How To Smoke A Turkey

How To Smoke A Turkey

By Lukas Gelman – Black and Blue BBQ Pit-master

“Let me tell you about smoking a turkey, it’s hard to keep lit” – my dad’s favorite BBQ joke.

There are many ways to have turkey for the holiday. Here are my top 4, ranked from least dangerous to most dangerous.

4. Buy a turkey that’s already cooked – Zzzzzz
3. Cook your bird in the oven. – BORING
2. Smoked turkey – Delicious
1. Deep fry a turkey (easily the most dangerous and manly way)

Fun fact, Texas has the most deep frying turkey accidents, and Illinois is #2. Way to go, team!

That’s all fun and good, but smoking adds a serious layer of flavor to your bird that will blow your family away. You can’t get it from any other method. The fun part’s that it isn’t hard to do.

Here’s your plan.

Step 1: Figure out how much turkey you need.
On average they recommend portioning 1 1/2 lbs (pre-cooked weight) per person.

Step 2: Obtain a turkey.
You can buy a frozen one from the grocery store, an organic one from the farmer’s market, an incredibly expensive ones from one of the high-end grocery stores with all the Priuses in front, or find a place that sells live poultry.
Its smarter to get 2 smaller birds than one big bird. They are easier to manage, and you get double legs and wings. Don’t get some 24 lb pterodactyl when you can grab a pair of 12 lb turkeys instead.
Frozen turkey is easy to find, but you have to give it days to thaw out in the refrigerator. It can take up to five days. Figure on a day of thawing per 4 lbs.
Also, a lot of turkeys come pre-injected with brine, stock, oil, butter or even water. Look for an un-injected bird.

Step 3: It’s brine time.
Brine is a simple solution that basically uses water, salt and sugar to make the most tender and juicy bird you can find.

Step 4: Smoke the bird!

Step 5: Blow your family members’ minds.

Things you won’t be doing

1. Stuffing the turkey before you cook it. Trust me, it won’t work.

2. Thawing your turkey in hot water

The Setup

1 turkey

1/2 gallon boiling water
1 1/2 gallons cold water
2 cups salt
2 cups brown sugar

2 sticks unsalted butter
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp salt
2 tbsp black pepper
1 cup cranberry juice in a spray bottle


1. Start 24 hours early. Use the biggest pot you have and add about 4 cups of water and get that boiling. Add the salt and brown sugar then stir it until it dissolves. Once it dissolves turn of the heat, stir in the rest of the cold water. Transfer the brine into something else like bowls or other pots.

2. Put the turkey in the pot legs up and completely cover it in the brine. If it won’t completely fit you can use an empty cooler, brining bags, 5 gallon bucket, or something else where you can completely submerge the turkey in the mix. Once this is done you will want to put it in the fridge or outside if its not too far above freezing but below 40 degrees outside. Its gotta stay cold.

3. About 2 hours before you start cooking, remove your turkey from the brine, rinse, and pat the skin dry with a paper towel. Then place it on a tray (preferably on a drying rack) and slide it in the fridge. You are trying to dry out the skin. Dry skin means a nice, dark, crispy result when you’re done.

4. Light your smoker. You are going to want to go HOT for this one – about 350 degrees. This could take a lot longer than normal to set up, so adjust accordingly. For woods I like to use a nice fruit wood like peach, cherry, or even sugar maple.

5. When your smoker is getting close to temp, pull the bird out of the fridge and slice up the butter. If you need to, pat dry the bird again. You are going to want to place your hand under the skin of the bird and slide your hand underneath, being careful not to rip the skin. Slide the pats of butter underneath the skin. Salt and pepper your butter first. It adds flavor.

6. Mix the salt, pepper, and extra virgin olive oil together and spread it all over the skin on the bird. Get it everywhere. Wrap the bones from the legs and the tips of the wings in tin foil. They will burn otherwise.

7. Place the bird in the smoker and let it roll for about 2 hours. Then remove the foil from the legs and wings and if your bird is a nice golden brown, spritz it lightly with the cranberry juice. It’s like holiday magic. You can check the temp here but it should be low. If it’s not golden brown wait a little longer to spritz.

PRO TIP: Place an aluminum pan under the bird during smoking it to catch the drippings. You can use them to make gravy or in your stuffing. It’s like flavor dynamite, it will blow your lips off your face.

8. After 2 1/2 total hours check the temp of the bird, in the deep part of the thigh. You are shooting for 165. If it’s not done, wait another 15-20 mins and try it again. It might take up to 3 hours.

9. When it reaches temperature, spritz it one more time with the cranberry and pull it off. Let it rest for about 20 minutes.

10. Carve and eat that glorious holiday beast. It’s gonna be amazing.

Got any questions hit up @blackandbluebbq on Twitter

Happy holidays homeboyz and girls.