Here's How To Properly Smoke A Turkey On The Grill

Smoking a turkey, whether it's for Thanksgiving dinner or another special occasion, is a delicious and easy way to cook up a whole bird. You don't even have to own a smoker to do it — as long as you have a charcoal grill, you can set it up to smoke a turkey. The result will be a tender, juicy bird with delicious smoky flavor, and you won't have to give up your oven for hours while it roasts.

The most important part of smoking your turkey on the grill is getting everything set up properly to produce smoke. According to Weber's website, you can create smoke on a charcoal grill by arranging your charcoal in a half circle on one side of the grill and placing a disposable foil pan filled with warm water on top (this helps regulate the heat and temperature of the grill). Just before putting your turkey on the grill, add damp wood chunks to the charcoal to create smoke.

Food & Wine explains that the best way to make sure your wood chunks produce smoke instead of burning is to soak them in water before adding them to the charcoal. If you're taking a few hours to soak your turkey in a brine mixture, that's the perfect time to soak the wood in a separate bowl of water so both are ready to go on the grill at the same time.

How to smoke a turkey on the grill

If you plan on smoking a turkey on your grill, Food & Wine reports that this method works best for smaller birds that are less than 14 pounds. Smaller turkeys are your best bet for smoking because they can sit farther away from the coals; if you use a bird that's too big, it can end up cooking from the heat of the charcoal instead of smoking.

Start by making sure your turkey is completely defrosted, and season it however you'd like. Then, according to Weber's website, you can place the turkey breast-side down in an aluminum foil pan (over veggies, if you want), and set the pan on the grill rack directly over the water pan, which will catch any drippings. Arrange the turkey so the legs are facing the hottest side of the grill, and keep the temperature between 350 and 400 degrees Fahrenheit. You might have to add more charcoal to increase the heat, or more wood chunks to create more smoke.

After smoking for an hour, Weber recommends flipping the turkey so the breast side is facing up. Once the turkey has been cooking for at least an hour and a half, it's a good idea to check on it again. If any part of the bird is starting to look too dark, you can cover with foil to prevent smaller pieces like the wings from burning. Finally, when the thickest part of the thigh reaches 170 to 175 degrees Fahrenheit, you can take your bird off the grill and let it rest. This is the hard part — Food & Wine recommends giving it at least 30 minutes before you start carving and eating, but each bite of smoked turkey will be well worth the wait.