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.