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How to Smoke a Turkey in an Electric Smoker: A Step-By-Step Guide

by Outdoor Cooking Pros October 30, 2021

How to Smoke a Turkey in an Electric Smoker: A Step-By-Step Guide

If there are turkey recipes that resonate well with the phrase  Merry Christmas, it would be the smoked turkey for sure. Although home cooks became eager to recreate this holiday staple, pulling it off isn't as easy as cooking other meats. Fortunately, our cuisine experts are here to teach how to get that perfectly smoked turkey recipe with an electric smoker. 

Ingredients You’ll Need

Before smoking the turkey in an electric smoker, it’s important to prepare ingredients beforehand to avoid wasting time. The selection of the best turkey meat is a given, which we’ll discuss further in the below step-by-step guide. 

Besides getting one whole turkey, ensure that you have brown sugar, garlic powder, bay leaves, thinly sliced ginger, and a cup of kosher salt or sea salt in stock for the basic seasonings. 

If you’re not so busy, you can already prepare ingredients for the wet rub like cold water, apple juice, or vegetable oil as well. Our kitchen experts suggest getting melted butter, maple syrup, or lemon juice to inject into the bird meat for extra flavor. 

Last but not least, never forget to select the right wood chips for your smoked turkey. Keep in mind that wood chips are partly responsible for the smoky flavors of the holiday meal you will make. 

How to Smoke a Turkey in an Electric Smoker: 8 Easy Steps 

Step #1: Pick a Turkey 

When preparing a smoked turkey, it’s important to know how many people you’ll be serving. Although most recipes would advise you just to get a whole turkey,  you must understand that not all bird meat comes in the same size. 

For example, once you completely remove the bones in one-pound turkey meat, all you’ll get from it is around half a pound of meat. To make it easier for you, our team suggests preparing a ten-pound turkey if you’re serving around ten guests. 

Even though it’s ideal to buy fresh bird meat for this recipe, frozen turkey is inevitable, especially during the holiday rush. Luckily, you can keep the meat fresh by thawing.

Step #2: Let it Thaw 

Having the right turkey to cook is great, but if you happen to buy frozen red meat, it’s crucial to thaw it for cooking efficiency and food safety purposes[1]. If the turkey you plan to cook in an electric smoker weighs around five pounds, we recommend giving it at least 24 hours to defrost. 

After defrosting the bird meat, let it sit in your refrigerator for two days before prepping it for the meal. If you don’t want bacteria to manifest in its surface area, never thaw it at room temperature for a long period. 

Step #3: Clean Thoroughly 

Part of learning how to smoke a turkey in the electric smoker is knowing how to clean the bird meat properly. A turkey is only fully defrosted if there are no seen ice crystals in its body cavity. Once you have checked that off of the list, the next thing you should do is remove unnecessary parts inside the bird. 

If you look at the fully thawed turkey cavity, you’ll find that its neck is slightly loose. Thanks to that, you’ll have an easier time removing it. 

For removing the gizzard, our kitchen experts recommend searching inside the neck or wing turkey cavity. And then, finish it off by washing the insides of the bird with cold running water.   

Step #4: Brine 

After the turkey has been pat dry, the meat is now ready for the brining process. People who are new to cooking this dish may not be familiar with it, but it’s the procedure of treating the turkey with salt to retain moisture and preserve meat at the same time. It’s also a great way to enhance its natural flavor. 

How to Make a Brine 

Typically, making a brine solution for a smoked turkey includes mixtures of salt, water, and other ingredients. First, you can dissolve the salt in hot water and add cold water to control its temperature. 

What you can add to your brine is up to the flavor you want your turkey to have. If our team may suggest, you can consider garlic, sugar, paprika, or even vinegar that are all very common when treating poultry products. When all that is done, put the turkey on a rack with baking paper underneath. Leave it in the refrigerator to let the brine soak in and to air dry overnight. 

Step #5: Rinse 

Next to the brining process is rinsing the turkey with water. Don’t forget to wash the turkey cavity before patting it dry with paper towels. The best way to let it dry is to leave it for 12 to 24 hours. 

Step #6: Prepare Wet and Dry Rub  

Another crucial step in learning how to smoke a turkey in an electric smoker is preparing the rub. Now, there are two ways you can prepare this. First is the wet rub, where you mix the oil or butter and other seasonings mentioned above to make it into a thick paste.

Apply it outside the bird for a flavorful crispy skin, but don’t forget to gently separate the turkey skin from its flesh and massage the solution in between. 

If you intend to smoke turkey with a dry rub, it has the same solution mix without the liquids, but we recommend applying most of it in the bird’s cavity. 

Step #7: Pick a Wood For the Smoker  

It doesn’t matter if you’re using a top-tier Masterbuilt smoker. You won’t get your desired smoky flavor if you don’t have the right wood chips. While hardwoods are the typical go-to lumber for this type of cooking, you wouldn’t want to smoke turkey with an overpowering flavor. Wood chips with sweet and mild flavors like apple and cherry are great choices to consider.  

Step #8: Smoke the Turkey 

Before smoking a turkey, electric smokers must be preheated at least 350 degrees. Once the smoker reaches that desired temperature and produces more smoke, you can put it in low heat, around 230 degrees. 

After that, place the prepped turkey in the cooking grate and place a meat thermometer at the thickest part of the meat to monitor its internal temperature. If you ask our team, positioning the meat on the middle rack of the smoker is an ideal way to cook a turkey. 

When the smoked turkey in the middle rack reaches the desired internal temperature, pull out the meat from the cooking chamber and let it rest for a minimum of 20 minutes. The cooking time may vary, but the goal is to have the temperature probe reach 165 degrees. 

If you’re smoking a turkey without a thermometer to check the internal temperature, you can base the cooking time as 30 minutes for every one pound of meat. 

Why Cook Turkey with an Electric Smoker? 

Smoking turkey in an electric smoker offers convenience. While our resident cuisine experts have nothing against using the best offset smokers or charcoal smokers, having this type of cooking chamber doesn’t take too much space for a home with limited kitchen space. You also wouldn’t need extra on-hand fuel, as the electricity will serve as the chamber’s power source. 

Tips For a Perfectly Smoked Turkey

You may not know it, but did you know that you can use both wet and dry rub when prepping your turkey? All you need to do is rub the wet solution on the skin and apply the dry mix to the meat’s cavity. Through that, you’ll have a flavor-bursting smoked turkey for sure. 

If you have some time to spare, we also recommend making a dipping sauce for this luscious meal. You can make a gravy out of the oil drippings of the turkey and add the remaining ingredients you currently have in the kitchen to enhance its flavor. 

Choosing the Right Wood

There are different kinds of wood chips you can use when smoking turkey, but all of them differ in flavor profiles. If you’re going for a strong smoky taste, our cuisine experts recommend the hickory hardwood. It has a distinct and straightforward flavor suited for that palette. 

On the other hand, apple and cherry wood chips will allow your meat to absorb fruity flavors. Through this, the natural flavor of the bird wouldn’t be overshadowed. 

Setting the Correct Temperature

As you know, turkey isn’t a lump of easy meat to cook. Taking it out too early or late will ruin the taste, and even more when it’s not set with the right temperature. It’s crucial to have tools like a thermometer to check the temperature of the meat from time to time.

Spatchcocking the Turkey 

A perfectly smoked turkey is one that’s cooked evenly. To do this, our team suggests the spatchcocking method. This process includes removing the bird’s spine, allowing the turkey to lay flat. Doing this is beneficial for people with small cooking and fridge space. 

FAQ 

How long do you smoke a turkey in an electric smoker?

You should smoke turkey meat in an electric smoker for at least eight to ten hours. According to the rule of thumb, it’ll take 30 to 40 minutes for one pound of turkey to be cooked. However, it depends on the heat temperature as well. Once its surface reaches the temperature of 165 degrees, then it’s ready to be served. 

Conclusion 

Learning how to smoke a turkey in an electric smoker is easier when you adhere to the instructions written in this detailed step-by-step guide. However, our resident chefs would like to note that all the procedure you need to do heavily depends on your kitchen’s available tools and ingredients. 

Outdoor Cooking Pros
Outdoor Cooking Pros


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