How to Smoke a Turkey in a Charcoal Smoker

Do you want to show your mastery over the art of smoking? Do you want to get a lot of appreciation after serving a smoked turkey to your guests? Then you must know how to smoke a turkey in a charcoal smoker.

how to smoke a turkey in a charcoal smoker

Once you host the guests following the steps below, a lot of praising sounds will follow you.

How to choose a turkey for barbecue?

Before going ahead, let’s discuss how to choose a turkey for smoking purposes? How to determine the size and how to maintain and balance while barbecuing?

How to Determine the Size

Talking about the size of the bird, it is right to say that the size should be good. Not too huge or small in size. The quantity of meat should be according to the number of guests. However, if you go for the large one, it can dry before you smoke the whole bird essentially can become tough to chew.

Weber Smokey Mountain yields two smoking shelves and is worthy to contain 12-15 pounds of turkey. In the large 22.5” and medium18.5” sized smokers, you can smoke two turkeys of approximately 10- 12 pounds. The small-sized 14” smoker cannot smoke enough food as compared to the first two.

Fresh or Frozen

Nothing can compete with the fresh one, either it is meat or vegetable. The frozen one cannot provide as much good taste as frozen.

So, in the case of turkey, it is appropriate if you can arrange the fresh piece.

Otherwise, it is not bad if it is frozen. However, it is a good idea to freeze turkey when it is available at a low price, especially if you have a smoker.

Above all, your good smoking formula will cover all other deficiencies.

Read our full review of the Best Meat To Smoke at home here.

To marinade or Not

Suppose you want to smoke a turkey and wish to get better results after bringing it.  Make sure that it is not brined already. Check the tags keenly whether it is not brined already.

In the case of regular or unbrined meat, definitely marinade it for enhancing taste.

How to Thaw a Frozen Turkey

A frozen turkey needs to thaw before smoking. Below are two ways of thawing, and you can opt for the one which suits you the best.

Refrigerator Thawing

  • Thaw turkey breast side up using an unopened cover, put it on the tray in the fridge. The temperature should be 40 degrees or below.
  • Within one day, you can thaw 41lbs of turkey.
  • Within four days, you can use turkey after thawing.
  • To thaw turkey in the refrigerator takes time

Up to 12 pounds 1-3 pounds

12-16 pounds   3-4 days

16-20 pounds 4-5 days

20 -24 pounds 5-6 days

Cold Water Thawing

  • Your turkey breast side in an unopened wrapper, with cold water to cover your turkey Thaw completely.
  • 30 minutes is sufficient time thawing per lb of turkey.
  • Change water after every 3o minutes.

What are the things you need to Smoke a Turkey?

Before smoking, you have to check whether you are having the things mentioned below. In case not, you have to buy them.

 A Smoker

For starting your recipe, you need a smoker. Weber Smokey Mountain is the best one. It takes charcoal, briquettes, and wood chips as fuel. Anyhow you can use the one which you are having. It will not affect your cooking.

A Thermometer

You must check for a good quality thermometer, which gives an accurate reading.


A coal Chimney

A chimney is an integral part of the smoking process. The chimney is used for lighting coals. You need a light starter and a few waste papers.

A Cooling Rack

A cooling rack enables you to move what you are cooking on and off the grates.

Wood Chips

Apple and Pecan wood chunks enhance the flavor of the smoked turkey. Besides, hardwood chips add flavor to the smoked meat.

A Dripping Pan

In case if you want to make gravy, you need to store the drips falling from the meat, so arranging a dripping pan will be perfect.

Turkey Baster

Basting your bird, to arrange a baster and silicon brush is superb.

How to Light a Smoker

Before you start smoking, you need to light it up. It is essentially a big game on the part of the cooker. Before showing your mastery over smoked meat, you need to light your smoker correctly and maintaining the temperature also.

To light, a charcoal smoker, like Weber Smokey Mountain Minion Method, is followed. This technique is named after the name of BBQ master Jim Minion.

How to Light a Smoker

Expose the Charcoal Grate

To light a smoker in the best way, you need to remove the bottom section of the smoker, the lower charcoal grate, and the coal chamber after removing the center section of the smoker. Make sure these areas are free to form ashes, coals, and any other material of this type.

Dump the Brisquett

Now put the charcoals in the coal chamber. Make a deep hole in the center of the Brisquete. Put a couple of paraffine cubes inside the coals.

Use Hardwood For Getting Flavor

If you want to get the extra flavor, you can put the chunks onto the coals, preferably near the vents. Do not bury them in the coals.

Open the Vents

For better air circulation, you can open the bottom vents.

Use a Chimney Starter

Fill the chimney starter with brisquette and light it up.

chimney starter

The Color Of The brisquette

When the brisquette is white and orange inside, they are ready to start. Pour them in the center of the coal ring. These coals will light the other coals.

Reset your Smoker

Now reset your smoker. Set all the parts in an arrangement that you have removed already.

Fill the Water Pan

Open the smokers’ door and fill the water pan with water. This water during the smoking process moistures the foods and saves them from getting it hard and tough. During the long smoking process, the water pan needs to be checked occasionally.

Close the Door

Now close the door and make sure the vents are open for air crossing. Place the lid on the smoker and keep the vents fully open.

Wait for a While

Wait for the temperature to be balanced; usually, it takes 30 minutes to maintain the heat level.

How to Marinade a Turkey

Before smoking, you can marinate a turkey to get a good taste. To brine a turkey is so simple.

  • Put the turkey in a pan add water and salt.
  • Add other ingredients like spices, mint, lemon, garlic, and curd as well. You need to brine the turkey for 12-24 hours.

How to Marinade a Turkey

How to Start Smoking Turkey

Place turkey gently in the smoker. It should be placed over the dripping pan to catch the dripping. Now close the lid and after 4 hours check the water pan.

Moreover, check the temperature level of both sides of the bird. When the internal temperature of the breast reaches 165 degrees, remove it from the smoker.

Tent it with foil and leave it for 20 minutes will add flavor to your meat.

How Much time Turkey Takes to smoking

The best temperature level for smoking increase 4s the taste of the food. To get better results balanced heat level is particularly essential.

In the case of turkey, the bet temperature level is 325 degrees. Generally, it requires 15-17 minutes per pound.

For more timing is below according to weight

10-12lbs    2-1/2 to 3 hours

12-14lbs    3 to 3-1/2 hours

14-18lbs    3-1/2 to 4 hours

18-20lbs    4 to 4-1/2 hours

20- 24lbs    4-1/2to5 hours

Best Wood for Smoking

Probably there is not any hard and fast rule about which wood to be used for smoking. Anyhow apple and pecan woods are reckoned best. They add smoking flavor to the meat and make it mouthwatering.

You just have to throw few pieces of wood in the coal.

Read our full review of the Best Wood for Smoking here.

Bottom Line

How to smoke a turkey in a charcoal smoker is a big game and demands a lot of your attention in case of balancing the temperature. Following all the directions you will feel a lot of appreciating sounds behind you.

Nonetheless, smoke turkey following all the above-mentioned steps and let us know how enjoyable your experience was. Don’t forget to check out our review on the Best Pellet Smoker for Beginners  Reviews and Buyers Guide