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How to Smoke a Turkey

Turkey and smoke are a particularly well-suited pair. Smoking — also known as barbecuing — a turkey incorporates low and slow cooking, which means cooking your bird at a relatively low temperature over indirect heat for an extended period of time. The result is a terrifically browned bird with succulent, fork-tender meat and a rich flavor.

The good news is that you don’t need a smoker in order to smoke a turkey. You can convert a charcoal or gas grill into a smoker with the addition of wood chips. In general, it will take roughly three hours to cook a whole turkey (depending on its size) on a grill, and using a smoker may take longer.

Why Smoke Your Thanksgiving Turkey
There are several advantages to incorporating the smoking technique into your Thanksgiving plans.

It’s easy. Once you put the bird in the smoker or on the grill, the process is relatively hands off.

  • The oven is now available. During a day when the oven is in constant demand, smoking your turkey opens up several hours for baking Thanksgiving side dishes and desserts instead.
  • Bonus. You get out of the kitchen and spend time outdoors.


Optional Steps

  • Brining. Wet or dry brining your bird before smoking is highly recommended to ensure juicy meat. Learn How to Brine a Turkey.
  • Stuffing the cavity. Examples include wedges of onion and lemon or apple, garlic and herbs like thyme, rosemary or parsley.
  • Spatchcocking. Spatchcocking, also called butterflying, is a method that removes the backbone from the turkey so the bird lays flat rather than upright while being cooked. The result? An evenly cooked turkey with crispy skin that takes less time to cook.

Recipes

If you have smoker and are looking for a smoked turkey recipe, our friends at Butterball can help. Check out their Smoked Turkey recipes for both a water and electric smoker.
If you’re interested in converting your gas or charcoal grill into a smoker, check out these instructions from Epicurious on how to smoke a turkey with a grill.

Tips

  • Smoking can be a long process, so be sure to plan ahead, especially if you plan to brine the turkey first.
  • A turkey is done when a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh registers 165°F.
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