How to Smoke a Turkey in an Electric Smoker in 8 Simple Steps

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Written By Aimee Nakazawa

A well-cooked turkey is always a sight to behold and a guaranteed crowd-pleaser. However, cooking a whole turkey could easily go wrong, particularly with limited real estate in the oven; Enter the go-to electric smoker. On this account, let’s work out how to smoke a turkey in an electric smoker to make a barbeque masterpiece.

Why Smoked Turkey?

It’s hard to resist smoked turkey with its rich flavor and tender texture. However, the appeal extends beyond the delicious taste; a smoked turkey has several health perks over other meats and cooking methods.

  • Turkey is a rich source of protein, meaning it keeps you fuller for longer.
  • Turkey has lean muscle mass, which helps the body maintain a stable insulin level.
  • Turkey meat has high levels of vitamins B-6 and B-12, as well as zinc and choline.
  • Turkey breast has significantly fewer calories than other meats, making it a healthier alternative.

Why Smoke Turkey in an Electric Smoker?

It’s all about convenience. Using an electric smoker to smoke gives you enough room to cook a massive bird, especially if you have limited kitchen space. Electric smokers are also easy to control and very safe to use. Furthermore, it means you only need electricity to prepare the best smoked turkey ever.

Smoked Turkey Recipe

Not sure where to begin? Here are 8 simple steps for the best smoked turkey recipe:

1. Pick the Perfect Turkey

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First, account for the number of people you will host. Generally, a pound of turkey works out to just about half a pound of meat without bones and giblets per person. Therefore, if you’re hosting 10 people, you’ll need a 10-pound turkey.

Furthermore, it would be best to get a turkey without added ingredients or flavors. You can add your own flavors later with brine, rubs or injectors.

You should also account for the size of your electric smoker when choosing a turkey. Most smokers have removable racks which should give you enough room to smoke your turkey.

2. Thaw It

Chances are you’ll buy a frozen turkey. As such, thawing your turkey is a vital step to ensure that you’re not putting yourself and others at risk of food poisoning.

It’s also important to thaw your turkey so that it smokes at a consistent rate. Otherwise, your meat might end up with uneven hot and cold spots all over.

  • Allow the turkey to defrost for around 24 hours to ensure it’s properly thawed.
  • Don’t defrost the turkey at room temperature as this creates a conducive environment for bacteria such as Campylobacter and Salmonella to thrive.

3. Clean It

To clean your turkey thoroughly, you’ll start by removing the neck and innards. If the turkey is properly thawed, the neck should sit loosely inside the cavity. Reach further inside to remove the gizzard and other inner parts. Finish the process by rinsing the inside of the turkey with cold running water.

4. Brine It

Brining is certainly one of the most important steps of turkey preparation. This involves soaking the turkey in a mixture of water, salt and your preferred flavorings to make the meat more tender, commonly known as wet brining. Brining allows the meat to retain moisture when it’s cooking for prolonged periods. A good brine also seasons the meat and enhances the smoke flavor.

Traditionally, the brine base is made by adding I cup of sea or kosher salt per 1 gallon of water. Adding extra flavor to the base is entirely up to you, so you can go with your preferred combination of herbs and species. The most commonly used options for poultry meat include sugar, garlic, paprika, vinegar and thyme, but feel free to create your own brine combination.

Add all the ingredients to a pot, then mix them with water. Boil the combination gently while stirring to mix all ingredients. Allow the mixture to cool, add a little more cold water, then leave refrigerate the mixture until it’s cold.

Remember, proper brining takes a couple of days to build more moisture and flavor, but you don’t have to let your turkey sit for that long.

5. Rinse and Dry It

After removing your turkey from the brine, you need to rinse it thoroughly with cold water to remove any excess fluid, then pat it dry with paper towels.

Remember to also rinse the cavity. After rinsing, let the turkey sit for 12 t0 24 hours to allow it to dry properly. This allows the salt and flavors in the brine to spread evenly through the meat.

6. Season It

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With your turkey being well brined, rinsed and dried, it’s now time to add the finishing flavor touches with your go-to spice mix. Just keep in mind that you salted your meat in the brine, so you don’t really need to add any extra salt.

We recommend going for both types of rub for the best seasoning results: A dry rub for the inside and a wet rub on the outside. That’s because wet rub sticks on the outside surface much better.

To make a wet rub, mix your seasonings in vegetable oil to make a thick paste. Since you want the paste to also get under the breast’s skin, gently separate the skin from the flesh and rub softly between the two. However, be careful not to remove the skin from the flesh completely.

You can use soft butter or olive oil to help the rub stick, as well as crip up the skin.

7. Get the Right Wood

Getting the right type of smoke wood is key to making the best smoked turkey. Slightly sweet-flavored woods work pretty well with poultry, so you use mild hardwoods like apple, cherry, maple or peach. These tend to be sweet and complement the turkey flavor quite well.

Avoid woods such as mesquite or hickory as these can easily overpower your turkey’s flavor.

8. Smoke It

This is what you’ve been waiting for; it’s time to smoke your turkey! Preheat the electric smoker to 110°C/225F. You can set it higher if you want nice, crispier skin. In the meantime, oil the grate to ensure your turkey doesn’t stick to it.

Once the smoker is smoking consistently, put the turkey inside. Insert a meat thermometer in one of the breasts. Cook for 30 to 40 minutes for every pound of turkey.

As the turkey cooks, you can use a rub of vegetable oil or butter to baste it from time to time. This helps to keep the meat moist, which is beneficial for large cuts of meat cooking for a long time. You can also set an hourly timer to add more wood chips.

Take the turkey out of the smoker once the internal temperature in the thickest part of the breast reads 70°C/160°F. Place it on a clean baking sheet and cover it lightly with butcher paper or tin foil. Let it to sit for around 30 minutes before carving.

And there you have it – the best smoked turkey recipe!

Tips for Smoking Your Turkey Using an Electric Smoker

1. Allow the Electric Smoker to Come to Temperature

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Smoked recipes are generally slow processes, and smoking a turkey is no exception. Therefore, it’s extremely important to let your smoker come to temperature and your wood chips to start turning to ash before you put the turkey in.

Pro Tip: If the chips start producing thin blue smoke, your turkey is ready to go in.

2. Spatchcock Your Turkey

Spatchcocking the turkey allows the meat to absorb more smoke and cook faster and more evenly. This is equally convenient for people with limited smoker or fridge space.

To spatchcock your turkey, simply remove its spine so that it lays flat.

3. Dry Wood Chips vs. Soaking Wood Chips

You can use both with an electric smoker. However, consider that dry wood chunks burn faster and more intensely. Therefore, if you’re planning to smoke low and slow, soaked chips might be a better option. Soak them for at least 3 minutes before adding them to your smoker box.

6. Organize Your Cook

Some of the steps take a couple of days. As such, planning ahead of time ensures that you get your delicious smoked turkey on time.

7. What to Do with Leftovers?

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There are always leftovers when you’re having turkey. It doesn’t get any better than making a turkey sandwich, especially with cranberry sauce.

Ensure that you eat all your turkey within 3-4 days of refrigerating.

Frequently Asked Questions on Smoking Turkey in an Electric Smoker

1. Is it okay to inject the turkey before smoking?

Injecting is a practical alternative to brining, especially if you don’t have the time. It allows you to give the meat a flavor boost much faster. That said, you can still brine and inject your turkey, as long as you don’t add extra salt with the injections.

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About the author

Aimee Nakazawa

Aimee Nakazawa is a writer, photographer, cookbook author, and most importantly, she is the cook that prepares all scrumptious recipes. She also wrote a lot of shopping guides for the website.

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