The juiciest, most succulent smoked turkey ever! Brining your bird helps it stay extra moist, while the smoke from the applewood creates the most flavorful turkey you will ever try!
First, a little disclaimer: I don’t mean to come down on any of the other methods of turkey preparation with this post. Turkey is the centerpiece of most every Thanksgiving meal and I have had some incredibly delicious oven-roasted and deep-fried versions over the years, so I’m definitely not knocking on those. But in terms of flavor and texture, none of them hold a candle to a properly smoked turkey. And as far as ease of preparation goes, cooking your turkey on a smoker is definitely less fraught with potential danger than using a deep fryer and much more convenient than roasting it in an oven in your kitchen!
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A few years ago, I got Paul an electric smoker for Father’s Day and it has turned out to be the gift that keeps on giving. As in giving us meal after meal of incredible, delectable smoked meat like bbq smoked chicken thighs, salmon, tri tip, beef brisket, ribs, and of course, smoked turkey. If you don’t have a smoker, you really, really, REALLY should consider getting one. It could make a perfect Christmas present for someone you love. Just saying. Here’s a link for the one that we have, which works great! Cooking your Thanksgiving turkey on a smoker is the ultimate for so many reasons.
It tastes AMAZING.
I’ve already said that in this post, right? But seriously, a smoked turkey is so, so ridiculously good. We have had side-by-side turkey comparisons with a smoked turkey and a roast turkey, and even the best roast turkey just can’t get the same flavor that builds from hours of exposing your bird to applewood smoke. It’s unreal.
It frees up valuable oven space.
This way you have oven real estate for pies, rolls, sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, baked macaroni & cheese, stuffing, and all the other fixings that go with a Thanksgiving meal! The kitchen is a hectic enough place on Thanksgiving so it’s nice to move the star attraction outside.
I basically think of a smoker like a giant, outdoor and more masculine version of a slow cooker.
You set your turkey out there and just make sure your temperature is set and then you just leave it alone while it smokes.
To cook an amazing smoked turkey, you want to start the day before by brining the turkey overnight in a brine made of water, salt, sugar, peppercorns and allspice. Brining keeps the turkey from drying out during the smoking process. We just use a large, 5-gallon plastic bucket and cover the brining bird with ice to keep the temperature cold and safe overnight.
Then the next day, you will want to pull your turkey out of the brine, pat it off well so that the skin is dry, and rub it with oil. Then the bird gets stuffed with aromatics like fresh herbs, apple and onion before you truss it and take it out to your smoker. It can take 4-5 hours to smoke a 12-15 pound turkey once you get it on the smoker, so you will want to plan accordingly.
The first 1 1/2-2 hours the turkey gets smoked on the lowest “smoke” setting on your electric smoker before basting the bird with a rosemary butter mixture and increasing the heat to actually cook it all the way through. 2 1/2 hours later the thickest part of the thigh should read 170-180 degrees on an instant-red meat thermometer and everybody will be absolutely drooling over the unbelievable smells coming from the smoker. It’s almost painful to wait 20 minutes before carving into it. And it will be impossible to carve your smoked turkey without snitching tastes of the perfectly juicy, moist, unbelievably flavorful meat or crispy skin before transferring it to a serving platter.
When it’s Thanksgiving, I think it’s fun to go all out and garnish your serving platter with extra herbs or fresh cranberries, just to make things look fancy. But this turkey is so good that you won’t want to wait for Thanksgiving to come around each year to cook a turkey. We certainly don’t. And the leftovers are perfect for pot pie, sandwiches, or just reheated along with all your other sides the next day for a repeat meal that often tastes even better than the first one (cuz, you know, all the work and clean-up has been done already and you just have to reheat everything!).
I realize that not everyone has a smoker, but could not possibly help sharing our favorite Thanksgiving turkey recipe this year in case anybody has been on the fence about getting a smoker or has one but has never tried smoking a whole turkey on it before. It really is so, so easy! And oh baby, the resulting bird just cannot be beat. I also intend to post some of our other favorite smoker recipes on here in the future like my Uncle Richard’s amazing smoked baby back ribs.
Also, if you are still contemplating your pie menu for Thanksgiving Day dessert, check out my Homemade Blackberry Pie or Paul’s favorite Old-Fashioned Banana Cream Pie. Or change things up this year with a Salted Caramel Apple Pie instead of a traditional plain one!
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