Holiday Smoked Turkey

One of the reasons I love to smoke turkey for the holidays (or really, anytime) is the nuanced flavor and texture that smoking it adds to turkey. Generally, I try not to overwhelm any meat I cook with smoke, and with turkey that is especially important and the neutral flavor palate of turkey is easily overwhelmed. Poultry doesn’t have the collagens to break down over a long cooking time, like pork or even beef does, so it doesn’t have to go “low and slow.” I cook turkeys in my smoker at 275 to 300 degrees, as I think this is a good combination of allowing smoked flavors to develop while not drying out the turkey.

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holiday smoked turkey

Holiday Smoked Turkey


  • 1012 lb. Whole Turkey
  • 1/4 cup Memphis BBQ Company Ultimate BBQ Rub (Or, your favorite rub blend)
  • 4 Tbsp Cold salted butter (Chopped into small pieces)
  • 2 oz. Fresh sage sprigs
  • 2 oz. Fresh thyme sprigs
  • 1 Medium onion (peeled and quartered)
  • 1 Medium lemon (quartered)


  1. Rinse turkey, then slide butter pieces under skin around the breast area.
  2. Season turkey inside and out with BBQ Rub.
  3. Fold wing tips under themselves to form a “platform.”
  4. Place in a pan, uncovered, in the refrigerator 8 hours or overnight to allow turkey to marinate and skin to dry.
  5. Remove from fridge, stuff cavity with herbs, onion and lemon, then place in 250 degree smoker, using apple or cherry wood.
  6. After 2 hours, remove from smoker, place a meat thermometer (with an external reading) in the thigh, being careful to not place it touching a bone, and wrap fully in heavy duty aluminum foil, then return to smoker. As the thigh temperature gets close to 170 degrees, check the breast temperature with another thermometer. It should read about 10 degrees cooler. After the breast achieves 160 degrees and the thigh reaches 170 degrees, remove from smoker, place in an insulated cooler and allow to rest.
  7. Check the temperatures after 15-20 minutes and ensure the breast temperature rose above 165 degrees (safety zone for poultry).
  8. Continue to keep in cooler until ready to serve. Turkey may then be placed on a platter for carving at the table, or my preference is to carve on a cutting board and plate the meat on a platter for serving (much easier than trying to carve over a table!)