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? (12)

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

11.22.13

Mike C

Hi Kevin...great video!

This video convinced me to pick up a Smokey Mountain Cooker and smoke a turkey this Thanksgiving. I picked up the 22 1/2" model today and I am very excited to say the least.

What temperature do you maintain during the smoking process you used in your video? I have heard that temperatures around 300 degrees are good, but having never used a smoker, I am not sure....

Thanks,
Mike

11.21.13

Kevin Kolman

Hi Mike,

It looks like we both have some extra things to be thankful for this year. You will have to keep me posted on how the turkey you smoke turns out. The best smoked turkeys usually are made with temperatures between 250 and 300 degrees. This will help to create a beautiful golden brown color, and also a delicious crispy skin. At those temperatures, you're looking at around 15-18 minutes per pound. If you have any other questions, let me know. I hope that helps.

Happy Grilling!
-Kevin

11.21.13

Michael L

Hello Kevin,

I just purchased the smoker kit for my Weber Genesis E-330 natural gas grill. I plan on smoking a turkey for thanksgiving this year but have never smoked anything in my life. Have any tips for me?

11.20.13

Kevin Kolman

Hi Michael,

I would suggest watching the videos on Kevin's Backyard to get an understanding of the smoking process and what it takes. I'd also try smoking a chicken before the big day as a test run. This will help you practice for Thanksgiving. However, here are a few tips. Remember to soak the wood chips before you use them for at least 30 minutes. Also, make sure you are working over indirect heat. Don't forget to place a cheese cloth over your turkey for the first half of the smoke as well. If you keep your temperatures around 350-375, you will be looking at about 12-15 minutes per pound. If it is going to be cold where you live, like here in the Midwest, then your time will be closer to 15 minutes per pound. If you keep the temperatures real low, around 225-250, you're looking at more like 30-35 minutes per pound. Be sure to remove your turkey when the breast reaches 165 degrees, and the thigh reaches 175 degrees. If you need extra tips, fine me on Facebook at Kevin's Backyard. I will be responding to questions throughout the morning. I hope you have a great Thanksgiving.

Happy Grilling!
-Kevin

11.20.13

Chris D

Hello Kevin,
I will be using my Genesis with the rotisserie and smoker box attachments. Do you still recommend using the cheese cloth for half the cook time while using the rotisserie? Thanks.

11.20.13

Kevin Kolman

Hi Chris,

It’s so great to hear you are going to be using your rotisserie and smoker box for your Thanksgiving turkey. If you are using the rotisserie, you can still use the cheese cloth. Just be sure you tie the cloth down on the turkey. Keep in mind you will have to turn off the motor when removing the cloth, so be careful. Make sure you have a great set of grilling gloves, which will make it much easier. Let me know how your turkey turns out.

Happy Grilling!
-Kevin

11.20.13

Jim P

Thanks again. Also, where can I score one of those classic Weber grilling warmup tops?
--Jim

11.19.13

Kevin Kolman

Hi Jim,

This is a one of a kind warm up and I would have a hard time parting with it. Thank you for checking in. Have a great Thanksgiving.

Happy Grilling!
-Kevin