Have you ever thought about smoking your bird for Thanksgiving or Christmas but don’t want to deal with the hassle of getting a pellet smoker? If so, then read on as we will show you how to smoke a turkey in a charcoal smoker.
Thanksgiving is probably one of the most stressful holidays for families. It takes a lot of work, time, and money to prepare all the food for everyone. This year make your life easier by smoking a turkey in your charcoal smoker!
We recommend that you use a high-quality charcoal smoker for this recipe. The process is simple and straightforward, involving no hassles. Some people might think that using a smoker would be too much work when they could just roast their turkey in an oven, but there are many benefits to using a smoker instead.
Juicy meat with crispy skin and long-lasting flavor are the two most important advantages here. Best of all: there’s no need to learn how to operate one! Just follow our easy instructions below and enjoy some delicious smoky flavors this year!
Let’s start the process without any further ado!
How to Smoke a Turkey in a Charcoal Smoker?
Step One: Getting the Required Briquettes
Get your charcoal ready. You’ll need about 35 to 50 pounds of briquettes for a medium-sized bird. They should be cool and in separate piles or on metal trays to prevent them from igniting too quickly when you start adding new coals later on.
Your fuel source also needs to match the size of your turkey – if it’s only going to be cooking up a small 12-pounder, then half that amount of coal will do just fine!
Take a few handfuls of wood chips or chunks and place them in the aluminum tray, so they’re ready for when you start cooking – these will provide additional flavor to your bird!
Step Two: Prepare Your Turkey For Cooking
Soak it in cold water before placing it into the smoker. This can help reduce some of that Thanksgiving stress as well as ensure even cooking time.
If desired, use an injector (available at many hardware stores) with a brine solution to avoid dry meat. This is also where we recommend adding any seasonings if not already included within your recipe.
Allow the turkey to stand in the refrigerator for at least two hours before cooking as this will help your bird stay moist and flavorful later on. It can even be rubbed with butter before storing it if you want.
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Step Three: Prepare the Smoker for Your Bird
In the beginning, add some water to one end of the smoker and wood chips or chunks at the other end (these will add flavor). Make sure there is about a 125 °F temperature difference between both ends so that they heat evenly.
Put some charcoal on top too – don’t worry about leaving enough room for air circulation! Remember not to use any lighter fluid around open flames like these during cooking time; we recommend an electric starter instead.
If you want to smoke the turkey with hickory wood, then place a foil tray containing birch or maple chips on top of the coal. Make sure they are not too close to the burner as this will cause flames to form and endanger your meat!
Adding More Flavors
You can also add other flavors by putting cider vinegar at one end of the smoker and apple juice (or any other fruit juice) at the other end, along with spices like thyme. These juices help produce additional moisture for that juicy flavor we mentioned earlier.
It’s especially recommended for leaner cuts such as white breast meat, which might dry out easily if cooked improperly. Start cooking now before you go grocery shopping, so everything is nice and ready when mealtime comes around!
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Step Four: The Final Touches
Once the smoker is hot, place your bird inside and cook it slowly by turning the heat down. You’ll need about 50 minutes per pound to reach a temperature of 165 °F on chicken breasts or 180° F internally for dark meat.
This will also depend on size, so you should do some research beforehand if possible. A good time to check with a thermometer stuck in your turkey breast is when there are only around 20 minutes left in cooking time. If it registers at least 100 °F then you can take out the pan from beneath while continuing the process until fully cooked!
Step Five: Remove the Bird from Smoker
Take out all inserts after smoking has finished such as grates and pans, then add some sauce to your bird. You can either pour it over the top or brush it on with a basting brush while the food is cooking. Make sure to avoid using lighter fluid when you do so, though!
Cooked turkey will last for about four days in the refrigerator, so you can prepare this beforehand and just reheat it when it’s time to eat. If possible, keep your bird whole rather than cutting it up into smaller pieces as this helps retain some of that moisture.
Remove the turkey from the smoker when it is cooked through (internal temperature of 165 °F for poultry breasts) and let it rest in the oven at about 200 °F until it is comfortable to slice.
Once it is served, be sure to leave a bit of it on the plate, as this will help ensure you’re not left with dry meat when it’s all gone.
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Step Six: Carve and Serve
It’s also pretty simple since you already did all the prep work ahead of time. Simply slice into pieces straight down along the bones, keeping the skin intact as much as possible.
The whole process should be really straightforward if you’ve been following our guidelines so far, but don’t forget that this is a family event, so you might want to check the recipe’s instructions for further details!
How Long Does It Take to Smoke a Turkey on a Charcoal Grill?
You can smoke a turkey on your charcoal grill for up to 12 hours. The time it takes will depend on the size of your bird and how much you want to cook it through. If you are cooking smaller turkeys, expect that they will be finished more quickly than larger ones.
If you are cooking larger turkeys, then it will take longer. For instance, a 20-lb turkey can be smoked for 12 hours or more depending on the size of your bird and how you want to cook it.
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We hope you have enjoyed this article and found it to be helpful. If so, please share with your friends on social media or in person! You can also explore more of our site for all the information you need about BBQ grills, smokers, recipes & much more. Happy cooking!