Smoking your Holiday Turkey

With Thanksgiving right around the corner, it’s time to start putting together your holiday menu. It goes without saying that the focal point of that meal will be the beautiful, perfectly browned turkey in the center of your table. Since everyone will be looking forward to that first bite of turkey, really give them a gift by smoking it. When you smoke a turkey, you do so slowly at a low, indirect temperature. This allows for the meat to become more tender and absorb all the delicious smoke flavor along with the seasonings and spices you add.  Smoking your turkey is easier than you think. My video walks you through the entire process from setting up your smoker, to preparing your bird. Trust me, your family and friends will be requesting a smoked turkey more than once a year!

What are your thoughts? (16)

11.17.14

Victor S

Great video. I just got my Smokey Mountain and smoked a practice chicken this weekend as a warm up to the big Thanksgiving event (Tremendous Results!). I've seen a lot of debate about leaving the water pan dry for a turkey (12-14 pound) especially at the temp range of 275-300. Is the water (and steam) too important to the process?

11.17.14

Kevin Kolman

Hi Victor,

I am glad you enjoyed the video. You are very wise in your smoking approach. It’s always better to try it out before the first major cook. Just like your practice smoke with the chicken, you’re going to have tremendous results with your Thanksgiving turkey on your Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker Smoker. First, water is always important…especially when you are trying to achieve a nice smoke ring for your meat. Humidity plays a key role in this process as well. You can always achieve the temperatures you are trying to smoke at even with water in the water pan. Overfilling or using too much water will lead to a steaming effect, so aiming for 1-2 liters of water should be perfect. Be sure you also look at the weather. If it’s going to be really cold, add a little extra fuel just to be safe. Great questions and good luck!

Happy Grilling!
-Kevin

11.12.14

matt d

Great video. I've got a 22 inch standard Weber, not the bullet type smoker in the video. I use it to smoke whole chickens, ribs, burgers, just about everything. When I smoke, I put all of the coals on one side, and the meat on the side opposite of the coals for an indirect heat.

I want to smoke a 13 pound turkey. How would you recommend I do this on my grill? I'm thinking coals on both sides with a water pan in the middle. Your thoughts?

TIA

11.12.14

Kevin Kolman

Hi Matt,

I’m glad you like the video. You are correct, if you want to smoke on a kettle then you will keep the coals on one side and the turkey on the other. Also, like you said, be sure to put the water pan directly under the turkey. I’m sure your turkey will turn out great!

Happy Grilling!
-Kevin

11.06.14

Tom W

Kevin,

Here is the way I’ve smoked my Thanksgiving birds for the last few years.

I normally get a 14 lb. bird and once it is thawed, I put a nice blend of butter and herbs under the skin and in the cavity with some celery, carrot and onion. I also add salt and pepper to the skin for flavor.

My set up for my Weber 22.5” Gold is one basket full of coals under the lift grate heaped as full as possible. I take eight out and light them, get them going, then replace them. I open the vents wide and as soon as the top temperature gets to 300 degrees, I put the turkey on. I use cherry wood. Nothing is better than this sweet wood. My chunks are 3x3x1, so make sure to get the same amount of wood on. I replace them every hour.

You want to keep the lid temperature up, or better yet, get a grill thermometer and keep it at 275-300. When the temp starts dropping shake the basket and add new coals. I use my tongs for this usually every hour to hour and a half.

Once my instant read thermometer reads 165 in the thigh it comes off and is tented with foil until I slice it up for dinner.

11.05.14

Kevin Kolman

Hi Tom,

Wow it sounds like you are a turkey grill master. I love the approach and the process you have to make sure your turkey turns out perfect. One thing I like to do is grill my turkey upside down for the first part of the cook, and then rotate it for the second part. This always seems to provide me with a really moist turkey. Thank you for sharing your tips with us.

Happy Grilling!
-Kevin

10.28.14

Tom T

Kevin - sorry to bother you again. Upon reading some blogs on virtual weber bullet, I think I am going to smoke two turkeys (approx 15 lbs each), one on the top rack and the other on middle rack. I have never used middle rack on my WSM 18.5, can you comment on temperature difference between these two zones?

Also, you mentioned the use of a roasting pan, breast side down, and does the cheese cloth cover the back during this first half of smoking ? I'm assuming the use of roasting pan is just so the breasts do not get mangled by grate indentation?

10.27.14

Kevin Kolman

Hi Tom,

I love the idea of loading up the Smokey Mountain Cooker Smoker and letting it get to work with two turkeys on it!

The temperature difference between the top and middle rack varies about 20-30 degrees. This is not cause for any major concern. If you feel more comfortable, you can always switch the turkey from the bottom to the top and vice versa half way through the smoking process. For the cheese cloth, make sure they are completely covered. Try cooking them breast side down for the first half and then remove the cheese cloth and finish it breast side up. This provides great results. Be sure to use a roasting pan and also a roast holder to keep the turkey off the pan as well. Please let me know if you have any other questions.

Happy Grilling!
-Kevin

10.19.14

Tom T

Hi Kevin,

I noted your comment about the amount of water you need to smoke a turkey for 6-8 hours. When I have used water all the way through (on other meats), I always felt like I am "steaming" my meat. So lately, I have done the "wet to dry" method. I own a WSM 18.5, so I fill the water bowl with 2 pounds of rock or sand then add about two cups of water. I've got the temperature control down pretty good so that when it goes from wet to dry, it's not an issue (I maintain my chickens @ 275).

I have never smoked a turkey before, what are your thoughts on the method described above?

10.19.14

Kevin Kolman

Hi Tom,

What an interesting method you use. The water pan should work more like a heat source. This means if you can keep the temperature low, there should not be a steam bath going on inside your smoker. You will need some humidity in the smoker to help with the smoke ring. However, if the method above works well for you, stick with it. Consistency is key when smoking. Keep me posted and thank you for sharing.

Happy Grilling!
-Kevin

12.18.13

Patrick A

Hi Kevin,

Thanks for the great video. I will be purchasing a Weber smoker to smoke a turkey for Christmas dinner. Do you think the 18.5 inch is big enough to smoke a 18-20 lb turkey, or should I go with the 22.5 incher?

Thanks,

Patrick

12.17.13

Kevin Kolman

Hi Patrick,

I appreciate the kind words and hope you learned some new techniques. The 18.5” Smokey Mountain Cooker Smoker will fit your 18-20 pound turkey without a problem, but if you plan on doing large briskets or 6-8 slabs of ribs at once, I would suggest the larger model. It has 40 percent more capacity than the 18.5” model. Don’t get me wrong, I love the 18.5” and own three of them, but I also enjoy having more space when I need it. Let me know if you have any other questions. Have a great holiday!

Happy Grilling!
-Kevin

11.27.13

Walter J

Hi Kevin,

You mentioned pouring beer in the turkey. What kind of beer do you recommend and how much? Also, when you start with the breast side down, does the cheese cloth go on the grates under the breast?

Thank you!

Walter

11.26.13

Kevin Kolman

Hi Walter,

I pour half a beer in the cavity. I like to use Sam Adams or another heavy lager for flavor. The aromas and taste are well worth it! I start with wrapping the breast in a cheese cloth, then smoke breast side down for the first half of the smoking process. I then rotate and take the cheese cloth off. I hope this helps!

Happy Grilling!
-Kevin

11.23.13

Phil F

Kevin - thanks for the video, this year I'll be smoking my first turkey on my Smokey Mountain Smoker. My wife and I are competing with one another, we're having over a houseful and she's cooking a traditional turkey and I'm smoking one. Wish me luck! It's supposed to be in the mid-30's on Thanksgiving Day here. Are there any tips that you can give for smoking when it's that cold?

Thanks,
Phil

11.23.13

Kevin Kolman

Hi Phil,

You are very welcome! It sounds like this year's turkey will be the best one you have ever had! Trust me, the Smokey Mountain Cooker Smoker will not let you down. I would wish you luck, but with a Weber on your side, you don't need it. It's going to be cold where I live, so what I do is start with a chimney filled three quarters with lit charcoal and dump it on the unlit in the bottom of the smoker. After 10-15 minutes, put the smoker back together and pre-heat for another 10-15 minutes. Add about 2 liters of water in the pan right when you start. After that, you should be all set. If your temperatures are at about 250-275 degrees, you are looking at 20-25 minutes per pound. Try cooking the breast side down at the beginning and flipping it half way through for some nice even moisture. Also, don't forget to use a cheese cloth for the first half of the smoking process to help with the golden brown color. Have fun and if you have any questions that day, find me on Facebook or Twitter at Kevin's Backyard.

Happy Grilling!
-Kevin

11.23.13

Ken C

Did you moisten the cheese cloth before putting it on the turkey?

11.23.13

Kevin Kolman

Hi Ken,

Great question! Yes, always moisten the cheese cloth before placing it on the turkey. Have a great Thanksgiving.

Happy Grilling!
-Kevin

11.23.13

john s

Hi Kevin,
This looks great. Is this recipe on the Weber site anywhere?

Thanks,

John

11.23.13

Kevin Kolman

Hi John,

I agree…it looks pretty good, but more importantly, it tasted off the charts! Here is my "go to" for all turkeys…

I sauté bacon until crisp, and then mince. I lift the skin and take four tablespoons of butter and slice it into four pieces before placing those under the skin of each breast. Then, I add the bacon and Italian seasoning to help enhance the flavor. For coloring, I lightly coat the turkey with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Once that is done, I place the bird upside down in a roast holder with a cheese cloth covering the turkey, specifically the breast meat. Finally, I smoke the turkey, but half way through, I flip the turkey so the breast meat is on top. I also remove the cheese cloth at this point and coat the bird with a small amount of olive oil. I also like to add onions, apples, and beer to the cavity before smoking it to help with the flavor. You can add anything that you prefer for added flavor. Remember, the breast should register to 165 degrees and the thigh should register at 175 degrees before taking it off. Don't forget to let the turkey rest for 20-30 minutes before carving.

Have fun and if you have any questions Thanksgiving day, find me on Twitter or Facebook at Kevin's Backyard.

Happy Grilling!
-Kevin