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Last Updated February 12, 2021

All the steps you need to make smoked turkey, including what size turkey to buy, when to defrost, an apple cider sea salt rub, smoke temps and cook time.

smoked turkey on a weber kettle with temperature probe inserted

WHAT SIZE TURKEY DO I NEED?

I almost always buy a 12-13-pound bird, because I can cook it in around 3 hours. This size turkey will feed eight people. If I need to feed more than that that, I cook a second 12-pound bird. No one ever complains about having too many leftovers.

While 20-pound birds look impressive, they take a long time to cook and still only limit you to two wings and two legs. With two 12-pound birds, you’ll have more dark meat to share.

DEFROST YOUR TURKEY

You can obviously pick up a fresh turkey, but grabbing a frozen turkey a week or two before is perfectly acceptable, too.

When buying a frozen turkey, it’s important to defrost it properly. The key is to keep it in the food-safe zone (under 39F degrees) during the entire defrost process. For a 12-pound turkey, move it from the freezer to the fridge on Monday morning. By Thursday, it’ll be ready to smoke.

Be sure to defrost the turkey on a rimmed sheet pan, just in case the juices leak.

APPLY A TURKEY RUB

Every turkey is stuffed with a bag of innards, such as gizzards and heart. Remove this from the cavity. Dice these up and cook them into your stuffing, or just toss them.

You should also be able to reach into the cavity and find the neck. Smoke this alongside the bird; it’s actually quite good. Of you can boil it in water to make turkey broth for gravy.

We want to add lots of flavor. This recipe includes an apple cider sea salt rub that gives the bird a beautiful golden color and sweet and salty skin, but feel free to use your favorite blend of herbs and spices. Once you master the technique, I’m sure you’ll be trying all sorts of fun combinations.

Be sure to rub the bird inside and out. If you have time, you can let it rest in the refrigerator overnight for a dry brine, but if you’re in a hurry, you can rub it and let it set on the counter while you’re prepping your grill.

I like to wear gloves when working with raw meat, especially poultry. It makes clean-up so much easier.

raw turkey getting rub applied by hand

KEEP TRACK OF THE TEMPERATURE

The biggest complaint people have about turkey is that it can be dry, especially the breast meat. It’s a lot of work to create an entire meal of sides and desserts and also keep an eye on the bird. So let something else take care of that for you.

The Weber iGrill and Thermoworks Smoke are thermometers that allow you to monitor the temps from your phone. You stick the thermometer probe into the breast of the bird. With the iGrill app, click “start grilling” and select whole turkey. With the Thermoworks Smoke just set the alarm to 165F.

Once your bird reaches that magic temp, the app will alert you on your phone while you’re watching the game.

raw turkey with rub on pan with temperature probe inserted

SETTING UP THE GRILL FOR SMOKED TURKEY

Now that the bird is ready, it’s time to prep the grill. I light my coals in a charcoal chimney. I stick a chimney starter in a brown lunch bag and crumble it up under the chimney. Light a few edges of the bag, and your coals will be ready in no time.

 

chimney full of charcoal on grill

Once they begin to ash over and turn gray, dump them onto the bottom grate. Create an indirect zone in your grill by moving the coals into a U-shape with a set of tongs or heat-resistant gloves. Then, add a few more unlit coals and three wood chunks. I usually use hickory or pecan with turkey. Finally, add the top grill grate.

charcoal in circular shape with wood chunks added

Add the lid, and adjust the vents on the top and bottom of the grill. Your goal is to have an internal temperature of around 300-350F degrees. If your kettle grill doesn’t have a built in thermometer, clip a thermometer probe onto the grate and monitor the ambient temperature.

You can even use the thermometer app to set a temp range, so you know if the grill is getting too hot or too cold.

vent on top of weber grill partially open

SMOKED TURKEY COOKING TIMES

The time it takes to smoke a turkey will depend on the size of the bird and the temperature of your grill. You can cook as low as 225F degrees, which will take about 30 minutes per pound. I prefer cooking the bird at 300-350F degrees, which takes about 15 minutes per pound.

I like the higher temp, because it creates a crispier skin, and I like that I can cook a 12-pound bird in around three hours.

Once the grill reaches 300-350F degrees, place the turkey over the indirect heat zone. Close the lid, set your thermometer, and go watch the game.

turkey on grill with probe inserted

After an hour, give it a spritz with apple cider, beer or water. This helps create that beautiful golden color and adds a little bit of moisture.

spraying smoked turkey on grill with liquid

Once the app alerts you that the turkey is ready, remove it from the grill and cover it with foil. Let it rest for 45 minutes to an hour to help the juices nestle into the sweet spots for an extra juicy bird.

That’s it! You got this. Go ahead and change up the holidays this year.

SMOKED TURKEY VIDEO

 

SMOKED TURKEY RECIPE

smoked turkey sitting on weber grill with igrill thermometer in breast

How to Make Smoked Turkey

All the steps you need (PLUS HOW-TO VIDEO) to make smoked turkey, including what size turkey to buy, when to defrost, an apple cider sea salt rub, smoke temps and cook time.
4.42 from 36 votes
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 3 hours
Servings 10

Ingredients
 

  • 12 lb turkey

Apple Cider Sea Salt Rub

  • 1 tbsp raw sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp herbes de Provence
  • 1/4 tsp celery salt
  • 1/4 tsp cumin
  • 1/8 tsp ground allspice
  • 1/4 cup melted butter
  • 1/4 cup apple cider

Instructions
 

  • Remove the neck and giblets from the turkey and pat dry.
  • Combine the rub ingredients. Pour over the turkey and rub inside and out.
  • Place your thermometer probe into the breast of the turkey.
  • Heat the grill to 300-350F degrees, setting up an indirect heat area that the turkey will smoke over. Add the turkey to the grill and cover with the lid.
  • Set the thermometer alarm to 165F degrees.
  • After 1 hour, spritz with apple cider. Continue cooking until the iPhone app tells you it's done and your bird reaches an internal temperature of 165F degrees.
  • Remove from the grill and let rest for 45-60 minutes before slicing.

Notes

If you cook a larger turkey, add a little more time. If you cook a smaller bird, reduce your cook time. The trusty thermometer will tell you when it's done, no matter the size.

Nutrition

Calories: 595kcalCarbohydrates: 2gProtein: 83gFat: 26gSaturated Fat: 8gCholesterol: 290mgSodium: 881mgPotassium: 875mgSugar: 2gVitamin A: 405IUCalcium: 44mgIron: 3.4mg
Brag About Your BBQShare it on Instagram using #GirlsCanGrill
 

THANKSGIVING RECIPES

2021-02-12T07:52:08-08:00

11 Comments

  1. Nljackson November 11, 2019 at 7:55 am - Reply

    How do spackock a turkey on a large charcoal grill.

  2. William Murray Jr April 12, 2020 at 6:32 pm - Reply

    Best Turkey ever

  3. John Keesee November 22, 2020 at 7:45 am - Reply

    Where do you get apple cider sea salt rub?

  4. Chuck November 24, 2020 at 4:39 am - Reply

    doesn’t this make a mess without a drip pan under the bird? Just curious as I am going to give this a shot this week. Thanks.

    • Christie Vanover November 24, 2020 at 7:56 pm - Reply

      Feel free to add a drip pan under the grill grate to the side of the coals. As you collect the drippings, you can use those for gravy. Just make sure there is enough that they don’t burn and create an off taste. You can avoid that by adding a bit of water to the pan.

      • Anonymous November 25, 2020 at 6:01 am - Reply

        Will do…. Thanks !

      • Chuck November 25, 2020 at 6:02 am - Reply

        Will do. Sounds good, can’t wait to try this tomorrow. Happy Thanksgiving !

  5. Anonymous November 26, 2020 at 8:49 am - Reply

    Hmm. I don’t think I can trust this recipe. That grill has never been used before…

    • Christie Vanover November 27, 2020 at 7:28 am - Reply

      LOL – that was the first time I used that specific grill. It’s nice and dirty now.

  6. Jerry November 28, 2020 at 9:34 am - Reply

    Handy tip about starting fire with a brown paper lunch bag. I never thought of that and since I no longer get print editions of newspapers Im always looking for a flyer or piece of junk paper to start the briquettes. Never thought of the lunch bag though and a great idea.

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