How Do You Smoke a Turkey in a Gas Smoker?

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How Do You Smoke A Turkey In A Gas SmokerFor many, the Thanksgiving turkey is the highlight of their dinner and this big bird will often serve as the center of attention during your feast. But if you’re tired of the same baked turkey year after year, then why not consider serving the perfect smoked turkey? In this article, we share everything you need to get started with this meal while answering the question, “How do you smoke a turkey in a gas smoker?”  

What is Smoked Turkey? 

When you want to make the most out of a whole turkey, infusing it with a delicate smoky flavor using aromatic wood chunks is a wonderful way of cooking these gorgeous birds. Not only will you get the subtle taste of smoke, but also a tender and juicy texture from the slow cooking process. Its taste is further enhanced using a dry rub of your choice; with the easy steps outlined below, you’ll be able to serve up an impressive holiday turkey in no time at all! 

Why Smoke Instead of Baking Your Turkey? 

A delicious smoked turkey is among the most popular cooking styles for bone-in turkey breast and for a whole turkey. Smoking using a handful of wood chips will add a wonderful flavor to your meat that you won’t find anywhere else or using other methods. This may seem intimidating at first, but smoking poultry as well as a wide range of meats is quite easy and will deliver tender and moist results.   

If you want to serve up something aside from oven-roasted turkey, you may want to consider using a pellet grill to get a different flavor. Other options include a gas smoker which can hold consistent temperatures throughout the smoking process which is the most essential when smoking meats. This also provides enough room to fit your turkey, which will be cooked using indirect heat; a smoker box will be full of wood chips, producing the flavor. 

Choosing the Right Smoker

The best way to smoke your turkey is to use a charcoal smoker; look for one that gives good airflow and can be opened easily while cooking so you can add more chips if needed. Look for the kind of grill that will be large enough to fit your turkey inside — if you plan on smoking a 12-pound turkey, then look for a smoker that’s at least 26 inches big. If you want to smoke a bigger turkey, be sure to switch over to a bigger smoker. 

You’ll also need to think about the type of smoker needed. In this guide, we recommend using gas grills equipped with smoker boxes but you may also work with a charcoal grill or an electric smoker. Should you choose to use a charcoal grill, it’s essential to work with enough charcoal briquettes to keep your temperature consistent throughout the cooking process. 

Preparing the Wood Chips

Start by soaking these in cold water for a minimum of 30 minutes ahead of your turkey; doing this will allow them to make more smoke. Next, it’s time to choose the best wood to smoke your turkey; any kind of wood chip can be used, but here are some of our favorites:

  • Mesquite
  • Hickory
  • Pecan
  • Cherry wood
  • Apple wood  

Seasoning Your Turkey

Wet or dry brining are among the best ways to season your turkey while helping to retain its moisture as you smoke it. To get started with a wet brine, simply soak your turkey in a saltwater mix for a minimum of 12 hours; some people will choose to add more to their mix, which includes the following.  

  • Fresh herbs such as sage, thyme, and rosemary
  • Brown sugar
  • Chicken broth
  • Black pepper
  • Garlic powder
  • Melted butter
  • Olive oil

A mix of these additional ingredients will give you a more aromatic and tastier turkey. 

Turkey Brine Recipe 

Note: If you plan on using a frozen turkey, ensure that it’s completely thawed before you start brining it. 

When you want to smoke your turkey on a particular day, make sure to brine it the night before you actually cook it. Below is a guideline for brining a 12-pound turkey.  


  • 1 gal. cold water
  • 1 cup. Kosher salt
  • 1 whole fresh turkey


  1. Place the water and salt inside a large container and stir it until the salt dissolves. You may choose a cooler to do this step since it will be big enough to fit a larger turkey and comes with a lid to keep it clean. It will also maintain a proper temperature without the need to be inside the fridge.  
  2. Add your thawed turkey into your brine and submerge it completely. If you need to weigh down your turkey, you can use clean bricks carefully wrapped in aluminum foil. 
  3. Add some ice to allow the increase in ice water to cover your turkey.
  4. After 12 hours, remove your turkey from your brine and use paper towels to pat it dry.

Setting Up the Grill to Smoke Turkey 

When working with a gas grill, making a setup for two zones is essential; the first side of your smoker will produce indirect, low heat while the second side will be set up to produce a higher temperature. Make sure to preheat your smoker to 225 degrees F and put your wet wood chips inside the smoking box where it’s hot. Start placing your turkey over the cooler area inside the grill, and be sure not to have it touching the side walls or block smoker vents.  

Some people will want to place their turkey by the grill grates with a drip pan under it to catch the turkey drippings; doing this can prevent flare-ups in the fire. According to some smoking enthusiasts, it’s best to place your turkey facing up, but for others, it should be down on the smoker. We suggest placing it breast-side up so it doesn’t become overcooked, but this is up to you; don’t be afraid to experiment and see what works for you!          

Cooking Your Smoked Turkey

Doing this to any kind of meat is a slow cooking process that takes place over indirect heat, so this procedure will take many hours and will require patience. After placing your perfect turkey on your grill grate, close your smoker’s lid and leave it undisturbed for two hours. When the time is up, rotate your turkey to make it so the side where the heat was before now faces the cooler area. 

Close your lid again and allow it to smoke for an additional 60 minutes. You can repeat this process until the internal temperature of the turkey reaches 165˚ F but if you have smaller birds, it can be cooked upright using a beer can.  

Best Temperature to Smoke a Turkey 

To get the best results, you’ll want to smoke your turkey at 225˚ F, and you should keep a consistent heat inside your smoker. Ensure that your grill is inside a shaded area away from drafts which will help control the temperature. If your grill is getting too hot, it’s a good idea to open some vents to allow some heat out but if it’s getting too cool, you can close some vents to restrict airflow and to help keep heat inside.  

Another option you can use to control the temperature within the smoker is the use of a water pan. This doesn’t just add moisture around the air but also helps to create a layer between the turkey and the heat source so it doesn’t dry out too quickly. Simply fill a pan with water and put it inside your smoker before the turkey; check its water level every now and then and top up when necessary.  

How to Smoke a Turkey in a Gas Smoker FAQs 

Below are just a few questions that you may have about smoking your first turkey. 

How Long Will Smoking My Turkey Take?

When smoking a turkey, the general rule of thumb is to cook it around 30 minutes per pound of turkey. As such, a turkey of 12 pounds should take around 6 hours to smoke. It’s best to keep in mind that bigger turkeys will take longer and smaller turkeys will cook quicker. 

How Do I Check the Temperature of My Turkey? 

If you don’t already have one, be sure to buy a meat thermometer to help track your turkey’s internal temperature. Insert your probe thermometer inside the thickest part of the thigh or breast while carefully not touching the bone. Close your smoker’s lid and wait until the thermometer reaches a temperature of 165˚ Fahrenheit.

Does My Turkey Need to Rest Before Serving?

Yes, allowing your turkey to rest before you serve it will help to evenly distribute its juices, making the meat more juicy and tender. Getting a perfectly smoked turkey doesn’t end when you take it out of the oven; it ends when you serve it correctly so that all your guests can enjoy a juicy piece of turkey. 


If this is your first time making smoked turkey, you’ll be happy to know that you’ve gotten all the right techniques for baking it the best turkey possible. The step-by-step guide above will help you make a great Thanksgiving dinner without too much hassle or confusion. But before you get started, the most important thing you need to remember is that practice makes perfect; if you don’t succeed today, you’ll surely serve up a perfect turkey the more you make it.