Smoked Whole Turkey

Don't be let down by a dry turkey this holiday. Our smoked whole turkey has a bold flavor, crispy skin, and juicy meat throughout.
Smoked whole turkey plated

SmokedBBQSource is supported by its readers. We may earn an affiliate commission at no extra cost to you if you buy through a link on this page. Learn more

When it comes time to smoke a turkey, my usual method is to spatchcock it.

While this speeds up cooking time, sometimes you want to go with that classic Norman Rockwell whole turkey.

In this recipe, I will go over some tried and true methods for smoking a whole turkey. My method takes a little more time, but the results are worth it.

How to make a whole smoked turkey

1. The bird 

When choosing a turkey, bigger is not always better. Large turkeys take longer to thaw, longer to prep, and longer to cook.

raw whole turkey on a silver tray

I find the sweet spot for turkeys is between 10 to 14 pounds, as they are generally more flavorful and are less prone to drying out. 

If you are feeding a larger crowd, opt for two turkeys in this size range instead of one giant one. 

For this recipe, I am using a Ferndale Market turkey from Crowd Cow. Each Ferndale Market turkey has been raised antibiotic-free and is free-range. They are naturally processed with no additives. The neck and giblet come included, like most turkeys, and most importantly, they taste delicious! 

Crowd Cow Free-Range Turkey

This 10-12 lbs turkey is juicy, tender, and packed with amazing flavor.

Check Latest Price

2. The brine

One step that a lot of people overlook or ignore is the brining process. Brining is a way to add more flavor and moisture to your turkey and is really a step that shouldn’t be avoided. It’s a game-changer, so don’t skip it. 

I like to brine my turkey with a mixture of salt, sugar, spices, herbs, and citrus. 

For a great brine, check out our turkey brine recipe that will ensure each bite is loaded with juicy flavor.

You want to make sure you remove all innards (neck, giblets, etc) before soaking your bird. I like to brine my turkey for 24 hours.

3. Pre seasoning

Here are a few things to keep in mind before seasoning your turkey. 

  • Make sure you dry your turkey, especially if you’ve brined it. You can pat it dry with paper towels and leave it in your fridge uncovered for one to two hours. This will help get the skin nice and crispy. 
  • Stuff the cavity of your turkey for increased flavor with onions, celery, carrots, apples, lemons, oranges, and herbs. This will also help keep your turkey moist. 
turkey with trussed legs on silver tray
Trussing the turkey legs helps keep the stuffing in and also with the presentation later. 
  • Truss the turkey legs by crossing them together and tying them with butcher’s twine.  

4. Seasoning

After you have brined your turkey, it’s time to season.

I let a stick of unsalted butter soften at room temperature and slather the whole outside of the turkey with it.

The turkey will slowly baste itself as the butter melts and cooks into the skin. The butter also helps with the color. 

I used a poultry rub from my friends at Crove Food Co and seasoned the entire turkey generously with it.

Any poultry rub is great. There are a lot out there to choose from. If you are looking for a great homemade turkey rub, we have just the thing! Our homemade rub will give your turkey a nice deep mahogany color and rich herby flavor. 

raw seasoned turkey on a silver tray
Make sure to get the back and under the wings and legs with seasoning.

If you want to get under the skin and season that is fine too. Just be careful not to tear the skin in the process.

I find that if you brine your turkey properly there is no need to season underneath. However, it’s your turkey, so you call the shots! 

Let your turkey rest on the counter for about 10-15 minutes while you fire up your smoker

5. The smoke

Preheat your smoker to 250°F.

For this cook, I used my Traeger Timberline 1300 with Bear Mountain Cherry Pellets. In my opinion, cherry wood works so well with poultry, and I often find myself using it.

If you don’t like cherry or have it on hand, any fruit or mild wood will work. Try to avoid harsher smoking woods for poultry, like hickory or mesquite, as they can quickly overpower. 

Once the smoker is up to temp, place your turkey directly on the smoker rack and place a temperature probe into the deepest part of the breast. 

Let the turkey smoke for 2 hours, and then increase the temperature of your smoker to 350°F.

Once the turkey is temping around 135°F, start basting with melted butter.

Take a brush and just let the butter drip off onto the turkey and down the sides. You want to avoid actually brushing the turkey, so you don’t ruin the skin. 

Repeat this every 10 degrees until the turkey reaches an internal temp of 165°F.

turkey cooking on the grill
If you find that the skin on your turkey is getting too dark, cover it with foil. You can also do the same to prevent the wing tips or drumsticks from burning. 

Once the turkey reaches an internal temp of 165°F in the deepest part of the breast, you can remove it from the smoker.

Don’t worry if the thighs and legs temp higher than 165°F as the dark meat should still retain moisture.

The total cook time will vary depending on the smoker and the size of the turkey. Mine took about 3.5 hours. 

Rest for 20 minutes before carving.

Here are some sides that go well with turkey: 

Whole Smoked Turkey Recipe

Smoked whole turkey plated

Smoked Whole Turkey

5 from 2 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 3 hours 30 minutes
Brining time: 1 day
Total Time: 1 day 3 hours 50 minutes
Servings: 12
Calories: 799kcal
Author: Jordan Hanger

Ingredients

  • 15 lb whole turkey
  • 2 sticks celery
  • 2 carrots
  • 2 onions medium size
  • 1 apple
  • 1 orange
  • 1 lemon
  • bunch of thyme
  • bunch of rosemary
  • 3 tbsp poultry rub
  • 3 sticks butter unsalted

Instructions

  • Brine your turkey for at least 8 hours up to 24 hours.
  • Heat your smoker to 250°F.
  • Pat turkey dry and stuff the cavity with aromatics.
  • Cover the turkey with 1 stick of room temperature butter and season generously.
  • Smoke at 250°F for the first 2 hours.
  • Increase the temperature of your smoker to 350°F and continue smoking.
  • Melt the remaining 2 sticks of butter. When the internal temperature of the turkey reaches 135°F, baste the turkey and do so every 10 degrees.
  • Remove the turkey from the smoker when the internal temperature of the breast reaches 165°F.
  • Rest for 20 minutes before carving.

Notes

Do I have to brine my turkey? No, its optional. Brining is a way to add more flavor and moisture to your turkey, so it’s well worth doing. See our turkey brine recipe.
What wood should I use for smoking? Cherry wood works so well with poultry, if you don’t like cherry or have it on hand, any fruit or mild wood will work.
Make sure you dry your turkey especially if you’ve brined it. You can pat it dry with paper towels and leave it in your fridge uncovered for 1-2 hours. This will help get the skin nice and crispy. 
Stuff the cavity of your turkey for increased flavor and this will also help keep your turkey moist. 
Truss the turkey legs by crossing them together and tying with butcher’s twine. This helps keep the stuffing in and also with the presentation later. 

Nutrition

Calories: 799kcal | Carbohydrates: 7g | Protein: 88g | Fat: 46g | Saturated Fat: 20g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 7g | Monounsaturated Fat: 13g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 351mg | Sodium: 467mg | Potassium: 1028mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 2719IU | Vitamin C: 9mg | Calcium: 77mg | Iron: 4mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated and should be used as an approximation only. If you’re worried you could always add a side of kale.

Did you make this recipe?Tag @smokedbbqsource on Instagram so we can admire your work!

Similar Posts

3 Comments

  1. Photo of raw turkey caption says the “sweet spot is 12-15lbs”, which is then immediately rebutted by the same person claiming they find the “sweet spot to be 10-12lbs”!!
    🤣🤣🤣

    1. Haha whoops! Articles are always getting updated and we must have missed the caption when we made the last change… I actually think 10-14 is the sweet spot, although 1 pound isn’t going to make much difference!

  2. This recipe/ cooking method is unbelievable! Best holiday meal I’ve ever made, and by far the best turkey! Followed all steps exactly, absolutely phenomenal! Thanks!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Rate this recipe!