Whole Smoked Turkey With Herbs Recipe

Whole Smoked Turkey With Herbs Recipe

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Whole Smoked Turkey With Herbs Recipe
3.6 - 295 votes

Smoking is a delicious way to prepare a whole turkey. All you need is the turkey, seasonings, time, and patience. You also need the right equipment. For me, that is an electric smoker, such as the Masterbuilt Digital Electric Smoker.

My first attempt at smoking a whole turkey was an epic fail. I neglected to measure the height of my charcoal smoker from the grill surface to the underside of the dome lid before purchasing my giant turkey. The bird was too tall for the lid to close snuggly.

I did channel my inner MacGyver and came up with a smaller grill rack that was perched on rocks inside the smoker so the top would close tightly. Unfortunately, the turkey was too close to the heat source and was cooking unevenly. Needless to say, I ended up finishing the main attraction in the oven after 3 hours of trying to adjust the smoker.

Whatever type of smoker you use, buy a bird that will fit into it. I am a big fan of staying between 12 to 14 pounds. With a tall electric smoker box you could fit 2 smaller birds on upper and lower shelves, and maybe rotate them half way through the cooking.

Preparing the Turkey before Smoking

There are a few steps to take before the turkey is ready for the smoker. Follow these tips and you should get great results.

1. Size Matters. Buy a turkey that fits inside the smoker.

2. Thaw the turkey completely and slowly. If you purchase a frozen turkey, place it in a large pan in the refrigerator with the wrapping still on it. It will take approximately 2 to 3 days to completely thaw. Do not leave it out on the countertop to thaw more quickly.

3. Remove the neck and giblets. Yes, this is one of those “duh” moments. I know many a home cook who has served a turkey with the bag of giblets still in the cavity. Save them for making stock or gravy.

4. Should you brine? I have to be totally honest that I cannot tell much difference between a smoked turkey that has been brined or just really well seasoned. I have tried brining several times and am just not into all the effort that takes.

Don’t buy a pre-brined or already seasoned bird. You never know how long it has been sitting in the brine. My experience is that you may end up with a salt bomb or a waterlogged fowl.

If you do brine, use a 1/2 cup of salt and 1/2 cup sugar to every gallon of water and completely submerge the bird. A cooler with a plastic bag to line it works pretty well. Allow the turkey to sit in this for 12 to 14 hours.

5. Rinse and dry. Whether you brine or not, thoroughly rinse the bird under cool running water. With plenty of paper towels, pat the inside and outside of the turkey until it is completely dry.

Now you can move on to the recipe for smoking a turkey in a Masterbuilt Electric Smoker. Recipe below is a herb rubbed smoked turkey recipe. We also have a different page if you’re looking for how to make a perfect, smoked Thanksgiving Turkey. Many home cooks love to season a turkey with Cajun spices before smoking. I am a little old school in that I like turkey to smell and taste like Thanksgiving. My recipe uses more traditional poultry seasonings that seem to appeal to all tastes. Feel free to change it up and use Cajun spices or just salt and pepper.

Whole turkey in a smoker

Herb Rubbed Smoked Turkey Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 12 to 14 pound turkey, prepared as directed above.
  • 2 TBS dried thyme
  • 1 TBS powdered sage
  • 2 tsps dried oregano
  • 2 tsps paprika
  • 2 tsps sea salt
  • 1-1/2 tsps cracked black pepper
  • 1 tsp dried rosemary
  • 1 tsp onion or garlic powder (optional)
  • Zest of 1/2 an orange
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
  • 1/2 cup apple cider
  • 1/2 cup water
  • Apple or pecan wood chips

Total time: 6 hour 30 minPrep time: 30 min – Cook time: 6 hour

Directions:

1. Preheat the smoker to 225˚F.

2. In a small bowl, mix together all the dry herbs and spices. Rub the interior cavity of the turkey with 1/3 of the dry seasonings.

3. Add the EVOO and orange zest to the rest of the seasonings and rub all over the outside of the turkey.

4. Place the water and apple cider in the water pan in the bottom of the smoker, filling it only half way. Place a drip pan on the next shelf above the water pan to collect drippings from the turkey. Fill the side drawer with the wood chips.

5. Tuck the wing tips tightly beneath the turkey. Place the seasoned turkey on the middle rack of the smoker, close the door, and set a timer for approximately 6.5 hours. The turkey should smoke for 30 to 40 minutes per pound, until the inside temperature reaches 165˚F.

6. Check every hour for smoke. Add wood chips if you don’t see any smoke. Start checking the internal temperature of the bird after 3 hours and every 45 minutes with an accurate meat thermometer. Alternatively, use the digital probe thermometer that came with your smoker.

7. Remove the cooked turkey to a cutting board and allow it to rest for a minimum of 20 minutes to 2 hours before carving.

Smoked Sweet Potatoes

If you are looking for a convenient side dish to go with your turkey, try smoking some whole sweet potatoes. You can do these on the top rack above the turkey during the last 2 to 3 hours of smoking. Do not place them below the turkey that is not fully cooked.

Ingredients:

  • 6 sweet potatoes
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt

Directions:
1. Wash the potatoes very well, removing the eyes. No need to peel them. Poke a couple of holes in them with a fork. Brush them with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt.

2. After 3 hours of smoking your turkey, place the whole potatoes on the top rack above the turkey. Smoke them until they begin to ooze a little and feel soft. This will take anywhere from 2 to 3 hours.

Serve these whole with butter, salt, and pepper as a savory dish. Or, mash them with a little butter, cream, maple syrup, and nutmeg for a sweeter side dish.

A Bit about Turkey’s Nutrition

Turkey is a lean source of protein. It is very low in fat. Turkey is an excellent source of B vitamins, potassium, and the minerals iron, zinc, and phosphorus.

Turkey also contains L-tryptophan, an essential amino acid. Our bodies use L-tryptophan to make niacin, serotonin, and melatonin. Serotonin is necessary for mood regulation, and melatonin promotes restful sleep.



Comments: 31

  1. Daren - November 19, 2017 at 2:54 pm Reply

    Thank you, for this. this will be my first time smoking anything, so I will be using this recipe for my trial Smoker.
    Daren

    • Daren - November 23, 2017 at 12:46 am Reply

      Hello, Daren my name is also Daren. I have never seen anyone spell it the same way mine is spelled. Cool! Have a great thanksgiving and good luck with your bird!

  2. Rhonda - November 24, 2017 at 3:21 am Reply

    I will be trying this the day after Thanksgiving with my family…I hope it is as good as it sounds 😊

  3. Mark Boys - December 21, 2017 at 6:26 pm Reply

    Daren,
    Well, the bird has been in the smoker for an hour now. Anxious to try it. Really easy instructions to follow and well written. Thanks for the recipe and Merry Christmas.
    Mark

  4. Elizabeth K - December 30, 2017 at 2:39 pm Reply

    Thank you. Loved the bird, Very good , and easy recipe. made over the Christmas holidays, (I’am the only fan of smoked Turkey…Santa Brought me a Smoker last year..)

  5. Boh James - February 4, 2018 at 1:38 pm Reply

    Smoking my first turkey for the big game.
    Thanks for a great recipe.

  6. J Dalton - February 20, 2018 at 1:42 am Reply

    Cut rub by half and still horribly strong. I would not recommend. Next time stiv
    Caking to garlic salt and pepper.

    • Jackie Turbot - June 1, 2018 at 6:15 pm Reply

      Did you use ground thyme? I have done that before and knew I screwed up when I tasted whatever it was I made. I haven’t made this recipe yet, but, I would look there for the problem. Also, I don’t care for oregano in rubs like this so I leave it out.

  7. Charita King - November 15, 2018 at 1:03 am Reply

    I’m going to smoke my turkey this Thanksgiving. We have a Masterbuilt smoker that we regularly use. My oven will be available to cook other dishes. This process will cut half of my time in the kitchen.

  8. Lisa - November 15, 2018 at 10:18 pm Reply

    Can you smoke 2 turkeys at the same time

    • Chris Crow - November 19, 2018 at 4:58 pm Reply

      Yes, as long as they will fit. You might switch their positions about halfway through. Also, having an instant read thermometer will allow you to check the bird that does not have the digital probe in it.

    • Dale Blackstone - November 20, 2018 at 11:58 pm Reply

      yes… I am presently smoking 2-12 lb. turkeys right now… as long as you get them up to 165 degrees you will be ok.

    • John Kuhn - November 22, 2018 at 2:55 pm Reply

      We do a turkey, ham and turkey thighs in our masterbuilt gas smoker. I cut the turkey in half to make everything fit.

  9. Dan - November 16, 2018 at 10:57 pm Reply

    How long takes smoke a 20 pound whole turkey What seasoning or Audi repair a turkey for smoking in a master built 30 inch

    • Samantha - November 17, 2018 at 11:33 pm Reply

      30mins for each lb. 20lb turkey would be 10 hours.

    • Scott Brown - November 20, 2018 at 9:56 pm Reply

      Smoke an hour per pound at 225º. Hope it turns out well for you! I have an 18.5lbs monster I am starting tomorrow.

    • Nicole - November 20, 2018 at 10:47 pm Reply

      I’m doing my 20.9 pound bird for 10-14 hours. I Brined. I’m hoping it’s not water logged.( first timer- 10 hours 2 cups to 2 gallons- Dad’s recipe) Right now I’m about 139 in internal temp on the outside drumstick. Fingers crossed! Happy Thanksgiving!

    • Ed - November 22, 2018 at 2:31 am Reply

      Like he said, make sure it will fit in the smoker. A 14 lb turkey is kind of a tighter fit. 20 lb will be squished in against the back and the door. I would not go much more than 15 lb max. I have smoked two 13lb in my 30 inch masterbuilt before. It was a bit tight top to bottom for both but it worked

    • Erick - November 22, 2018 at 3:29 am Reply

      It took me 12 hours last year to smoke a whole 20lbs turkey. I just use butter brown sugar salt pepper. Best turkey I have ever had.

  10. David - November 17, 2018 at 3:12 pm Reply

    Relating to your comments on brining–to me it is essential to brine a turkey prior to smoking or roasting. Just depends on whether you like your white meat more flavorful and moist as opposed to less flavorful and dry. Brining DOES make a huge difference. I’ve been brining my turkeys since long before brining was “cool”.

    • Dan - November 22, 2018 at 2:24 pm Reply

      I’m with David, I always brine (18 years at it). The salt helps to retain moisture, cook the bird more evenly and the added flavor is a plus. The white meat will be nicely moist, moreso than any turkey you ever had. I buy a fresh 20lb free range turkey with no added salt.

      Get a 5 gallon food grade bucket w/lid. You need to have about 2-1/2 gal of brine. I use a gallon of natural pressed apple juice, half gallon water, 4 light beers, 1-1/2 cup to 1-3/4 kosher salt, 1 cup brown sugar. Add hot sauce, Worcestershire, garlic powder and onion powder to liking. I start in the brine on Sunday night and remove Wednesday night in the mini fridge. Make sure you get a bird with no added salt. If you do have one, reduce to 1 cup salt and lightly rinse after brine.

      Tip. I use a bowl to hold the bird down, sandwiched between the lid and the bird. Also, might not want to brine the giblets, definitely not as long if you do.

  11. Angel - November 18, 2018 at 1:59 pm Reply

    What is your suggestion for the vent? Wide open? Half way?

  12. Niell - November 18, 2018 at 7:33 pm Reply

    20 lb Turkey is too large to smoke. The internal temp of the breast will not reach 165 quick enough and you run the risk of having dangerous levels of bacteria.
    I never use any larger than 16 lbs.
    I also cook mine @ 200 f for 10 hours after injecting with seasoned butter and is always amazing.
    Be sure and coat outside with oil and season heavily.

  13. Tiffany Charles - November 20, 2018 at 4:05 am Reply

    My Thanksgiving is in in your hands Sir… we shall see… only diff is we are using a Bradley Smoker, but I think we will do fine. Thank you in advance

  14. Rob Truster - November 20, 2018 at 5:12 pm Reply

    I have a 17lb Butterball that I want to cook at 260 degrees, approx how long will that take?

  15. Tim E - November 21, 2018 at 3:14 am Reply

    How long would it take to smoke a 21 pound whole turkey in a master built 30 inch?

  16. Julianne H - November 21, 2018 at 3:26 am Reply

    Can you put stuffing in the turkey while it smokes?

  17. Tony - November 21, 2018 at 6:58 am Reply

    Seems easy! I was thinking about injecting it. Thoughts??

    • Bryan - November 22, 2018 at 1:09 pm Reply

      I typically inject it with creole butter

  18. Ellen Eccher - November 22, 2018 at 2:42 pm Reply

    Hi Daren, I thank you for your tips on smoked turkey and sweet potatoes. I stuffed my turkey with celery, onions and apples after salting the cavities. I liked your idea of adding Apple Cider to Water. I will try that. As for the outside, I use butter and salt. Period. Simple. I am allergic to black pepper. My family loves my smoked turkey and we’ve done it since 1992! Thanks again!

  19. TEX-ES - November 28, 2018 at 5:07 am Reply

    Next time I’ll try a different rub. But it was good. Had to crank up the temp of the smoker at the end because the rise of the internal temp slowed down to a crawl and we all wanted to eat.

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