How to Smoke a Turkey in an Electric Smoker

With the holiday season in full swing, turkey is the centerpiece of millions of dinner tables across the USA.

There’ss nothing better than sharing a Turkey with your loved ones as you enjoy its juicy flavor and your delicious side dishes.

Smoked turkey is always a crowd-pleaser, offering an added twist to the classic holiday dinner special.

My first try at cooking a turkey was a complete failure, ending in a small fire, as my college roommates and I tried to deep-fry the entire turkey while it was still frozen. Trust me, if I was able to learn how to do it right, it should be a breeze for most of you.

I will try to make it easy for you to learn how to smoke a turkey.

One of the best and easiest ways of smoking a turkey is by using an electric smoker. In this short guide, I will outline the steps you need to take to make a delicious smoked turkey that will dazzle your dinner guests.

If your reading this page and haven’t even bought your 1st smoker, then you need to read this review first.

Let’s get started!

Turkey Tidbits

Besides being a holiday favorite, turkey has a lot of benefits, and you should consider including it in your diet more frequently.

Turkey is rich in protein, as well as B6 and B12 vitamins. Its lean muscle mass is excellent for keeping the insulin levels at bay, and it is a much healthier alternative to other types of meats.

The first step is choosing the perfect turkey.

Make sure to account for the right number of people when choosing the size of your turkey. A good rule of thumb is that 1 pound of turkey per person should be enough. So, for a 10-person meal, a 10-pound turkey is about the right size. Always go for the unseasoned turkey, too, so that you can season it to your liking.

It is crucial to plan ahead because smoking a turkey takes a lot of time, and there are no quick fixes or shortcuts to that smoked deliciousness.

You’ll need to account for extensive preparation time, and the smoking process can take hours. Clear your schedule, because you will be busy in the kitchen learning how to smoke a turkey to perfection.

Turkey Prepping

After spending time to pick the right turkey, it is time to get the turkey ready for smoking.

I have several rules when it comes to prepping the turkey, and they have served me well over the years. I hope they are useful to you, too:

Defrost

Before everything, defrost the turkey thoroughly! I cannot emphasize this enough. A frozen turkey will not cook well or evenly, and you will ruin your dinner (remember my first attempt!).

Never defrost the turkey at room temperature because doing so leaves you open to contamination by bacteria. Defrosting in the fridge takes a long time, so plan about 24 hours for every 5 pounds of turkey.

Clean

Once my turkey thaws, I clean the turkey by removing the neck, gizzard, and insides. It is, by far, my least favorite part of the process, but I make sure to do a proper job so I’ll get the best results when the smoking gets underway.

A quick rinse after cleaning is essential, too.

Brine

A turkey is a big bird, so I always brine it before cooking.

Brining is a simple process to tenderize the meat, so you end up with that juicy, tender quality. I use a large plastic dish and fill it with water and sea salt, then submerge the turkey in it. I use a mixture of a cup of sea salt per gallon of water.

In terms of brining time, one hour of brine time per pound seems to do the trick.

Rinse & Dry

After the turkey is brined, I rinse it thoroughly with cold water and let it dry. It depends on the size of the bird, but drying times range from six to 12 hours, That time will get the bird dry enough for smoking and allow the brine to have its best effect.

Season

The final step in the prep process is the seasoning. This is where the process will diverge for most of you.

I am not going to go into details about seasoning, because we all have different tastes and preferences. Maybe you enjoy a Southern- or Cajun-style turkey, so choose the seasoning according to your favorite flavors.

A good seasoning tip that I can add: Always use a dry-rub seasoning inside the turkey cavity and a wet rub on the outside – and take it easy on the salt. You have already done the brining, so there’s already a lot of salt inside the bird. No need to go overboard.

And now we are ready to get to smoking!

Cooking in an Electric Smoker

If you have followed the first part of this guide carefully, your turkey is ready to smoke. The process might seem intimidating at first, but it is quite easy to learn. Read on for the steps I use when smoking.

cooking outdoor with an electric smoker

Preheat the Smoker

Depending on the size of your turkey, preheat the smoker between 225°F and 250°F. I love to slow-smoke the turkey, so I keep the temperature on the low end.

You can increase the temperature to 350°F or 400°F for the last 30 minutes for a crispier crust – if your electric smoker allows it.

Soak the Wood

I like to use wood chips that give out a slightly sweet flavor and smoke (such as cherry, apricot, maple or apple). They work great with turkey.

Soak them in water for a good 30 to 40 minutes before putting them into the electric smoker. It helps control the release of smoke and produces better flavors for slow cooking.

putting the wood chips into the smoker

Cooking in an Electric Smoker

If you have followed the first part of this guide carefully, your turkey is ready to smoke. The process might seem intimidating at first, but it is quite easy to learn. Read on for the steps I use when smoking.

Conclusion

I promised that you would learn how to smoke a turkey by reading the end of this guide. Now, you are ready to show off your smoking skills and impress your family and friends with your delectable smoked turkey.

Off you go!