Many people find smoking turkey is a delicious way to enjoy a turkey dinner. The key to smoking a turkey in a smoker is to keep the temperature of the smoker between 225 and 300 degrees F for the entire cooking time. According to the Food Safety and Inspection Service of the USDA, a smoked turkey should never be stuffed because the stuffing may not cook to a high enough temperature to stop bacteria growth.
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Prepare the Smoker
Fill the liquid pan of your smoker with water. Unless your cooker is electric or gas, fill the second pan of your smoker with charcoal or wood briquettes. Smokers require both hot smoke and moisture to cook and properly smoke a turkey. Light the charcoal or wood chips or turn on the heat source and place the cover on the smoker. When the internal temperature reaches 225 degrees F, you are ready to smoke the turkey. Continue to add coals to the smoker every hour to maintain the required temperature.
Smoke the Turkey
Smoked turkeys require very little seasoning before cooking. Small amounts of poultry seasoning or salt and pepper will be all that is needed as the smoke adds the primary flavor. Plan on smoking the turkey for no less than 20 to 30 minutes per pound. If your turkey weighs 20 pounds it will take between 5 and 6 hours to fully cook. Check the turkey with a meat thermometer after the lowest cooking time. The turkey should reach an internal temperature of 165 degree F at the thickest part of the thigh and breast to be considered safe to eat. Keep the smoker closed until it is time to check the turkey.
Tips for Smoking
Never use softwoods, such as pine for smoking any type of meats. Softwoods produce turpentine and a black resin that will coat the food. If your smoker doesn't have a thermostat readout, use an oven thermometer to insure that you have safe cooking temperatures. You can use wine or fruit juices, such as apple or pear, to add additional flavor to the smoked turkey. Keep the smoker out of windy areas as wind can cause a drop of temperature inside the smoker.