Smoking a Turkey, Chicken, or Pheasant

This recipe lays out general steps and tips for smoking fowl and while a turkey is significantly larger than a pheasant, the process is more or less the same. The main difference is the time different steps take, from thawing to time in the smoker. I provide a simple brine that you can use, but brining is not required to achieve a good smoked bird. In general, you need to start this process three days prior to serving. If you skip brining, the process time reduces to a day.


  • 2 TBL Olive oil
  • Brine
    • 1 gallon water
    • 1 cup Kosher salt – or other non-iodized salt
  • Rub
    • 2 oz Honey – 0.25 cups
    • 0.25 cup Garlic powder
    • 1 TBL Pepper corns
    • 2 Fresh sprigs each of
      • Sage
      • Rosemary
      • Thyme – with stems removed


  1. Thaw Bird: Completely in fridge – takes one day for a pheasant and up to 3 days for a large turkey.
  2. Soak in Brine
    1. Mix salt with water to make brine.
    2. Soak bird, breast side down, 1 hour per pound.
    3. Remove from brine and rinse with cold water, fully flush creases and cavity.
    4. Spatchcock the bird
      1. Open the bird by cutting the bones down the back spine using good kitchen scissors
      2. Pry the bird open so it lays flat with the breasts side-by-side and up
    5. Dry bird off and put on tray in fridge for 12-24 hours.
  3. Apply Rub
    1. Remove from fridge and pat down skin with paper towels.
    2. Preheat smoker to 225 deg. F.
    3. Brush olive oil on entire outside of bird.
    4. Mix the rub ingredients to make a paste and apply all over outer skin
    5. Allow bird to air dry for 1 hour.
  4. Smoke Bird
    1. Choose the type of chips you intend to use and soak in water.
    2. Place bird on a rack in the smoker with breast side up.
    3. Add chips to the level of smoke you want.
    4. Estimate the time in the smoker to be 30-40 mins per lb.
    5. Smoke until the internal temperature next to thigh bone is 160 deg. F.
    6. If you want to glaze your bird with sauce (like BBQ or a sweet sauce) apply five mins before removing bird from smoker.
  5. Carve
    1. Let bird rest at least 10 mins (small bird) before carving

Note: The time line for a 18 lb turkey would be

  • 24 hours to thaw in fridge
  • 18 hours soaking in brine
  • 24 hours resting in fridge
  • 12 hours smoking