Smokin’ Turkey – The art of cooking turkey over charcoal
I cooked two turkeys each year for two Thanksgivings in a row, one on the grill each year, and one on the smoker. This web page documents what I did and what I learned so I can do it again next time.
Purchase a fresh, non-frozen turkey that’s around 12 to 13 pounds. Larger turkeys won’t fit on the grill, though you can go larger on the smoker. These smaller birds also cook more evenly over charcoal without drying out than larger birds. (If you buy a frozen turkey, let it defrost for a couple of days in the refrigerator.)
I used a traditional Weber kettle for one turkey and a Weber bullet smoker for the other. Click the grill or smoker below to see the cooking details.
So, I hear you ask, which was better? That’s a tough question.
The first year I cooked both turkeys was the first time I’d ever cooked a turkey on the smoker. 4 people preferred the grilled to the smoked that year. 1 person preferred the smoked. The other 12 people abstained, saying both were delicious.
The second year, I made changes in the smoker procedure based on what I learned the first year. One person expressed a mild preference for the smoked turkey, out of 12, and nobody else was willing to express a preference. I didn’t have a preference this year either.
The third year, we have fewer guests, so I only prepared one turkey. I used the smoker. There were several reasons. First, there really was not a difference in the flavor or texture of the turkeys based on which cooking method I used, so the most important decision-making factor was a wash. Second, I could cook a larger bird in the smoker, 15+ pounds, and that just wouldn’t fit on the grill. Third, it was a bit easier not having to flip the turkey. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the turkey on the smoker looks better than the turkey from the grill.