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How to make the juiciest, smoked turkey! This easy recipe is perfect for beginners and uses dry-brining to make a tender and moist turkey.

A sliced whole turkey on a white serving platter garnished with cranberries and rosemary.

The BEST Smoked Turkey recipe that makes a perfectly moist and tender turkey without any stress – let the smoker do the work for you! This is a super simple way to make a gorgeous, super-flavored turkey that will impress your guests.

Dry-brining makes the turkey super juicy, and smoking the bird at a low temperature for the first 4 hours cooks the whole turkey evenly. This technique makes sure that the turkey is perfectly tender and not overcooked like many other recipes, which is the key to a perfect Thanksgiving turkey.

And if you’re having a smaller dinner or need an additional turkey main course, check out my Air Fryer Turkey Breast recipe or my favorite stuffed turkey breast! It is a Thanksgiving showstopper with its Cranberry Pecan Stuffing and easy Apple Cider Gravy.

Why we love this recipe

  • Dry brining is less messy and uses less space in the fridge
  • So flavorful because of the fresh herbs and the smoke
  • No weird ingredients
  • Super juicy, perfectly cooked on the inside with crispy skin that seals in moisture
  • Hands-off recipe, let the smoker do the work
  • More space in the oven for all the sides
Gravy being poured onto a slice of turkey breast next to green beans, mashed potatoes, and cranberry sauce on a white plate.

Ingredient Notes

Here is an overview of the ingredients you’ll need for this recipe. Scroll down to the recipe card at the bottom for quantities.

Ingredients needed for making a smoked turkey including a whole turkey, herbs, and salt.
  • Turkey – A farm-fresh turkey works best! Discard the giblets and other stuff (you can use it to make broth)
  • Salt – I use kosher salt
  • Herbs – This recipe uses fresh sage, rosemary, thyme, and parsley. I recommend using them all for the best flavor, but you are welcome to skip one of them if you are not a fan.

How to make this recipe 

Detailed measurements and instructions can be found at the bottom of the page on the printable recipe card.

Step by step pictures for prepping a turkey for the smoker.
  1. Prep: Finely chop the herbs (Image 1) and combine with the salt (Image 2). Rub the herb mixture all over the turkey and in the cavity (Image 3).
  2. Wrap and Chill: Place the turkey in a bag and seal it tight or put it in a large enough plastic container and cover it with plastic wrap (Image 4). Put in the fridge for 24 to 48 hours, then unwrap and let sit in the fridge unwrapped for another 12 to 24 hours.
  3. Smoke: On the day you want to cook the turkey, preheat your smoker to 180 degrees F. Place the turkey in a roasting pan, breast up (Image 1 below). Transfer to the smoker and smoke for 4 hours (Image 2 below).
  4. Increase Temperature: After 4 hours, increase the temperature to 325 degrees F and cook the turkey for about 2 more hours until it has reached an internal temperature of 160 degrees F in the thickest part of the thigh (temperature will go up while the turkey rests). Tent the turkey if needed. Image 3 below
  5. Rest: Take the turkey out of the smoker and let rest for 20–30 minutes before carving. Image 4 below
Step by step pictures for smoking a turkey on a smoker.

Expert Tips

  • If you are using a frozen turkey, make sure you plan enough time for your turkey to thaw! It needs about one day in the fridge for every 5 pounds of turkey to defrost completely.
  • We use a Traeger Ironwood 650 (affiliate link) pellet grill and love it!
  • The longer you dry-brine, the better the turkey! Dry-brining makes the turkey moist and tender and keeps the skin from drying out and getting leathery during smoking.
  • Use a disposable aluminum roasting pan. Less clean up, and it is usually more compact and fits better into a smoker.
  • Don’t wash the turkey before dry-brining it! It’s not necessary and will only contaminate your sink.
  • Use a meat thermometer and always go by temperature, not time! Smoking times vary depending on your smoker, outside temperature, size of the turkey, etc.
  • The government recommends cooking turkey breast to 165°F, but in my experience, it’s best to only cook it to 160°F and then let it rest. The temperature will still go up while the turkey rests, and the meat will be juicy and not overcooked.
  • Let the turkey rest after cooking so it is moist and juicy and not overcooked.
  • If the skin gets too dark during the last hour of cooking, cover the bird with a large piece of aluminum foil.
  • Use the pan drippings to make the gravy while the turkey rests.
  • Depending on the size of your turkey and your smoker, cooking time can vary slightly, always make sure the meat is fully cooked before serving.
  • Use the super-smoke feature on your Traeger for extra smoke flavor!
  • I don’t recommend stuffing the turkey. The low smoke temperature is not ideal for stuffing, and the bird will cook faster without it.
  • Different-sized turkey: Smoke time stays the same (4 hours) but the cooking time after increasing the temperature will change, check out the table below

Recipe FAQs

What flavor of wood pellets or chips should I use for turkey?

Hickory pellets are my go-to because they are very versatile and add a mellow smoke flavor that is not too overpowering. We buy a big back at Costco so we always have some on hand. Apple and Pecan are sweeter but work well too. Another great option are the Traeger Turkey Blend Pellets (affiliate link) which are perfect for turkey.

How long does it take to smoke a turkey?

It takes about 6 hours for a 15-pound turkey, but varies depending on your smoker and the size of your turkey.

What size turkey should I get?

You need about 1.5 pounds of turkey per person. So if you are feeding 8 people, you should buy at least a 12-pound turkey. Get a bigger bird if you want a good amount of leftovers for soups and sandwiches.

What should I do if my turkey is cooked too early?

Keep in mind that the turkey should rest for 20–30 minutes before slicing into it. But if it is done even earlier, and you are not ready to eat for 1 hour or longer, you can place it with the roasting pan in an insulated cooler to keep warm.

A knife slicing into a cooked turkey that already has the legs removed.

Leftovers

Leftovers are one of my favorite parts of Thanksgiving! We always buy a bigger turkey so we have plenty of leftovers. Some of our favorite recipes are our creamy leftover turkey soup, Instant Pot Turkey Soup, and sandwiches with all the fixings.

We also always make a deconstructed chicken pot pie with leftover turkey and biscuits on top – my absolute favorite.

Leftovers can be kept for 3–4 days in an airtight container stored in the fridge. You can also freeze leftovers for up to 3 months. Perfect for a quick weeknight dinner!

What to serve with Smoked Turkey

A close up of a sliced turkey breast with the skin on garnished with cranberries and rosemary.

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5 from 2 votes

Smoked Turkey

How to make the juiciest, smoked turkey! This easy recipe is perfect for beginners and uses dry-brining to make a tender and moist turkey.
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 6 minutes
Dry-Brining: 2 days
Total Time: 2 days 36 minutes
Servings: 10

Ingredients 

  • 15 lb farm-fresh turkey
  • 2 Tbsp chopped fresh sage
  • 2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 Tbsp chopped fresh thyme
  • 2 Tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
  • 4-5 Tbsp kosher salt, about 1 tsp per pound

Instructions 

  • Combine chopped herbs and kosher salt. Rub mixture all over the turkey, including the cavity.
  • Place turkey in a bag and seal tight or put in a large enough plastic container and cover with plastic wrap. Put in the fridge for 24 to 48 hours, then unwrap and let sit in the fridge unwrapped for another 12 to 24 hours.
  • On the day you want to cook the turkey, preheat your smoker to 180 degrees F.
  • Place the turkey in a roasting pan, breast up. Transfer to smoker and smoke for 4 hours.
  • After 4 hours, increase the temperature to 325 degrees F and cook the turkey for about 2 more hours until it has reached an internal temperature of 160 degrees F in the thickest part of the thigh (temperature will go up while the turkey rests). Tent the turkey if needed.
  • Take the turkey out of the smoker and let rest for 20-30 minutes before carving.

Notes

  • If you are using a frozen turkey make sure you plan enough time for your turkey to thaw! It needs about one day in the fridge for every 5 pounds of turkey to defrost completely.
  • We use a Traeger Ironwood 650 (affiliate link) pellet grill and love it!
  • The longer you dry-brine the better the turkey! Dry-brining makes the turkey moist and tender and keeps the skin from drying out and getting leathery during smoking.
  • Use a disposable aluminum roasting pan. Less clean up and it is usually more compact and fits better into a smoker.
  • Don’t wash the turkey before dry-brining it! It’s not necessary and will only contaminate your sink.
  • Use a meat thermometer and always go by temperature, not time! Smoking times vary depending on your smoker, outside temperature, size of the turkey, etc.
  • The government recommends cooking turkey breast to 165°F, but in my experience, it’s best to only cook it to 160°F and then let it rest. The temperature will still go up while the turkey rests and the meat will be juicy and not overcooked.
  • Let the turkey rest after cooking so it is moist and juicy and not overcooked.
  • If the skin gets too dark during the last hour of cooking cover the bird with a large piece of aluminum foil.
  • Use the pan drippings to make the gravy while the turkey rests.
  • Depending on the size of your turkey and your smoker cooking time can vary slightly always make sure the meat is fully cooked before serving.
  • Use the super smoke feature on your Traeger for extra smoke flavor!
  • I don’t recommend stuffing the turkey. The low smoke temperature is not ideal for stuffing and the bird will cook faster without it.
  • Different sized turkey: Smoke time stays the same (4 hours) but cooking time after increasing the temperature will change, check out the table below
Cooking Time after increasing the temperature
10-14 pounds 1.5-2 hours
15-20 pounds 2-3 hours
20-25 pounds 3-3.5 hours
26-30 pounds 3.5-4.5 hours

Nutrition

Calories: 685kcal | Carbohydrates: 1g | Protein: 105g | Fat: 27g | Saturated Fat: 7g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 7g | Monounsaturated Fat: 9g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 348mg | Sodium: 3332mg | Potassium: 1103mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 416IU | Vitamin C: 3mg | Calcium: 71mg | Iron: 5mg
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About Julia Foerster

Hi, I'm Julia! Born in Germany, I call Canada now my home and love to share my favorite dishes with you! Here you'll find hundreds of recipes, all made from scratch, with lots of tips and detailed step-by-step instructions.

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