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close up of cooked chicken

How to Smoke Turkey?

Updated On August 21, 2021

Min Prep Time: 5 hr
Min Cooking Time: 30 m
Total Time: 5 hr 30 m
Turkey is one of the most widely consumed poultry dish in North America and Canada. Even though it is commonly cooked on Thanksgiving and Christmas events, knowing how to cook turkey can be a delicious addition to the list of recipes you know.

One thing about meat like turkey and pork, especially contrary to seafood, is the amount of time it takes to smoke.
Not to sound quirky, but spare at least a day or two before getting started on cooking the turkey. Patience, attention to details and punctuality are the main mental ingredients on which the success of a delicious turkey will depend.

Other than that, if you are a regular griller, it is expected that you'll already be having all the other ingredients and items that we are about to mention. If not, that's OKAY. You can get the required things at a pretty cheap cost from any large superstore.

Without further ado, let's get started.

Magic Dust BBQ Seasoning

Invented by the winner of Grand World Championship Cooking title, Mile Mills' Magic Dust seasoning can be used anywhere and everywhere. If you are a grilling or smoking geek, you need to have this with you as it takes every food to the next level and revolutionizes the taste.

On the internet, you are likely to find various recipes of this. Indeed, many modifications have been made to Magic Dust's ingredients but the one we are going to give you is the original one, as used by Mile Mills. We are going to create a jar-full of this so if you want, you can modify the values and make lesser or more.

31/2 tablespoons of cumin seeds (ground)
31/2 tablespoons of sugar (white or brown, your choice)
31/2 tablespoons of kosher salt
61/2 tablespoons of paprika powder
2 tablespoons of mustard powder
2 tablespoons of black pepper (ground)
31/2 tablespoons of garlic (ground)
2 tablespoons of cayenne pepper (ground)
31/tablespoons of chili powder

Kosher Salt

Salt is one of the most essential preserving ingredients when it comes to grilling or smoking. Absence of it can be a deal-breaker but the usage of the wrong one can be an even bigger one.

It is highly recommended to use kosher salt which has no anti-caking agents and is non-iodized. Using the typical table salt can give an "off" taste to the meat, making all the preparation and cooking hard-work useless.

Aluminium Foil

There will be an occasion during the smoking of turkey where it will need to be rested for at least 20-30 minutes. The challenge is that it should not lose too much of its heat such that it loses its tenderness or becomes cold.

Aluminium foil, also known as tin foil, is an excellent heat absorption solution. You can loosely wrap it around the turkey and it will work as a high quality insulator for you while balancing the air circulation so neither does the food remain too hot or too cold. 

Meat Thermometer

An essential skill in grilling and smoking is the precision of temperature and timing. A few degrees up or a few degrees down and your turkey is likely to be altered from what you desire it to be.

Having a digital meat thermometer can solve this problem. It comes at a cost-effective price, it is durable, easy to use and reliable. In addition, this can also assist in you timing as to how long your turkey should remain under a certain temperature. There is not a timer function in a thermometer but that can be done separately. 

What cannot be done separately is checking the temperatures of specific parts of the turkey like its thighs. Some parts cook quicker than the others so the regular manipulation of temperature is vital in avoiding burning.

Chicken Stock

You can either choose to make this yourself or buy it pre-made from a superstore. However, we always recommend making things fresh and besides, it's not difficult to make either. It is very similar to chicken broth, which is made out of the chicken's meat, except that this is made out of the leftover bones of it.

To make a basic flavored chicken stock, here is what you need to do.

-3 cups of water
-A handful of leftover chicken bones either from a raw or a cooked chicken (depends on you)
-Fresh batch of celery leaves
-One stem of celery, sliced into 2-inch or 1-inch pieces
-Large quartered onion (peeled)
-Fresh carrot, sliced into 2-inch or 1-inch pieces
-One batch of parsley
-1/4 teaspoon of pepper
-1 teaspoon of kosher salt (or as per your liking)

  1. Take the chicken bones and vegetables and put them together in a stock pot
  2. Add the pepper and salt then cover the pan
  3. Turn on the fire and heat the pan until boil. Once that's done, immediately lower the temperature until its simmering
  4. Partially remove the pan cover and let it simmer for 4 hours
  5. Once done, remove the bones and vegetables
  6. Your chicken stock is now ready to be served

Basting Brush

It is very likely that you already have this in your kitchen. If not, you can easily order it online or get it from a local superstore. We'll be needing this brush for basting our turkey.

Apple Cider Vinegar

We will be basting this on our turkey too but mainly because apple cider vinegar has acidic properties. It is the best way to kill bacteria and preserve the turkey after it has been cooked. 

In addition, it can also add a tasty sourness to the turkey which, when combined with honey, results in a combination of priceless awesomeness.


We will be using honey as a sweetening agent for basting our turkey. This is an important step with no other alternatives because honey has the perfect amount of density and sweetness so, it is going to serve as an important ingredient.

What to do?

The process of smoking turkey is simple as long as you remain patient throughout it and follow the temperature as precisely as possible. 

To get started, here is what you should do in orderly steps:

1) Soak some wood: get a handful of wood pieces (hickory, pecan or apple are recommended) and soak them in water for at least a minimum of 4 hours. The more the better, you can do so until a maximum of 48 hours.

2) Get the turkey out: remove the turkey from the refrigerator and let it sit for anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour. You need to make sure none of its parts are too cold or too hard from being refrigerated.

3) Ready the smoker: prepare the smoker to 275 °F for indirect heat. Start sprinkling the wood chips and let some smoke start rising. 

4) Spice up the turkey: use the magic dust and rub it all over the turkey, giving special and increased focus to the inside parts. Try to spread the seasoning evenly, making sure no area is left out.

5) Moisten the grates: use your favorite oil (canola for the best taste) and use the basting brush to spread it around every inch of the grates. Remember, so far until now, we haven't started smoking the turkey yet.

6) Start smoking: place the seasoned turkey on the oil grates and let it cook now. Use the following temperature guide to help you understand the cooking time:

235 °F = 30 minutes required to cook per pound of the turkey
250 °F = 25 minutes required to cook per pound of the turkey
275 °F = 20 minutes required to cook per pound of the turkey

Basically, the formula is that with every 15 °F increase in the temperature, 5 minutes lesser are required to cook per pound of the turkey. However, we do not recommend exceeding 275 °F as it anything higher may start burning the turkey skin.

So, if your turkey weighs 8 kg (18 pounds) you need to multiply the time by it and you'll know how much time to keep it smoking. At 275 °F, you will need an approximate of 6 hours to perfectly smoke the turkey.

7) Start basting: 1-2 hours before the cooking time is finished, start basting. This is where our chicken stock is going to come. Mix together some honey, apple cider vinegar and chick stock and stir it until even distribution of the ingredients. Use this mixture and baste the turkey after every 30 minutes.

8) Cover it up: once your turkey is smoked and cooked, loosely wrap it around aluminium foil and let it rest for 15 minutes (if you cooked the whole thing). This will make sure that the warm air rising from the hot turkey is repelled by the foil and evenly spread around every part of the turkey, making it juicy and tender from inside out.


Why does the start of the guide mention 30 minutes of cooking time and then later 6 hours?
30 minutes of time is the minimum required to cook a single pound of the turkey. If you are cooking the whole turkey, you need to multiply this time by the number of pounds it weighs. 

Also, 30 minutes is the standard time at 250 °F. It all depends on the temperature you use and what part of the turkey you wish to smoke (unless it is the whole of it).
I hate honey, I don't want to use it. If I don't use it, apple cider vinegar will make
everything too sourly.

What do I do?
In that case, just use the chick stock to baste the turkey. Apple cider vinegar must NOT be used alone. It needs to be neutralized with something sweet and that something is honey.

Am I supposed to dry the soaked wood chips before putting them in the smoker?
Pat them dry to the extent that water is not dripping off.

After cooking the turkey, where do I put it for rest? Under a ceiling fan or outdoors?
As a matter of act, neither of the above. You are not trying to cool the turkey but rather trying to let the heat spread itself evenly around. Let it rest at a place where the ceiling fan is turned off and there is no direct air colliding with it e.g. don't put it in front of a completely opened window.

Do I use wood or charcoal to smoke my turkey?
You can use either of them. If you use charcoal, the preparation time will be greatly reduced. It doesn't matter what you use.

What do you suggest for smoking other kinds of meat?
The only thing that will differ is the recipe you are using and the amount of time to cook. The magic dust can be used for literally anything, even vegetables. Chicken stock, on the other hand, is only applicable on domesticated birds like turkey and chicken itself. Don't use it on beef, pork or venison.


Smoking turkey is not a difficult job at all. The only downside of it is the amount of time it takes. This is why it's not a very common house meal. However, at least knowing how to cook something is better than not knowing at all how it works. After all, you don't need to smoke the entire turkey, 2-3 pounds of it is also enough and that will take a very minimal amount of time.

Besides, with this guide, you should not have any kind of confusions. Just follow the instructions and we are sure you are going to amaze your family and friends with the hidden chef inside of you.

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About the author 

Albert Thompson

Albert hails from Kentucky where grilling is a lifestyle. He brings with him his years of experience in the cooking sector and the product sector, but dont let that fool you, he practices what he preaches and enjoys a big rack of ribs every weekend.