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How to Smoke a Turkey with an Electric Smoker

If you're looking for a way to change up your Thanksgiving feast or you want something easy and distinctive to cook for a large dinner party, consider smoking a turkey in an electric smoker. Some of the most delicious aromas and flavors come out of the smoker, and the tender, juicy flavors of turkey are no different. Instead of making the same tired meal, create an appetizing spread for your guests to enjoy.

What you’ll need:

  • Turkey. You can use a frozen turkey, but an all-natural fresh turkey is a better option as it guarantees that the center is not frozen and the turkey is free of excess solutions or injections.
  • Wood chips. You can choose any smoking wood chips to add flavor to your turkey.
  • Electric smoker. You can also use a water smoker or a grill smoker attachment to smoke a turkey as well, but this article explains how to smoke with an electric smoker.
  • Meat thermometer. Monitoring the internal temperature is vital to safely preparing and cooking a turkey.

Step 1: Choose your turkey and wood.

Avoid purchasing a turkey that is larger than 14 pounds, as a large turkey may not reach a safe temperature quickly enough. The temperature danger zone (when bacteria growth is at its highest) is between 40 degrees and 140 degrees Fahrenheit. If you have more that eight or nine guests, opt for two turkeys instead of a single, larger turkey.

For your wood choices, you can opt for apple or cherry wood if you want a mild flavor. For a strong, smoky flavor, go with hickory or mesquite wood chips. If you're feeling creative, you can even mix a combination of wood chips to create a unique flavor for your turkey.


Step 2: Heat the wood chips.

Pre-heat the wood chips in the smoker to the desired cooking temperature before you add the turkey.


Step 3: Prepare the turkey.

Rinse out the center cavity of the turkey, and rub the outside with oil or butter to crisp the skin. Avoid stuffing the turkey with dressing, as that can increase the cooking time and dry out the turkey. Instead, add a couple of apples or fresh herbs in the center cavity of the turkey for flavor.


Step 4: Place the turkey in the smoker and cook.

Add the turkey to the smoker when the temperature has reached 180 to 200 degrees Fahrenheit.The cook time will depend on the size of the bird. Bring the temperature up to 250 degrees Fahrenheit and cook the turkey for approximately 30 minutes per pound.


Step 5: Watch the temperature.

Monitor the temperature of the smoker, the amount of smoke and the internal temperature of the turkey. The smoker should stay at 250 degrees Fahrenheit throughout the smoking process. If you start to run low on smoking chips, add a few more to the pile. If the internal temperature of the turkey at the thickest part of the breast and the thigh are not over 140 degrees Fahrenheit after three hours, raise the temperature of the smoker to 325 degrees Fahrenheit or finish the cooking process in the oven for the safest handling.


Step 6: Remove the turkey at 180 degrees Fahrenheit.

Use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature of the inner thigh. When it reads 180 degrees Fahrenheit, your turkey is ready to remove from the oven or smoker.


Step 7: Serve.

You can let the turkey stand until other dishes are ready, or you can serve immediately if your meal is ready to go. Consider adding a few new sides to this twist on the typical turkey. Try pan-fried balsamic Brussels sprouts with capers instead of green bean casserole and roasted root vegetables instead of mashed potatoes or sweet potato casserole.