How to Smoke a Turkey on the Grill

Smoke a Turkey on the Grill

The Spruce / Maxwell Cozzi

Prep: 30 mins
Cook: 3 hrs 30 mins
Brine: 24 hrs
Total: 28 hrs
Servings: 6 to 8 servings
Yield: 1 turkey
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
2213 Calories
77g Fat
96g Carbs
269g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 6 to 8
Amount per serving
Calories 2213
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 77g 99%
Saturated Fat 21g 104%
Cholesterol 1022mg 341%
Sodium 8567mg 372%
Total Carbohydrate 96g 35%
Dietary Fiber 2g 9%
Total Sugars 85g
Protein 269g
Vitamin C 138mg 689%
Calcium 253mg 19%
Iron 11mg 63%
Potassium 2755mg 59%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Are you interested in making a smoked turkey but don't have a smoker? No worries—use your grill to slow-roast this tasty bird, and it will be just as tender and delicious.

A flavorful brine of apple juice, brown sugar, spices, and orange helps keep this bird nice and juicy while it grills. For best results, brine the turkey for 24 hours in the fridge before cooking. Smoking the turkey will take about 3 to 4 hours after brining, depending on the size of your bird.

You can use a gas or charcoal grill for this recipe. Regardless, you will want a good-quality grill thermometer to measure the temperature inside and avoid overcooking your turkey. Check the meat at multiple points with a probe thermometer to ensure it is fully cooked and safe to eat.

Setting up a gas grill vs a charcoal grill is a very different process. Read more about how to cook with charcoal. Remember that no matter what kind of grill you use, you want to cook the turkey over indirect heat. For a charcoal grill, this means you should set up a two-zone fire with coals on one side of the grill. For a gas grill, you can preheat the grill with all the burners on, but you'll want to turn off any burners beneath the turkey when you put it on the grill.

“Smoking a turkey on the grill is as easy as regular grilling and results in a savory and richly flavored bird. Once you’ve experienced the complex flavor of a smoked turkey, you’ll never settle for an oven roasted turkey for your holidays again.” —Joan Velush

How to Smoke a Turkey on the Grill
A Note From Our Recipe Tester


  • 2 quarts (1.9 liters) apple juice

  • 1 pound (450 grams) brown sugar

  • 1 cup (5 1/4 ounces/149 grams) Diamond Crystal kosher salt

  • 3 quarts (2.8 liters) water

  • 3 large oranges, quartered

  • 4 ounces fresh ginger, thinly sliced

  • 15 whole cloves

  • 6 large bay leaves

  • 6 cloves garlic, crushed

  • 1 (12 to 14 pound) turkey

  • 1 package hickory chips (about 4 cups)

  • Vegetable oil, for basting

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Smoke a Turkey on the Grill ingredients

    The Spruce / Maxwell Cozzi

  2. Combine the apple juice, brown sugar, and salt in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil on high heat, stirring occasionally until the sugar and salt have dissolved.

    Combine apple juice, brown sugar, and salt in a large saucepan

    The Spruce / Maxwell Cozzi

  3. Skim off and discard any foam that forms on the top, Let cool completely.​

    Skim off any foam that forms on the top of the mixture in the pot

    The Spruce / Maxwell Cozzi

  4. In a large (5 gallon or larger) stockpot or similar container, combine the apple juice mixture with the water, oranges, ginger, cloves, bay leaves, and garlic.

    combine the apple juice mixture with water, oranges, ginger, cloves, bay leaves, and garlic

    The Spruce / Maxwell Cozzi

  5. Remove any excess fat you might find on the turkey and everything from the body cavity.

    Remove any fatty deposit you might find on the turkey

    The Spruce / Maxwell Cozzi

  6. Place the turkey in the brine mixture and refrigerate for 24 hours. Make sure that the turkey remains completely submerged.

    Place the turkey in the brine mixture

    The Spruce / Maxwell Cozzi

  7. Submerge the hickory chips in water and let soak for 20 to 30 minutes.

    Remove 1 cup of the chips from the water and transfer to a foil packet. Pierce the packet on all sides with 15 to 20 holes.

    Remove the grill grates. Prepare your grill for indirect grilling on medium heat (about 325 F/165 C). Put the foil packet on the direct heat side of the grill. Replace the grill grates.

    Allow the grill to heat with the lid closed until the foil packet begins to smoke.

    Place the hickory chips in water

    The Spruce / Maxwell Cozzi

  8. Meanwhile, remove the turkey from brine and pat dry with paper towels.

    Remove the turkey from brine and pat dry with paper towels

    The Spruce / Maxwell Cozzi

  9. Tie the legs together with kitchen twine and lightly brush the turkey all over with vegetable oil.

    Tie the legs together with string

    The Spruce / Maxwell Cozzi

  10. Place the turkey on a roasting rack inside a foil pan. Put the turkey on the indirect heat side of the grill. Cover the grill.

    Place the turkey on a roasting rack inside a foil pan

    The Spruce / Maxwell Cozzi

  11. After 30 to 40 minutes, wrap the wings in foil to prevent them from burning.

    wrap the bird in foil to keep them from burning

    The Spruce / Maxwell Cozzi

  12. Brush with vegetable oil periodically. If the breasts start to get too brown, cover with foil.

    Every 2 hours, replace the old foil packet with a new foil packet filled with 1 cup of the soaked hickory chips. Pierce the new packet on all sides with 15 to 20 holes. Set the old foil packets aside in a heat-proof container until they are completely extinguished before safely discarding.

    The smoked turkey is done when the internal temperature reaches about 170 F/80 C in the thigh or about 155 F/75 C in the breast (remember that the internal temperature of the turkey will continue to rise by 10 to 15 degrees as it rests). You should expect it to take about 12 to 14 minutes per pound.

    brush the turkey with oil

    The Spruce / Maxwell Cozzi

  13. When done, remove from the grill and let rest for 15 to 30 minutes.

    smoked turkey on a wood board

    The Spruce / Maxwell Cozzi

  14. Carve and serve.

    Smoke a Turkey on the Grill, Carved and served on a platter

    The Spruce / Maxwell Cozzi

Recipe Tips

  • Keep an eye on the temperature of the grill as you cook the turkey. Gas grills are easy to regulate, but a charcoal grill will need a bit more attention. Keep the temperature around 325 F by opening the grill vents more to increase the temperature or by closing the grill vents more to lower the temperature. You should never close the grill vent on the bottom of the grill completely, though, or the charcoal may go out.
  • If using a charcoal grill, add 8 charcoal briquettes to the grill every hour. Otherwise the charcoal will burn out before the turkey is done cooking.

How to Store

Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container for up to 5 days. Reheat turkey gently, covered with foil in a 325 F oven until just heated through. Alternatively, slice leftover turkey very thin, place it on warmed plates, and spoon piping-hot gravy over top to reheat it without risking drying out the meat.

Use leftover turkey on sandwiches, in soups, or in casseroles.

Do You Baste a Turkey When You Smoke It?

Some smoked turkey recipes call for basting throughout the cooking process. This recipe includes a 24-hour brine that adds flavor and moisture to the meat, so no basting is required. Keep an eye on the bird, though, to make sure that the skin doesn't brown too much.