Best Smoked Turkey Recipe

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Ever wondered how to smoke a turkey? This is the best smoked turkey recipe we’ve tried. Free up the oven and learn how to make an amazing dinner of smoked turkey stuffed with fruit and aromatics.

A close up of a smoked turkey with slice out

Best Smoked Turkey Recipe

Summer is often the time we smoke meat, but fall is perfect for testing out smoked turkey recipes for Thanksgiving. I’ve seen turkeys on sale at our local grocery store several times in the past few months. Sometimes they are hard to find or really expensive, but this year they’ve been plentiful so we’ve been eating more turkey than usual.

Traditionally, my family traditionally cooks a whole turkey in an oven bag. But every now and then we like to try something new. We came across this turkey recipe on Allrecipes.com and it got amazing reviews so we had to give it a try. It was the juiciest turkey I’d ever had. Absolutely delicious!

How do I prepare a turkey for smoking?

Although it is common to rinse a turkey before cooking, the USDA actually does not recommend this because it can actually spread germs around your kitchen in doing so. If you are brining a turkey then you should definitely rinse it, but otherwise, there is no need to rinse!

Place the turkey in a large roasting pan (we often use disposable for easy cleanup). Remove the neck and giblets. You can save these for another use (we use them for gravy) or discard them. Take paper towels and pat the turkey dry. You do this so the seasoning will stick to the bird.

What is a good seasoning for turkey?

Often times you can get creative and put a spice rub all over the outside of the turkey, but for this recipe we kept it simple with minced garlic and seasoned salt. Most of the flavor for this turkey is coming from ingredients being baked inside the cavity, so garlic and seasoned salt just help add to that flavor.

What can I put in the turkey cavity for flavor?

When I saw the combination of ingredients that when inside this turkey, I was initially confused, but immediately went to excited. Coca-cola, apple, onion, butter….I mean really. It doesn’t get much better than that!

The apple and cola help add a little sweetness. The butter and onion make the juices that you’ll use to baste the turkey so rich. Sometimes we had a little celery or carrots. Tweak the ingredients if you’d like, but this combo is fantastic.

A close up of a whole smoked turkey

What is the best smoker for smoked turkey?

We’ve done smoked turkeys two ways:

  1. Electric Smoker: We had a Masterbuilt smoker when we first started smoking meat. It worked great! It was small and easy to take care of, but could easily hold two turkeys. See the one we had here.
  2. Pellet Smoker: This summer, we upgraded to a Traeger wood pellet smoker. My husband is 100% in love with this grill. Not only does it easily smoke meat, but it grills up hamburgers and chicken beautifully too. See the grill we love.

What flavor wood chips for smoking turkey?

We like to use wood chips with a slightly sweet flavor such as apple, apricot, cherry, peach or maple. Hickory is stronger but is always a classic and gives an even smoky flavor! Mesquite also goes well with turkey.

Is basting the turkey really necessary?

If you want the juiciest turkey, then yes, I recommend basting. The skin and the foil help to keep the turkey juicy on its own, but since you’ll have to be checking on the turkey in the smoker a few times anyway, go ahead and baste it. You won’t regret it.

A close up of smoked turkey

How long does it take to smoke a turkey?

It’s good to plan 30 minutes per pound when you smoke a turkey between 225-250 degrees Fahrenheit. Our turkey was 13 pounds and took about 7 hours in the smoker to reach 180 degrees Fahrenheit.

**We LOVE our Thermoworks ThermaPen to quickly test meat temperatures. This probe thermometer is AMAZING.  Get it here.**

A close up of food, with thanksgiving turkey

What To Serve with Turkey

Have leftovers? Try this turkey casserole! And if you like this recipe, you may also like our whole smoked chicken.

Best Smoked Turkey Recipe in the smoker
Best Smoked Turkey Recipe in the smoker

Best Smoked Turkey Recipe

4.71 from 177 votes
Ever wondered how to smoke a juicy turkey? This is the best smoked turkey recipe we’ve tried. Free up the oven and learn how to smoke turkey stuffed with fruit and aromatics for an amazing turkey dinner. 
Servings 15
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 8 hours
Total Time 8 hours 15 minutes

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Ingredients
 

  • 13 pound whole turkey (thawed)
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons seasoned salt
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 24 ounces cola flavored soda pop (We used Coca Cola)
  • 1 large apple (quartered)
  • 1 large onion (quartered)
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon ground pepper

Instructions
 

  • Remove the neck and giblets from the turkey, and pat the turkey dry.
  • Rub the minced garlic all over the turkey, then sprinkle the entire outside of the bird with seasoned salt.
  • Place the turkey in a large roasting pan or disposable aluminum pan.
  • Stuff the large cavity of the bird with the remaining ingredients.
  • Cover the turkey loosely with foil.
  • Prepare the smoker and heat to 250 degrees Fahrenheit. Place the turkey in the smoker and baste every 1-2 hours with turkey juices from the pan. 
  • Smoke until the internal temperature reaches 180 degrees Fahrenheit in the thickest part of the thigh. It’s good to plan 30 minutes per pound when you smoke a turkey between 225-250 degrees Fahrenheit. This turkey was 13 pounds and took about 7-8 hours to get to temperature. 
  • Remove the turkey from the smoker and allow it to sit, still covered with foil, for 10 minutes before slicing.

Video

Notes

The calories shown are based on the feeding about 15 people, with 1 serving being 1/15 of the turkey. Since different brands of ingredients have different nutritional information, the calories shown are just an estimate. **We are not dietitians and recommend you seek a nutritionist for exact nutritional information.**

Nutrition

Calories: 479kcal | Carbohydrates: 8g | Protein: 60g | Fat: 21g | Saturated Fat: 7g | Cholesterol: 217mg | Sodium: 1764mg | Potassium: 667mg | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 355IU | Vitamin C: 1.6mg | Calcium: 39mg | Iron: 2.6mg
Course Main Dish
Cuisine American
Calories 479
Keyword how to smoke a turkey, smoked recipes, thanksgiving dinner, turkey dinner
smoked turkey title image
About JulieJulie Clark

About Julie Clark

I'm Julie Clark, CEO and recipe developer of Tastes of Lizzy T. With my B.A. in Education and over 30 years of cooking and baking, I want to teach YOU the best of our family recipes.

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4.71 from 177 votes (145 ratings without comment)
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Anthony Lombardo
3 years ago

Was delicious! Had to turn up the heat to 325 the last 45 min to finish it in time so breast meat was a little dry but that was my bad. I would definitely make it again and allow an extra hour over the estimate in the instructions to cook it. Few things I noticed: I poked 6 good sized holes in the foil, like the size of a 50 cent piece. Was NOT necessary. Actually got too dark in spots. Maybe two holes or loosely attached like the instructions said and it would be an even colored brown at… Read more »

Becky
3 years ago

Not sure where we went wrong. 13lbs and at 6 hours only got to 130•f. Took off foil and it got to only 140• after another hour. Decided to finish off in oven.

Sarah
3 years ago

I’m using Dr Pepper as we speak as I had no cola. Have you tried this before? Fingers crossed!

Alisha
3 years ago

Am I suppose to soak it in cola or just add it to the pan?

Evelyn
3 years ago

I noticed in the video that you put a stick of butter inside the turkey as well but it isn’t in the written recipe…Which do you do?

CLS
3 years ago

165 is the safe temp for turkey. At 150, I remove the foil and turn the smoker up to 350 to crisp the skin in that last few minutes. Pull it off at 160 and let it rest for 15 min, residual heat will bring it up to 165. Taking the turkey off at 180 is sure to guarantee a dry breast, which is what most people do. And definitely have to brine. It’s no wonder I only eat the dark meat at other people’s homes!

Last edited 3 years ago by CLS
Lucas Burnam
3 years ago

Hi there I am really excited to try this recipe I was just wondering if there is something besides Coca Cola we can use?

Tammy Gilmore
3 years ago

Is it better to use garlic out of the jar or just the dry season?

Riley Sailor
3 years ago

Hello! Looking to make this recipe for Thanksgiving on Thursday! Any suggestions for making gravy from the drippings? I fear the Coca Cola will make a weird flavored gravy.

Any advice for the first time turkey cookers appreciated! 🙂

Mike feeney
3 years ago

I was looking to smoke my 1st turkey. Years past always cooked the turkey in the oven in an oven bag, but decided since I got a Traeger earlier this year I was going to smoke it. I was a little skeptical about the recipe ingredients, especially the soda, but followed it. It was the absolute best turkey I have ever had. I cooked it until the internal temp was 165 with the probes, and when I went to double check with my instant read thermometer, every time I poked it, juices would squirt out. After letting it rest, I… Read more »

Greg
3 years ago

What about stuffing? Do you ever put the stuffing inside the cavity in the smoker?>

Brad L
3 years ago

I’ll be using a Masterbuilt smoker and wondering what type of wood you recommend.

Last edited 3 years ago by Brad L
Mary
3 years ago

You said you did 2 turkeys in your master built… how big were they and did you put them both in aluminum roasting pans?

Chris Roach
3 years ago

You mention an electric smoker and a pellet smoker. I have a charcoal smoker. Are there any changes to the process
Thanks
Chris

Lynette Fernandez
3 years ago

Im so confused! Where does the coca cola go?

Lannea
3 years ago

Can I make this without the cola? what would be a good substitute?