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How To Smoke a Turkey

This tutorial will show you how to smoke a turkey will become your go-to source for smoking turkeys.  We include how to season your turkeys before smoking to bring out the best flavors.

1. Determine How Many Turkeys To Smoke

To begin, it’s best to figure out how many turkeys you can fit on your smoker.  We use a Weber Smoker (I believe it is the Weber 711001 Smokey Mountain Cooker 14-Inch Charcoal Smoker).  There is plenty of room for us to fit 2 small-ish turkeys on the bottom and 2 on the top racks.

Smoked turkeys

The great thing about smoking multiple turkeys at one time is quite economical. For the same quantity of charcoal and wood chips, you might as well smoke 4 turkeys rather than 1.  Even if you are not going to eat them all or give them away immediately, you can freeze them and enjoy them later.

2.  Season the Turkeys

turkey in a bag and seasonings in a glass bowl

We use a homemade seasoning blend of salt, pepper, and garlic powder.  To make it, simply combine equal parts of each.  My husband guestimates that two tablespoons of each should be enough.

Once you have made the blend, rub it all over the turkeys the night before you plan on smoking them.  We have found that placing the turkeys in a huge zip-top bag makes it easy to store them in the refrigerator.

NOTE:  If you purchase frozen turkeys, be sure to completely thaw them before smoking them.  According to the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service, there are three safe ways to thaw turkeys:  1) in the refrigerator, 2) in cold water, and 3) in the microwave.  I recommend the first method which actually takes longer, but in my opinion, it is a safer route.

You will need to do a little math to figure out how long to thaw them.  According to the USDA, it takes 4 hours for each 4 to 5 pounds in a refrigerator set at 40 °F or below.  Be prepared for them to “leak” as they thaw and the juices start to run.  It’s good to place them in a container to catch the juices and to help prevent any contamination.

3.  Prepare the Smoker

Weber lighter cubes

For the best results, do not use lighter fluid.  To prepare your smoker, place charcoal in the smoker bowl and top it with a couple of lighter cubes. Ignite the cubes.

turkey smoking on a smoker

4. Add two turkeys.

You should be able to fit 2 nice-sized turkeys on the lower rack of your smoker barrel.  Insert a digital thermometer into a section of one of the turkeys that is really meaty.  (If you purchase a new thermometer, check for one that can use with your cell phone to monitor the internal temperature of the turkeys.)

5.  Add wood chips.

Next, place applewood chips on top of the smoking charcoal briquettes.  Place the barrel of the smoker on top of the charcoal.

6.  Add additional turkeys.

Put the top rack in place and add two more turkeys on top and then cover the smoker.

7.  Monitor the smoking process.

Periodically check the smoker to ensure that it is in the ideal smoking range.  (You do this by checking the dial gauge on the smoker.)

Smoke the turkeys until the thermometer probe reads 165 degrees Fahrenheit.  Remove the probe and turkeys from the smoker.

Smoked turkeys
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How To Smoke a Turkey

These simple steps will guide you to smoking the best turkeys.
Keyword holiday, smoker, turkey
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 6 hours
Additional Time 12 hours
Total Time 18 hours 15 minutes
Servings 4 Smoked Turkeys
Author Lynda
Cost $75


  • Charcoal Smoker


  • Applewood Chips
  • Charcoal
  • 4 Turkeys
  • 1 extra large zip-top bag


  • 2 Tablespoons salt
  • 2 Tablespoons pepper
  • 2 Tablespoons garlic powder


  •  Make a spice blend of salt, pepper, and garlic powder to rub over the turkeys. 
  •  Using fresh or thawed turkeys, remove the “guts” that are packaged in the crevices. Rub the spices all over the outside of the turkeys.
  •  Place the turkeys in a large zip-top plastic bag and refrigerate overnight.
  • Prepare your smoker:
    a.    Place charcoal briquettes in the smoker bowl.
    b.    Nestle 3-4 lighter cubes among the briquettes.
    c.    Light the cubes.
  • Insert an electric thermometer into the smoker so that it can be inserted into a turkey.  Be sure to plug the probe into the thermometer base. Place 2 turkeys on the lower rack of smoker barrel.  Insert the thermometer into one of the turkeys.
  • Place applewood chips on top of smoking charcoal briquettes. Place the smoker barrel on top of the charcoal. Place additional turkeys on the top rack of the smoker and cover the smoker.
  • Periodically check smoker to ensure that smoker is in the ideal smoking range.  (Check the dial on the smoker gauge.) . Smoke the turkeys until the thermometer probe reads 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Remove the probe and remove the turkeys from the smoker.


If you don’t plan on eating the turkeys immediately, allow them to cool, wrap them well in foil, and freeze. Well wrapped turkeys should keep in the freezer for 4 months.  To reheat, allow them to thaw a day or two in the refrigerator and then you can either cook them in the oven, reheat in the microwave, or even use an Instant Pot.

smoking turkeys on a smoker

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