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Smoked Turkey for Thanksgiving


Smoke Blower
Joined Aug 13, 2016
Wanting to smoke a 20lb turkey for the family and I. Looking for any and all tips since this would be my first ever turkey. Thanks and happy smokin!



Epic Pitmaster
OTBS Member
Joined Oct 4, 2012
That's a large bird for smoking. So I would suggest you either spatchcock it or half it prior to cooking.

If it's an all natural bird, no injecting, or commercial enhancing then I would recommend brining the bird. Either a dry brine run or a wet brine.

High temp smokes will give you juicy meat and crispy skin. Pit temp needs to be above 300, and closer to 325.

Do not overlook. Get yourself a good remote therm to take meat temp readings. Your bird will be done when the thigh or breast reaches 165f.

Air drying the skin will help to get the skin crisp too. Best to do that overnight in the fridge uncovered.

Other than that, practice with chickens or a turkey breast before hand.


Master of the Pit
SMF Premier Member
Joined Feb 7, 2015
I agree with Case.  I smoke turkeys whole between 12-14 lbs and get natural turkey and brine overnight.  You've got some time, try a test turkey before the holiday.  



Legendary Pitmaster
OTBS Member
★ Lifetime Premier ★
Joined Jun 20, 2013
I've only done one turkey--a 10 lb. I spatchcocked it and injected and brined it overnight. Don't think it was a "natural" bird but after brining, injecting, and smoking it in my MES at lower temps, it was the juiciest, most tender bird I've ever eaten. Skin wasn't crispy but didn't matter to me--nobody here but the hound eats the skin anyway.

Just have at it--youll do great.

Last edited:


Epic Pitmaster
OTBS Member
Joined Sep 15, 2012
Never tried a 20lb'er. I did have success in doing a 12 to 14lber in my weber kettle once. Small amount of charcoal on each side with the turkey in the middle. Had to add charcoal a couple of times, but it was good. I used apple wood for smoke since I didn't want a real strong smoke flavor, and it's been my experience that birds absorb allot of smoke. Crispy skin and juicy meat - I hit it dead nuts on that one. I'm not sure how big your smoker is, but I'd first make sure a 20lb'er fit's. Good luck...smoked turkey tastes great and is an added treat to any thank-giving meal. 


Fire Starter
Joined Jun 27, 2016
I agree with the consensus, 20lb's seems a bit large. I always stay under 12lb's for mine.

Last year I did one in an Apricot juice brine, put some apricots and habanero's in the cavity.

I like to use a fruit wood or pecan for the smoke, it was pecan for last year's turkey.  


Meat Mopper
Joined Sep 4, 2015
 You would probably have much better turkey meat if you were to cook two 10-12lb'ers, as opposed to an oftentimes flavor-compromised and unnaturally large 20lb'er.


Legendary Pitmaster
OTBS Member
SMF Premier Member
Joined Sep 7, 2013
I typically smoke three 18-20 lb all natural turkeys around Thanksgiving; one the weekend before, one on Thanksgiving, and one the weekend after.  With the turkey issues out here last year I only got one done.  I smoke them at 300F plus so they get done about the same time as in the oven, just a little longer.     

I definitely brine for 24-36 hours, preferring to add a little Prague Powder #2 to my brine.  Not much, only a teaspoon.  It gives the turkey a slight ham flavor that goes well with the smoke.  I also cut the amount of recommended salt in the brine in half, especially if it is a pre-brined turkey.  I also inject the turkey breast.

I use a turkey cannon for smoking turkey, putting a little cheap white wine in the cannon. 

If a roasting pan will fit in your smoker, put the turkey in the roasting pan on the cannon or a rack, then fill the roaster with onions, potatoes, carrots, garlic, seasoning, and about a half bottle of cheap white wine.  Smoke the turkey and veggies uncovered for two to three hours, then seal with HD aluminum foil until the bird is at the right temp.  With my smoker I put the cannon on one level and use the veggie pan as a drip pan.  Turns out YUMMY!

Eat and enjoy!


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