Learn how to make a whole smoked turkey for Thanksgiving or anytime. No need for fancy rubs - just salt and pepper here. It's all in the technique!

How to Smoke a Turkey

  • Author: Sarah | Away From the Box
  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 6 hours
  • Total Time: 6 hours 30 minutes
  • Yield: 15-40, depending on your size of turkey 1x


Learn how to make a whole smoked turkey for Thanksgiving or anytime. No need for fancy rubs – just salt and pepper here. It’s all in the technique!



  • 1 whole turkey, skin on (size to preference)
  • 1 c. salted butter, softened
  • coarse salt
  • freshly cracked pepper

Things you’ll need:

  • heavy duty foil
  • charcoal or seasoned firewood


Prepare the turkey:

  1. If frozen, thaw the turkey 24 hours per 4-5 pounds. Remove from the package and drain, then remove the neck and giblets (save or toss these, up to you).
  2. Place the turkey on a cutting board or in a large pan and rub 1/4 c. of the butter underneath the skin of the breasts.
  3. In a small bowl, combine a rub of salt and freshly cracked pepper. 1 part salt to 2 parts pepper. You’ll need about 1/4 c. of this rub per 5lbs. Rub the salt and pepper generously all over the turkey.

On the grill:

  1. Set about 20-30 charcoal briquettes in a tall pile on the grill, near the grate. Keep the grate open slightly, and open more or less throughout cooking in order to keep the grill at a steady 250-275°F. Light about 10 briquettes in a starter or on the other side of the grill, then add to your existing pile. You can add charcoal as the others die down during cooking, but don’t light them. They will ignite naturally from the existing charcoal.
  2. Place the turkey on the side of the grill opposite the coals, breast side up. *If your grill has a second rack, make sure it is removed or adjusted so it wont touch the turkey.
  3. Cook the turkey 4-6 hours (this will vary greatly depending on the size of your bird). The general rule is 15 minutes per pound.
  4. In the last hour of cooking, top the turkey withe remaining butter (it will melt and braise in the juices), then wrap tightly in 2 layers of heavy duty foil.
  5. Continue smoking until a thermometer inserted into the center of the breast, legs and wings read 160°F. Remove the turkey and let rest about 30 minutes before carving.
  6. Serve on a bed of greens for incredible presentation.

  • Category: Main Dish
  • Method: Grill, Smoker
  • Cuisine: American

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