Smoked Turkey: Infusing Rich Flavor with the BBQ

There’s nothing more satisfying than a juicy, succulent turkey infused with the rich, smoky flavor that only a barbecue can provide. Smoking a turkey might take a bit longer than roasting, but the enhanced taste and texture make it highly worthwhile. In this post, we guide you through the process of smoking the perfect turkey and discuss some variations to customize your turkey’s flavor.

How to Smoke a Turkey


  • 1 whole turkey (12-14 lbs)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Olive oil
  • Hardwood chips (like apple, hickory, or cherry)


  1. Prep the Turkey: Remove the giblets and neck, rinse the turkey, and pat dry. Coat the bird liberally with olive oil and season inside and out with salt and pepper. Let it rest while you prep the smoker.
  2. Prep the Smoker: Soak your hardwood chips in water for about 30 minutes, then drain. Following your smoker user manual, add the wood chips.
  3. Heat the Smoker: Preheat your smoker to approximately 225 degrees Fahrenheit (around 110 degrees Celsius).
  4. Smoke the Turkey: Put the turkey breast side up in the smoker. Close the lid and let it smoke. Try not to lift the lid too often, because this lets out heat and extends the cooking time.
  5. Monitor the Temperature: Use a meat thermometer to monitor the turkey’s temperature. The turkey is done when the innermost part of the thigh reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit (around 74 degrees Celsius), which usually takes about 6-8 hours for a 12-14 lbs bird.
  6. Let it Rest: Let the turkey rest for about 20 minutes after removing it from the smoker. This allows the juices to redistribute, yielding a moist and flavorful bird.

Exciting Flavor Variations:

While the traditional salt-and-pepper rubbed smoked turkey is already a treat, there are several ways you can customize the flavor profile of your bird:

1. Spice Rub

Before smoking, coat the turkey in a spice rub to infuse it with flavorful spices. A typical rub might include ingredients like garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, and dried herbs.

2. Herb Butter

Brush the turkey with a mixture of melted butter and fresh herbs (think rosemary, thyme, and sage) before and during smoking. This adds richness and complexity to the bird’s flavor profile.

3. Apple Cider Brine

Soaking the turkey in an apple cider brine before smoking can give your turkey a sweet and tangy flavor. The brine typically includes apple cider, water, salt, sugar, and various spices.

4. Beer Can Turkey

Much like beer can chicken, you can infuse your turkey with the an intriguing taste of your favorite brew. Simply place the turkey on top of a can of beer in the smoker. As the beer heats and evaporates, it will flavor the turkey from the inside out.

5. Smoke Woods Variety

Experiment with different types of wood for smoking. Each kind imparts a unique flavor. While apple and cherry woods are mild and fruity, hickory and oak woods have a stronger flavor.

Smoking a turkey is a bit of an art, and the results are more than worth the effort. Whether for a holiday dinner or a summer barbecue, a smoked turkey is sure to impress and inspire culinary delight in every bite!

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