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How to Smoke a Turkey on a Charcoal Smoker? Step-by-Step Guide + Tips

by Outdoor Cooking Pros August 07, 2021

How to Smoke a Turkey on a Charcoal Smoker? Step-by-Step Guide + Tips

We all know that holidays always call for the typical roast turkey recipes. However, have you ever tried putting a little twist on this usual thanksgiving food staple? What about learning how to smoke a turkey in a charcoal smoker? In this post, our resident kitchen experts will lend their expertise and guide you into serving a different turkey meal for the upcoming holidays. 

Guide on Smoking a Turkey on a Charcoal Smoker 

Step #1: Prepare the Turkey

The most crucial part of learning how to smoke a turkey on a charcoal smoker involves prepping your meat. Roughly a day before the smoking process, you’ll need to brine the turkey for twelve to twenty-four hours. 

preparing the turkey

Although this is an optional step, our  cuisine specialists recommend going through this procedure to pack your meat with rich flavors. You just need to soak the turkey in a water solution composed of spices, salt, and ice to maintain its freshness. 

After that, stuff the turkey with ingredients rich in aromas like onions, garlic, lemon, or apple. You should also make sure that the coating of the meat was evenly seasoned with spices. If you already brined the meat, it’s a good idea to cut off on the salt.  

Step #2: Clean and Prepare the Grill

Contamination has always been a major concern in any food prep[1], so it’s crucial to keep your charcoal smoker clean before anything else. Make sure that the surfaces of your grill are free from dirt before, during, and after the cooking process. 

Place your coals in a parallel arrangement on both sides of the grill. Our experts also suggest putting a water pan in the middle of the chamber to help with the turkey’s moisture and maintain a consistent temperature during the smoking process. 

Step #3: Pre-Heat

Your cooking chamber must be heated way before you put your turkey into its surface. Generally, you’d want to wait around ten to fifteen minutes until it reaches the desired temperature between 225°F to 325°F. 

preparing the smoker

Step #4: Prepare Smoking Chips

Adding an aromatic smoke flavor to your turkey meat can be achieved by adding specific smoking chips. Fruit woods such as cherry and apple will add a sweet touch and reddish color to your turkey. 

No matter what kind of wood chips you choose, remember to soak them in water for good thirty minutes before placing them above the coals. It’s also wise to be cautious about this process because you wouldn’t want to overdo it. 

Step #5: Set the Temperature of Smoker

Keep in mind that a longer burning duration is the ideal configuration when smoking meat. You may use a digital thermometer to monitor the temperature. Make sure that the smoker remains in medium-high heat from 225 to 325 degrees Fahrenheit, depending on your desired cooking time. 

Step #6: Place Turkey Inside

Neatly place your turkey over the water pan that you prepared. If your charcoal smoker has vents, you can make use of them to decrease temperature. Add charcoal and smoking chips from time to time if needed. 

Step #7: Close and Wait

When it comes to smoking any type of meat, the waiting process determines the outcome of your recipe. While we understand how enticing it is to open the lid and see how it’s cooking through, you may need to resist the temptation for at least 20 minutes per pound. Keep in mind that you need to wait an extra 15 minutes every time you open the lid. 

smoked turkey

Tips and Reminders

The parts of the turkey that you need to check for proper temperature are the inner thigh and the thick part of the breast. You have to make sure that these meat surfaces are at least 165 degrees before pulling them out of the chamber. 

On top of that, it’s also essential to let the turkey rest  20 to 30 minutes before cutting and serving. You can cover it with aluminum foil to allow its juices to soak the meat further.


How do you keep a turkey moist while smoking?

To keep a turkey moist while smoking, you have to make sure to fill the water tray with enough liquid to maintain a consistent temperature inside the charcoal smoker. You can also choose to brine the meat a day before the smoking process to add more moisture and flavor to the turkey. 

How long does it take to smoke a turkey on a charcoal grill? 

It takes about two to three hours to smoke a turkey in a charcoal grill, and that’s for at least 10 to 20 minutes per pound. The duration of your smoking process also depends on the stuffing inside the turkey. Keep in mind that an extra 15 minutes will be added to your waiting time for every lift of the lid. 


There are many ways to learn how to smoke a turkey in a charcoal smoker. All you need to do is have the initiative to pull off this traditional cuisine and add a little twist to its flavor. While it may be intimidating to let go of the usual, our resident gourmets assure you that smoked turkey is a great holiday meal for your guests and family.

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