Smoked Turkey

Once a year we start to think about turkey. The stores put them on sale, family and friends expect traditional dinners, your kids get geared up for drumsticks and wishbones, and all of that leaves you wondering how the heck to make something sure to impress the masses when the window of creativity is so narrow. Enter smoked turkey, easy to make but hard to master, just like a finely done steak on the grill.

All you need for this masterpiece recipe is a fully thawed turkey, a good set of kitchen scissors, some olive oil and a few herbs – and of course a well-behaved smoker. Smoking a turkey does take time, but I have a method involving spatchcocking the bird that cuts the time down considerably, and by reducing time in the smoker the less dry your final product will be. The down side to smoked turkey is that you can’t make stuffing inside but that’s really not a big deal, I usually like to make my stuffing in a casserole dish in oven. You still can make gravy from the vitals, but that’s more for the mash potatoes than meat, smoked turkey stands on its own with no need for gravy.


  • 1 Turkey – well thawed, any size
  • 1 TBL Olive oil
  • 2-3 TBL of Rub
    • 1 tsp onion powder
    • 1 tsp garlic powder
    • 1 TBL Kosher salt
    • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1 cup smoking chips – depending on smoker, hickory or mesquite


  1. Warm up smoker to 230 deg F. and plan on 20-30 mins per pound.
  2. Prepare Turkey
    1. Make sure turkey is fully thawed out – this takes 2-3 days in the frig if full frozen. It is best to thaw in the frig to keep the turkey from drying out. Make sure to put a tray under the bird to catch the water (Turns out you pay for a lot of water when buying a turkey).
    2. Remove neck and gizzards from bird and put in a pot of water on slow heat for gravy.
    3. Rinse both inside cavities and dry outside bird with paper towels.
    4. Spatchcock the turkey – position bird so breast is down and back is up. Using kitchen scissors, cut the back along both sides of the spine. Put back bone in sauce pot.
    5. Cut near the wishbone area so the bird opens up (lays flat). it is best to break the wishbone but if you have kids, they’re counting on you not to. Wipe down the flesh with paper towels and flip bird over
  3. Brush skin with a light coat of olive oil and sprinkle surface with your rub. I provided a simple rub recipe, but here is where you can add some flare – try not to go overboard, smoked turkey should be about the smoked taste. Often I just salt the skin prior to smoking.
  4. Place bird in smoker in middle rack ands set timer for 30 mins/pound. Put water in the drip tray to help provide a moist environment within the smoker.
  5. Add wood chip often enough to keep the smoker smokey (I know right).
  6. Smoke bird until a probe thermometer, inserted in the breast or thigh reaches 160 deg F.
  7. Remove from smoker and serve immediately.
  8. Once the leftovers have cooled, pick meat from carcass and use in sandwiches or at hot meals.
  9. Use the carcass to make stock because as much as turkey dinner is a holiday classic, so is turkey soup with egg noodles.

Note: see my recipe for making turkey gravy if you’re wondering what do with the parts you put in the pot.