Perfect Smoked Turkey Every Time

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Everyone hates dry turkey. Many people don’t eat Turkey at all because they were tortured with terrible turkey on Thanksgiving as a child. Follow these simple instructions and you can have the perfect Smoked Turkey every time.

Perfect Smoked Turkey Every Time
Smoked Turkey is the star of every Thanksgiving at my house

SELECT THE TURKEY

First, you have to choose your Turkey. When it comes to a perfect smoked turkey every time, the size is extremely important. You really need a 10 to 12 pound bird for the perfect smoked turkey. It is difficult to smoke a 13+ pound turkey that results in great tasting white meat and dark meat simultaneously. A fresh turkey is best, but frozen turkeys will taste great if cooked properly. I’ve smoked a fresh organic turkey that was $2.99/lb right next to a frozen $.69/lb Butterball and they tasted the same.

BRINE THE TURKEY

Next, the most important step is brining the turkey. This is where many people go wrong, and many online recipes and videos lead people astray. I’m not going to do a chemistry lesson, but the only thing that the turkey is going to absorb is salt and sugar. Spending hours making a brine with multiple liquids and ingredients is a complete waste of time because chemistry prevents the turkey from absorbing the flavor. You can read all about the science of brining here.

The best brine is a dry brine of kosher salt. It is simple and it creates the smallest mess. Who wants to create a bigger mess to clean up when preparing for Thanksgiving? Not me. I coat the entire outside of the Turkey with Kosher Salt and let it sit covered in foil overnight in the refrigerator. That’s it.

RUB THE TURKEY

The dry rub is really up to your personal preference. You can go simple with just black pepper and it will taste good, but I recommend a rub that also contains paprika and garlic powder. Salt is unnecessary because you dry brined it in salt overnight. I never add Poultry Seasoning to my Smoked Turkey because I also roast a Thanksgiving Turkey every year. However, if you want a more traditional taste, feel free to add Poultry Seasoning to your dry rub.

After you coat your turkey with dry rub, coat it with extra virgin olive oil. This is optional, but I add more dry rub to the turkey after coating with olive oil.

PREPARE THE SMOKER

The smoker needs to be 250 to 275 degrees for the perfect turkey. I no longer use Hickory or Mesquite when smoking turkey because both overpower the meat. I recommend using a combination of Apple and Cherry wood, Pecan is also a great addition.

Once the smoker is up to temperature, add the turkey. I use an offset smoker so I always add a water pan underneath the turkey.

Turkey on an offset smoker with thermometer probes and water pans
Two Turkeys hitting the smoker for Thanksgiving Dinner

SMOKE THE TURKEY

This is really the easy part because the turkey smokes on its own with a thermometer probe inserted into the breast. Once the temperature hits 165, it is done. You can read all about safely handling your turkey here.

A 10-12 pound turkey will only take 3-4 hours at 250 degrees so plan accordingly. There were a few years I thought it would take longer and the turkey was done several hours before anyone showed up for dinner.

Once the turkey hits 165 degrees, remove from the smoker and let it sit until serving time.

Perfect Smoked Turkey for Thanksgiving
Two Smoked Turkeys ready for Thanksgiving Dinner

EAT THE TURKEY

One thing I love about smoked turkey is that it tastes great right off the smoker, and it still tastes great the next day, even if it is cold. Many people will tell you that smoked turkey tastes even better the next day, especially in sandwiches.

SIDE DISHES

The great part about a Smoked Turkey is that it is good anytime of year. Smoked Turkey goes great with Cole Slaw and BBQ Beans at a BBQ and also goes great with Mashed Potatoes and Green Beans.

If you are making it for Thanksgiving, you are also going to want to try my favorite side dish for Thanksgiving Jeani’s Dressing. It will be your family’s new favorite Thanksgiving Side Dish.