-Roasted Turkey
- Turkey Enchilada Soup
- Crockpot Turkey Breast
- Roasted Herb-Crusted Turkey Breast
- Turkey and Rice Soup
- More Thanksgiving Recipes
- More Holiday Favorites
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This Smoked Turkey is a deliciously simple way to cook your turkey this holiday season. Our recipe will show you how to get tender, juicy, flavorful turkey without taking up any oven space.