I don’t know about you, but I absolutely love Thanksgiving AND I absolutely love smoked turkey! What a better way to spend the holidays than by having a great big cookout with your nearest and dearest.
Cooking a turkey outside will keep your kitchen from becoming a sauna - and you’ll free up your oven to be used for all your favorite side dishes.
Your smoked turkey doesn’t have to be store bought - you can get yourself a great family sized smoker for smoking your Thanksgiving turkey right at home.
Even if you’ve never smoked a turkey in your life, we’ve got all the guidance you need in our handy buyers guide, complete with answers to your most frequently asked questions.
Best Smokers For Turkey - Comparison Table
Best Smokers For Turkey - Our Reviews
This feisty little number is a smoker-grill combo (most smokers these days come as smoke-grill combos).
Here, this well established brand has produced one of the most sought after smokers around. It has a digital WiFi controller which lets you monitor your cooking and control the smokers’ temperature through Green Mountain’s iOS or Android mobile application, right on your phone or tablet!
This is all made possible by its Sense-Mate, which is a thermal sensor which constantly monitors the grill temperature, so you can just sit back and enjoy the view!
In addition to Sense-Mate, this smoker grill combo also features those all important meat temperature probes, so you can check the temperature not just of the cooking chamber as a whole, but also check the temperature right in the meat - just what you’re looking for - all without opening the smoking chamber too!
It features a peaked lid, so standing a large turkey up in the smoking chamber is no problem whatsoever. And as it also features a grill, while you’re smoking your turkey, you can go ahead and grill some of those lovely Thanksgiving veggies!
This smoker also comes with a small bucket for grease drippings - ready for that all-important turkey gravy!
Despite needing electricity to make the most of all of its features, the fuel used by this smoker grill combo is wood pellets - so you get that mouth watering wood chip taste - whether you like to go for mesquite or apple.
Masterbuilt are definitely one of the best brands when it comes to electric smokers, and this smoker is an absolute gem.
It features a 1500 watt heating element for consistent, even heating, for that perfect tenderness and flavor in your turkey.
It sports a built-in temperature gauge and variable temperature control - just twist the dial to change the temperature.
It has three smoking racks in total, all of which are chrome coated and removable, which is not only great for cleaning afterwards, but also means that you’ll have no problem fitting a large turkey in there.
The smoke arises from the burning of wood chips, so you get to add that lovely wood-chip smoky flavor. The wood chip tray just slides right open so you can remove the ash as necessary.
It also has a removable water bowl, so you can add that extra moisture and flavor as and when you choose.
There’s also that all important tray to catch all your excess food drippings, primed for your turkey gravy.
You can also purchase a matching electric smoker cover specifically made for this size machine.
The first thing we love about this smoker for cooking your turkey is that you can use it indoors and have it right there in the kitchen with you! Not only can you smoke your turkey whatever the weather, but you can set it and forget it, and concentrate more on your veggies, side dishes and sauces.
It doesn’t take up too much space, and if you did want to move it you can - it’s super light weight and comes with handles.
Another thing we love about it is its viewing window - you can just sit back and watch your turkey brown before your eyes. This is great because it means you don’t lose heat by opening the door to check on the food. And you won’t lose all that lovely smoke!
We also like its three in one tray which you can use for whatever you like, use as a wood chip box, a water pan, or best of all, use it as a grease pan to collect the drippings for that all important turkey gravy!
It’s easy to use too, with a little dial to set the temperature to warm, low, medium or high.
If you’re anything like me, you don’t want to use your smoker just for Thanksgiving! That’s why we’ve included in our Top 5 a smoker that does it all. This baby grills, smokes, bakes, roast, braise, barbecues, and sears!
This is made possible from the technology it utilizes. There’s a fan forced convection system, a digital control board that auto ignites the grill and allows you to control the temperature, and an automated system for feeding the pellets into the firebox.
With this item you could leave your Thanksgiving dinner to a beginner and you won’t go far wrong.
As we like to point out, this smoker comes with a drippings collector, ready for that turkey gravy we all crave.
As offset smokers go - this is definitely one of the best! Unlike your traditional horizontal offset smoker, this one has a vertical cooking chamber.
It’s designed to capture the absolute maximum smoke flavour, and a vertical cooking chamber also means that you can stack more meat for smoking into relatively smaller space
This smoker features 6 separate smoking racks all together, and they are all height adjustable - you’ll have no problem fitting one or even two large turkeys in there!
You can check on the temperature with its stainless steel temperature gauge with "Smoke Zone" indicator, then adjust the temperature as required using the steel smoke stack’s adjustable flue.
This smoker comes complete with its own patented charcoal and ash management system, inclusive of charcoal grate, charcoal chamber and a large removable ash pan, making clean up a breeze.
The charcoal chamber keeps briquettes stacked tightly for increased fire from your charcoal.
Your turkey flavor can be charcoal smoked or wood chip smoked - you can load whichever of these fuels you prefer.
Best Smokers For Turkey - Buyers Guide
Within this buying guide we will look at what to consider when buying a smoker for smoking your Thanksgiving turkey.
Type of Smoker
There’s a wide scope of smokers out there. You’ve got your vertical, horizontal, offset, charcoal, gas, wood chip, pellet, electrical, your reverse flow smoker, and even your smoker-grill combos.
When it comes to smoking your turkey, which type of smoker you use has a direct impact on cooking temperatures and times. Electric smokers are by far the fastest, but you’d miss out on that smokey charcoal or wood chip taste.
For any outdoor smoking, you need also to consider the smokers’ insulation against the weather. That’s where smoker brand comes into it.
There are a number of really good smoker brands out there. When you go for a well known and trusted brand, you can be assured of such things as build quality and durability. We have only looked at good brands in our Top 5.
You don’t need to go all out and spend a thousand dollars plus on a smoker just for Thanksgiving dinner. In fact many really good smokers come in at under 300 dollars. You need to ensure good value for money - don’t be ripped off!
The Must Have Accessories
Where would your Thanksgiving dinner be without gravy? In our top 5 featured smokers we only list smokers that feature a grease tray or bucket to collect all those lovely drippings for your gravy.
Sometimes a turkey will come with a cheap pop-up thermometer - DO NOT rely on this. We recommend using probing thermometers that can go right into the meat at the thickest part, so you can check the temperature reading where it really counts. The best smokers will come with dual probe temperature gauges.
These days you can even get Smart technology digital temperature controls that hook up via Bluetooth directly to your iPhone, IPad, or android device. However you will have to weigh up the extra cost against getting good value for money.
Nonetheless, if your chosen smoker does not feature meat probe temperature gauges, you can purchase these separately, complete with that Smart Bluetooth technology.
Turkey Smoking Frequently Asked Questions
Why should I smoke my turkey?
When you roast a turkey in the oven you run the risk of it becoming too dry, and it’s impossible to cook a large bird like your Thanksgiving turkey on a barbecue grill.
If you smoke the turkey however, the turkey is being continuously basted by the smoke, so it doesn’t dry out. Not only that but the smoke delivers incredible flavor making - you won’t need to add any seasoning beyond a little salt and pepper.
Turkey is a very delicate meat that doesn’t have a lot of connective tissue or fat. This means that it will dry out and darken quickly as well as absorb the flavors of smoke much more easily than other meat does.
What size turkey is best for smoking?
Normally, your tukey should be no more than 13 to 15 pounds for smoking. If more turkey is needed it’s better to smoke two at the same time rather than one larger one.
If you did want to smoke a larger turkey, and you don’t have enough lid clearance, you can always take the backbone out and spread the turkey out a bit. This is known as spatchcocking. This technique means that the turkey will cook faster because it's thinner, absorb more smoke, and allow any flavoring or rub you use to cover the bird more completely.
How do I choose the right turkey?
Having too little turkey would be an absolute disaster! We would recommend using one to one and a half pound weight of turkey per adult dining. This will ensure that no one goes hungry, and you may even have leftovers for some delicious turkey and cranberry sandwiches!
As you can gather from what we described earlier, if you wanted to cook 15 pounds or more of turkey in your smoker, you are best off buying 2 turkeys.
Decide whether to purchase a fresh or frozen turkey. If you choose frozen, you need to ensure that the turkey is thoroughly defrosted before cooking. If you’re buying your turkey fresh from a butcher, we recommend placing your order early. A fresh turkey can sit in a refrigerator for 1 to 2 days and should be kept within the packaging whilst there.
A Butterball turkey, which comes pre-brined, can also be smoked in your smoker - you can find several how-to videos on how to do so online.
What are the best wood chip fuel to smoke my turkey with?
Standard hickory or mesquite wood chips will impart a really good solid smokiness to your turkey. But if you’re after something more subtle that won’t mask the turkey taste, try mild fruitwood chips, such as apple. Alternatively you could try soaking the wood chips in water, fruit juice or wine.
Can I fit a whole turkey into a smoker or do I need to cut it first?
Some people have found that by slicing the turkey before placing it in a smoker means that it will more quickly. However you will lose presentation marks. For best results, we endorse placing the whole turkey into the smoker. If you find your struggling to fit it in, please refer to our FAQ question and answer on “What size turkey is best for smoking?”
How to prepare my turkey for smoking?
There are several ways you can prepare your turkey for smoking. You can simply do nothing, or you can add a simple rub, or you can brine, marinade it, or do some sort of combination. Each method has its merits and drawbacks.
Traditionalists will tend to go for buttering or basting, and this is often the go-to choice for people using a wood smoker.
Many people like to go for a simple rub - primarily because there are thousands of different rubs out there. You can buy a ready made one or make up your own with some simple herbs and spices. A rub also helps to catch the smoke you use to cook the turkey.
Brining the turkey not only helps to tenderise the meat, it also keeps your turkey moist all the while. It does however require the most preparation.
Marinating is popular too. Unlike brines, which are salty solutions, marinades are acidic solutions. The acid in the marinade helps to tenderize the meat, so you will need to be careful and don't marinate for too long.
How long to smoke my turkey for?
Once the smoker reaches a temperature of about 240 degrees Fahrenheit, you will need to smoke the turkey for 30 minutes per pound weight of turkey. This gets quicker at higher temperatures.
How do you solve the gravy problem when smoking your turkey?
You may decide that your smoked turkey tastes so good and the texture is sufficiently moist and juicy that you don’t feel the need for gravy. However most smokers come with a drip tray for the grease, so you can collect all the lovely juices in there to make your gravy with.
Any other tips?
We suggest that you set the turkey in the smoker breast side up, and that you insert the digital probe meat thermometer, if you have one, into the thickest part of the breast or thigh. No matter what temperature you cook at, your turkey must reach an internal temperature of 165°F at its thickest point.
We also recommend that you don’t put any traditional style stuffing in the cavity of the turkey - smoke temperatures between 250 degrees Fahrenheit and 300 degrees aren’t hot enough to cover any food safety issues about stuffing.
However, you can go ahead and add some onion, celery, spices, or even an orange.