How to Smoke a Turkey

November 25 , 2014 by: Marga Munson Holidays, Main Dish

As many of you know, I got a smoker this year. That basically means I’ve been making a lot smokey goodness for people. I figured since Thanksgiving is coming up, it would be AWESOME to try and smoke a turkey. First, smoked meat is delicious. Second, Thanksgiving is busy which means oven real estate is at a premium. But with the main event (the big bird) outside in the smoker, the oven remained open to lovingly cook side dishes and keep things warm. That’s a freaking win win.

And in hindsight, smoking a turkey is just as simple as roasting one. In fact, I think this is my preferred method from now on. The meat stayed super moist, and you just cannot beat the smokey flavor. Mmmm!!!!

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Smoked Turkey

1 14-15lb turkey, defrosted
2 tbsp butter (or bacon fat, or canola oil, etc.)

I bought my turkey about 3 days in advance and let it defrost in the fridge. On the morning of the cook, I rinsed it thoroughly in the sink and patted it dry. Then I took the legs and put them through, well, the booty to keep them secure during cooking. I liberally coated the turkey with butter and placed it in a roasting pan. The butter will give you that crispy brown skin.

Now it’s time to start your smoker. I use a Traeger, so this is very simple. I turn it on to “Smoke” and let it sit for about 5 minutes. Then we placed the turkey inside, and let the smoke work it’s magic for 2.5 hours. Once that time is up, baste the turkey with either melted butter again, or use something a little more interesting like bacon fat. Either is fantastic, but for those non-pork eaters out there (love you Dad), stick with the butter.

Turn the heat up to 350 degrees on your smoker, and let it roast for another 2 hours. At this point I checked my bird, and got an internal temperate of 167, which meant I was done. Turkey is safe to eat at 160-165. To be on the safe side, I checked the thigh and breast. Be careful when you check to not hit the bone, as this will screw up your reading.

Let the bird sit for a minimum of 20 minutes. We ended up letting it sit for about an hour, and then carving it up.

Don’t forget the pan juices. Use them to make the best friggin gravy ever!

Happy Thanksgiving!


  • That bird looks amazing!

    Did you do a brine or salt the turkey? Anything up the butt?

    • I actually did not brine the bird! And it was still fabulous. As far as stuffing goes, I was advised not to stuff a turkey headed to the smoker. I think it helps it cook more evenly. In the end, the cavity had all these lovely juices, which we drained out and made pan gravy with. Excuse me while I drool on the keyboard!

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