Beginners Guide To Smoking A Turkey On A Smoker

First, let me welcome you to the wonderful world of smoking on a Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker Smoker. The smoker is not only easy to use but will provide you one of the greatest turkeys you will ever eat!  The 18”and 22” smokers are great for smoking full-size turkeys.  You won’t likely be able to fit a full-size turkey on the 14” smoker but you can smoke a turkey breast on it.

Prep for the turkey

Preparing the smoker

  • Take the smoker apart into 3 sections. Place your chimney starter on the middle section of the smoker.
  • Light a chimney starter that is filled ¾ of the way with charcoal and wait until it is ashed over.
  • Place 6 wood chunks (4 cherry and 2 hickory) in an X shape on the bottom charcoal grate.
  • Fill the bottom ring of the smoker about halfway up to the first circle with unlit charcoal; this will be equivalent to one chimney starter.
  • Dump the lit charcoal on the unlit and let it kindle for 5-10 minutes. Put the smoker back together and place about 2-3 liters of water in the water pan. Set the bottom vents to about a quarter of the way open and keep the lid vent halfway open.
  • Preheat for 10-15 minutes until the smoker stabilizes at your desired temperature. Get our guide here on temperature ranges.  
  • If it is going to be cold where you live, like it will be here in the Midwest, then the turkey will take few extra minutes/pound to cook.  

Time

  • Keep the bottom vents locked in to about a quarter to halfway open and start with the top vent halfway open. Control the temperature throughout the process by turning the top vent to being more open to get the temperature higher or closing it a little to cool it down. 
  • Check the temperature of the turkey halfway through the cook, three quarters of the way and then when you think it is done to make sure that you are on the right track to hit 165. This will help you monitor the turkey and make sure it is not over cooked!
  • The more you open the lid, the longer it will take to cook so be patient, relax and go watch some more football.

When is it done?

  • Keep in the mind that the turkey could cook a little quicker than you expect so be sure to have checked it halfway, three quarters of the way and then when you think it is done.
  • Check the temperature of the turkey on the innermost part of the thigh and the thickest part of the breast to make sure that it is fully cooked at 165 degrees before removing it.
  • This step is important! Let it rest for 20-30% of the total cooking time.  You can loosely cover the turkey with a piece of aluminum foil while it is resting or you can just leave it uncovered.
  • Before you carve into that beautiful bird, share your pictures on social media with us! #BestTurkeyEver

​​Looking for more turkey inspiration?  Be sure to check out more tips here 

What are your thoughts? (6)

11.24.16

Peter L

How does this work when its 30F outside, I cant get the smoker up to 240F to start. Any suggestions?

Does the amount ofd water have anything to do with it? I filled the bowl with maybe 3 gallons of water, just about up to the top. Is this too much water and causing everything to be too cool? if so how do you drain it out with the fire on?

11.24.16

Kevin Kolman

Peter,
Best thing to do is it keep the unit apart for 10 minutes to make sure all the charcoal is up and fired. I then put the unit back together with all dampers open This usually does the trick. IF you put too much water in the pan or put too much charcoal in the bottom of the unit both or one of these can cause you problems. I like 2-3 liters of water in the water pan not gallons. Sounds like too much water. Hope this helps and I hope you had a great Thanksgiving and an even better Holiday season!! Grill On!!

11.22.16

Jerome W

What about spatchcocking the turkey? Do you recommend?
- Jerome

11.22.16

Kevin Kolman

Jerome,
I have done spatchcocking and prefer cooking the whole bird straight up. I prefer this because of the results I get and also the presentation. Just my two cents. Hope this helps and if you have any other questions you can find us here or on Facebook and Twitter at Kevin Kolman’s Backyard and always Happy Thanksgiving!!

11.18.16

Brian E

Kevin can you comment on temperature, and if there should be water in the pan? Other articles on Weber's site say no water in the pan and cook at 350-400 for a turkey. I was planning on being ambitious for Thanksgiving and trying to cook a ham and turkey at the same time in my 18" smoker :)

11.18.16

Kevin Kolman

Brian,
I like having some water and here is the reason. If the drippings continue to pool in the bottom of the water pan and the smoker is 300-350 it will give an off flavor to the turkey. Use about a liter or 2 of water. I like 300-325 as my cooking temp. Never ever lets me down. Keep the questions coming my bbq friend and Grill On!!

11.17.16

Robert H

What about cutting up the turkey and smoking the parts? I have a 22" Weber smoker.

Robert H

11.17.16

Kevin Kolman

Robert,
I have don’t this before and you really can’t go wrong doing this method or roasting it hole. One thing I would do if you are going to break the turkey down is to put it in a brine. This will help with moisture content and give more flavor to the turkey parts. I personally like a whole turkey because of the appearance and presentation for dinner. Either way we are smoking and enjoying life!! Keep the questions coming here or on Facebook and Twitter at Kevin Kolman’s Backyard and always Happy Grilling!!

11.17.16

Robert H

Kevin, I need some advice. I plan to smoke the separate parts of the turkey on my 22" Weber. What recommendations do you have on brining, temp, time, etc.

Robert

11.17.16

Kevin Kolman

Robert,
I recommend using an equilibrium brine. It's a slow 3-4 day brine but it is crazy the amount of flavor and moisture the turkey has when cooked. I like cooking my turkey at 300-325 because the skin gets crispy and the appearance is a little better then a traditional smoked turkey cooked at 225-250. I like 15-18 minutes per pound as a rule of thumb when cooked at this temperature zone I also like using cheese cloths for the first half of the cook. Smoking can cause the color of the skin to get a little too dark so using a cheese cloth helps protect the skin and then half way through remove, coat with olive oil, salt and pepper and boom you are literally “golden”!!. Keep the questions coming and always Grill On!!

11.13.15

michael t

Great article and will be helpful coming Thanksgiving day! I'm new to smoking. I have a 22" WSM. I'm going to smoke a 24lb turkey. How many coals should I start with and will I need to add coals?

11.13.15

Kevin Kolman

Michael,
Thanks for the kind words and it sounds like your Thanksgiving is going to be outstanding. I would not add coals. Fill the bottom of the charcoal chamber halfway with unlit charcoal. Then dump about a half of chimney of lit charcoal. Put the unit together and adjust the bottom dampers to halfway and adjust the lid damper to your ideal smoker temperature. You should not have to add any charcoal to the smoker at all. Just sit back monitor it all day and enjoy the fruits of your BBQ labor. If you have any other questions you can find us here or on Facebook and Twitter at Kevin Kolman’s Backyard, Happy Thanksgiving and Happy Grilling!

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