Smoked Whole Turkey

Smoked Whole Turkey
sliced smoked turkey breast

Smoked Whole Turkey

Carson Morby
In the world of BBQ, there are a lot of ways to prepare turkey, but one of my all time favorite methods is to cook it whole, just like a traditional Thanksgiving turkey.
Course Main Course
Cuisine American


  • 1 Whole Turkey
  • 1/4 Cup Your Favorite Poultry Rub
  • 1 Stick Butter


  • Preheat your smoker to 225 degrees F
  • Slice the cube of butter into thin slivers. You should get around 10 slices.
  • Slide about half of the slivers of butter under the skin of the turkey. To do this you can carefully slide your hands under the skin to separate the skin from the meat. Don't completely pull the skin off. Just slide your hands under the skin to create space for the butter.
  • Season the entire bird with a generous layer of your poultry rub
  • Place the turkey directly on the cooking grate, and let it smoke until the breast reaches an internal temperature of about 120-125 degrees F.
  • Increase the temperature of the smoker to 375 degrees F
  • Put the turkey into a foil pan, and place 2-3 slivers of butter under the turkey. Place the remaining slivers of butter on top of the turkey, and lightly sprinkle with a bit more of your poultry rub.
  • Baste the turkey with a basting brush, using the melted butter and drippings in the foil pan every 15 minutes until the turkey is done.
  • Let the turkey come up to temperature at around 160-162 degrees F in the breast. Check that the thighs are up to temp as well. They will most likely be closer to 175-185 degrees F. That is completely normal with the thighs, as the fats and collagens in the dark meat start to melt away and become tender at those temperatures. Don't let the breast get above 165 degrees F or it will dry out.
  • Remove the bird from the smoker, and let it rest on a cookie sheet under a tent of foil for about 20-25 minutes.
  • Slice and enjoy!
Keyword smoked turkey, thanksgiving recipe, thanksgiving recipes, thanksgiving turkey, turkey

Smoked Whole Turkey

Let’s talk about why I love this method. Well… it’s because it’s extremely easy, and works great. One of the biggest benefits is the small amount of prep that it requires. This isn’t to dog on the butterfly or the spatchcock method. But this traditional method works absolutely great and I’ve been cooking turkey like this for year.

Now let’s talk about the technique itself, and why I do it the way I do. It may seem weird to start the turkey at a low temperature, and bump it up at the end. It’s not to speed up the cooking, though that is a pretty great benefit. The reason for starting at a low temperature is to get a nice smokey flavor on the bird.

But why on earth would we want to raise the temperature of the smoker in the middle of the cook? When you smoke a turkey at low temperatures, the skin doesn’t get the chance to crisp up. Poultry skin has a lot of fat under it, and generally that is what can make skin chewy. When you cook the turkey at a low temperature the entire time, those fasts don’t get the chance to break down and the skin stays chewy.

To avoid chewy skin on the turkey, raise the temperature of the smoker to 375. This higher heat will help the fat under the skin to render, and the skin to crisp up. That combined with the butter will crisp the skin even more. The final result is tender meat with an easy-to-bit-through slightly crispy skin. It’s the combination that dreams are made of.

If you’re looking to elevate your turkey game, give this method a try. It’s a Thanksgiving star!