5 Reasons To Cook Your Thanksgiving Turkey On A Smoker

5 Reasons To Cook Your Thanksgiving Turkey On A Smoker

I’ve smoked over 200 turkeys over the years and you could say that I’ve learned a few things along the way.

The most important and also most obvious key to turkey perfection is picking the right grill/smoker to ensure a great outcome. Not only on Thanksgiving, but every day, I love my Weber grills.  It doesn’t matter if it’s gas or charcoal, they all get put to use.  Some are used for the main dish and others for side dishes. My machine of choice for my Thanksgiving turkey is always my Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker Smoker.   I like to go big on the turkey size so the 22.5” is perfect for me. I have done a 40 plus pound turkey on that smoker.

I like to use the Weber Smoker for a number of reasons…

1. The smoker has a higher sized dome lid than a traditional kettle, which allows you to put a larger bird on the grate.   I always go off of the height of the bird and not so much weight.  Not every bird is the same so when you get larger in pounds the height can fluctuate. Check out our clearance height guide here.

2. You can smoke at 27-300 degrees, which I have found is perfect for the 40 pound bird we usually grill.

3.  Both the distance that the turkey is from the fire and the humidity from the water pan contribute to keeping the temperatures low which allows for the convection heat to cook your turkey. Low convection heat create a more moist turkey due to the fact that the heat is not too intense so it does not push out flavor from the bird.

4. It provides you with more consistent temperatures because you aren’t opening the lid every hour to add briquettes. I use about 3/4 of a chimney full of briquettes in a smoker for 4-6 hours cook.  A standard 22.5 kettle would require about 50 briquettes to start and 18 additional bqriquettes every hour on the hour to maintain temperatures.  

5.  Capacity is key. There is enough room to do two things at once on the smoker because of the size. I will put the turkey on the bottom rack because I do not want it contaminating the other food I have on the smoker. That being said you can definitely do two turkeys on the smoker.  My guests love the turkey and they are always wanting more!! I also do brisket on Thanksgiving so the added space is needed! 

Everyone has their own way and process, and more importantly, their ritual of making the ultimate turkey on Thanksgiving.  I hope some of my tips will aid in taking your turkey to a whole new level. 

To get more tips check out my video on smoking a turkey here

What are your thoughts? (6)

11.18.15

John P

Can you use a turkey sitter to smoke a turkey "beer can" style on a WSM. it is a 14 pound bird. Would this effect cooking time?

11.18.15

Kevin Kolman

John,
Yes, you can and yes, I have. Using the poultry roaster will not effect the cooking time because heat is heat. Grate idea and do me a favor if you are on Facebook or Twitter share some pics on Thanksgiving with me at Kevin Kolman’s Backyard and Happy Thanksgiving!! #BestTurkeyEver

04.18.15

Peter W

I am trying to decided between the 18.5 or 22.5. there are only two of us most of the time though sometimes we entertain a few more. How large of a turkey can a 18 cook as compared to a 22?

04.18.15

Kevin Kolman

Peter,
I have both and think no matter what, you will not go wrong. If I was you, I would focus on the 18.5. There is more than enough room on the 18.5 for a large turkey that weighs 24-26 pounds. You can also do 40 pounds of pork shoulder or 6 slabs of ribs or 2 packer cut briskets. Keep me posted on what you get and if you need anything else you can find us here or on Facebook and Twitter @Kevin’s Backyard and always Happy Grilling!!

11.26.14

James H

Hi Kevin,

I'll be smoking a 8.5LB turkey breast on my 22.5''. What's your reccomendation for Temp, Time and Charcoal Qty?

Nice Blog!

Smoke If You Gottem'

~J.Mike

11.26.14

Kevin Kolman

Hi James,

Great choice to smoke on the 22.5" Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker Smoker. Try to aim for temperatures between 275-300 degrees. With those temperatures, you should be looking at about 15-18 minutes per pound. To start, begin with a chimney and a half full of unlit charcoal and then a chimney of lit charcoal on top. This should get you started and keep you going throughout the smoke process. If you have any questions on Thanksgiving day, you can find me on Facebook at Kevin's Backyard.

Happy Grilling!
-Kevin

11.25.14

Jacque L

Kevin,

What is your opinion on spatchcocking the turkey? Have a 18.5" WSM and 22 pound turkey ordered, if it fits via spatchcock method.

About how long would it take at 325 degrees via regular method and spatchcock. Ambient temp will be around 50 degrees and overcast with possible precipitation (Pacific NW).

Thanks,

-Jacque

11.24.14

Kevin Kolman

Hi Jacque,

I prefer doing the whole bird instead of spatchcocking. Although both methods will produce a great product, so it is really up to you. Putting that size bird on a 18.5” Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker Smoker is a great idea. It should take about half the time of a normal smoked/grilled turkey if you go the spatchcock route. Normal meaning a whole turkey would take about 11-13 minutes per pound at 350 degrees, so cut that in half to determine your timing.

It doesn’t sound like the weather will be an issue, but be sure to check the internal temperature of the turkey half way through to make sure you are on the right track. If you have any questions the day of, find me on Facebook at Kevin’s Backyard.

Happy Grilling!
-Kevin

11.24.14

Mark W P

Hi Kevin, just watched your WSM smoking a turkey video. Just wanted to know, can I smoke a 20lb (not stuffed) at around 275 - 300 degrees? Does the cheese cloth, if used, need to be wet or dampened if the turkey is oiled?

P.S. The turkey has been brined for about 28 hrs.

Thanks much - mark

11.24.14

Kevin Kolman

Hi Mark,

You can absolutely smoke your 20 pound turkey on the Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker Smoker. With those temperatures, I would focus on about 15-18 minutes per pound. It might be a little quicker depending on the temperature outside, so keep an eye on that. Try oiling the turkey and then placing the cheese cloth down on the bird. Then, you can pour either beer or water over the cloth. Pat down the liquid into the cheese cloth to make sure it stays on the turkey. This will also help with removing it half way through to get that nice golden brown color on the turkey. Great choice with brining your bird! That will definitely make it more moist. If you have any questions the day of, please find me on Facebook at Kevin’s Backyard.

Happy Grilling!
-Kevin

11.22.14

Roy C

50 briquettes to start and 18 every hour for a 22.5" WSM. What would the briquette count be for a 18.5"WSM? Thanks.

11.22.14

Kevin Kolman

Hi Roy,

I thought you were using a 22.5” kettle. That being said, I would use about a full chimney of dry briquettes and half a chimney of lit briquettes. This should give you more than enough fuel for smoking your turkey on your 18.5” Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker Smoker. My rule of thumb for smoking is for anything less than eight hours, always fill the charcoal chamber ring to the first level of circles with dry charcoal. Then, use half a chimney of lit charcoal and dump that on the unlit charcoal in the smoker. Adjust the vents to about 1/8 of an inch open and control the temperatures from the vent in the lid. If you have any other questions, please let us know.

Happy Grilling!
-Kevin

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