After long hours of cooking, ending up with a dry and bland turkey is a huge bummer. But there’s a trick to avoiding that: Smoking a turkey adds a lot of flavor and keeps the meat moist. Brining the turkey before smoking helps a lot, too. Flavor the bird with a dry rub as desired, and choose an aromatic wood for smoking. This will be a turkey to remember.

Food Safety

Turkeys under 12 pounds are suitable for smoking whole. A larger turkey won’t cook fast enough in a smoker to guarantee food safety. To smoke larger turkeys, halve or divide them into pieces.

Turkeys should not be stuffed when smoking. Because smoking uses a very low temperature, the stuffing won’t cook fast enough and will compromise food safety as well.

Smoking Times

Smoke the turkey at a low temperature, between 225 and 250 degrees Fahrenheit. Allow at least 30 minutes per pound of turkey to smoke at 230 degrees. A 12-pound turkey needs six hours, minimum.

About an hour before you expect the turkey to be ready, check its progress. Test the turkey for doneness using a meat thermometer. Insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh and breast, making sure it doesn’t touch a bone. The turkey is done when both the thigh and breast are 165 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. (Usually the breast cooks faster, so continue to smoke the turkey until the thermometer reads at least 165 degrees in both places.)

When done, the legs and wings will move easily. Carefully remove the turkey from the smoker and let it rest for 15 minutes. The turkey will continue to cook during this time, and the juices will have a chance to redistribute, yielding a moist turkey.


Thirty minutes per pound at 230 degrees Fahrenheit is a rule of thumb. More time may be required depending on the temperature of your grill and its ability to maintain even heat. Add charcoal as needed to keep the grill temperature between 225 and 250 degrees Fahrenheit.

Avoid opening the grill whenever possible. Every time the lid is raised, the temperature drops and it takes time to increase again, adding to your cooking time.