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How to Smoke a Turkey in a Masterbuilt Electric Smoker

Learn how to smoke a whole turkey using a Masterbuilt electric smoker, and why it is one of easiest, and tastiest, ways to smoke a turkey!

We take you step-by-step through brining and seasoning your turkey, setting up your Masterbuilt electric smoker, and smoking your turkey to perfection.

a smoked turkey in a masterbuilt electric smoker

For all the fanfare in the BBQ world surrounding brisket, pulled pork, and ribs, we find that a perfectly smoked turkey or chicken often “Wow’s” folks more than anything.

We’ve previously done pellet grill smoked turkey, a smoked turkey breast, a spatchocked turkey, and even some fun cavemen sized smoked turkey legs.

But we thought, what could be more appropriate now than smoking a whole turkey in the classic Masterbuilt electric smoker!

After already doing baby back ribs, chicken, brisket, and pulled pork in our trusty Masterbuilt electric smoker, ww thought it was time to try a whole smoked thanksgiving turkey.

You can do this as your main thanksgiving turkey or maybe provide a second smoked turkey option, especially if you are expecting a large crowd and only have one oven.

“But I heard smoked Turkey is too smokey, and the skin doesn’t get crispy.”

Yes, smoked turkey can suffer from both of those things if not done properly.

That’s why we are going to show you exactly how much smoke to apply and exactly how to get crispy skin on your Masterbuilt smoked turkey too.

And you can really use any electric smoker, it doesn’t have to be a Masterbuilt, and follow our instructions below!

Let’s go!

 

Choosing Your Turkey for Smoking

The first thing you need to do is choose the turkey that you are going to smoke in your Masterbuilt electric smoker.

When it comes to smoked turkey, bigger isn’t always better. And because of the size constraints of most electric smoker, we suggest you go with one that is 15 pounds or less.

the weight tag on a raw turkey showing 14 lbs

Save the massive 22-pounder for spatchcocking on your pellet grill midwinter. For now, you want something that will cook evenly in its whole form, without butting up against the walls of the Masterbuilt.

A smoked turkey breast can often be finished in 2-3 hours, while a whole turkey may take 4-5 or more.

 

How to Make Smoked Pig Shots
How to Make Smoked Pig Shots

How to Prepare a Turkey for the Masterbuilt Electric Smoker

We are going to dry brine the turkey overnight in order to get crispy skin and flavorful meat when we smoke it.

So plan to start preparing your turkey the day before you actually smoke it in the Masterbuilt.

 

Clean and Trim the Turkey

After removing the thawed turkey from the packaging, find the neck and giblet bag stuffed in the main cavity.

removing the giblet bag from a raw turkey

You may have to run some warm water over this area to loosen it up and pull them out if the turkey is still somewhat frozen.

Put these aside to use in a homemade turkey stock if you wish.

Next, take some time to rinse and dry your turkey with paper towels

Then, using some good kitchen shears or a meat knife, cut any excess fat or skin hanging off near the corners and edges of the cavities.

You’ll find there is usually a little piece of bone wrapped in skin hanging around near the neck cavity.

Cut this off and discard.

 

Dry Brining

a table full of salt for brining a turkey before smoking
Skip the mess of the wet brine and try DRY brining instead!

You may have read or seen on television people wet brining their turkeys by submerging them overnight in a salty aromatic solution.

While wet brining, if done right, can work for adding moisture and flavor to a smoked turkey, it doesn’t do anything to get you crispy skin.

A much easier way to achieve similar results AND get crispy skin, is by dry brining your Masterbuilt smoked turkey instead.

With dry brining, you also get all the benefits of salt penetration and moisture retention without having to deal with a giant bucket of salty raw turkey water when you’re done!

Follow our steps for how to do it below.

 

How to get Crispy Skin on your Masterbuilt Smoked Turkey

The problem with “most” smoked turkey, and smoked chicken for that matter, is that while the meat inside gets tender and delicious, the skin is usually a little rubbery and unappetizing.

Smoking your turkey at a high enough temperature to render out the fat underneath the skin is important, but so is the seasoning and the way you do it.

So if you want the crispiest skin possible at the end, it all starts with dry brining at the beginning.

This is what will separate you from all the Thanksgiving turkey smoking wannabes out there.

Trust us.

 

Dry Brine the Whole Turkey to Smoke in the Electric Smoker

After cleaning and trimming, simply coat the inside and outside of your whole turkey with kosher salt, or, if you are going for BBQ flavors, your favorite BBQ rub that has salt in it.

For classic Thanksgiving flavors, stick with just kosher salt for now.

brining a raw turkey with kosher salt

Do NOT use oil to help the rub adhere. 

As you apply the rub the skin will start to get more wet as the salt in the rub pulls the moisture up to the surface.

This is all the moisture you need to get the salt to adhere to your moked turkey.

Store the turkey on a wire rack set on top of a baking sheet in the refrigerator overnight.

We like this wire rack and baking sheet combo because you want maximum airflow around every side of the whole turkey.

This overnight seasoning does 3 things:

  1. That salty moisture that formed on the surface will work its way BACK into the meat to help flavor the interior of the turkey.
  2. The salt inside will help the turkey retain moisture and not dry out while it smokes in the Masterbuilt.
  3. It pulls moisture OUT of the skin allowing it to dry out before you smoke the turkey and therefore crisp up better while it cooks.

Moist meat, and crispy skin.

Exactly what we want.

The next day the skin should look kind of powdery and very dry.

This is good.

It means the salt has penetrated into the meat where you want it to be and has taken all the moisture with it.

The skin will now crisp up nicely in the electric smoker while the inside meat stays moist.

In the morning, if there is still A LOT of salt or seasoning on the outside of the turkey, wipe it off with a dry or only slightly damp paper towel.

If you need to add MORE BBQ rub or other non-salt seasonings, go ahead and do this before putting it in the Masterbuilt.

Pro Tip: DO NOT use butter or cooking oil to help additional rub adhere to the turkey skin.  The more oil you apply, the less the skin will crisp up when it cooks.

 

Injecting your Smoked Turkey

injecting marinade into turkey before putting it in the masterbuilt smoker

A final, more surgical option for adding salt and moisture retaining qualities to your Masterbuilt smoked turkey is to inject it with a salty, flavorful solution.

Just PLEASE be careful NOT to do this to a turkey that’s already been injected or brined as described above or your turkey will become overly salty.

Only do one or the other, not BOTH.

injecting a marinade into a turkey before smoking

You can use a mixture of turkey stock, melted butter, cajun spices or your favorite BBQ rub; and any other herbs and spices you want to flavor your turkey with.

We are big fans of the Ofargo Stainless Steel Meat Injector.

You get a variety of tip and injector sizes so you can inject larger things like herbs and minced garlic right into the turkey!

Again, if you choose to inject your smoked turkey, you don’t need to dry brine it overnight.  A simple BBQ or light salt and pepper seasoning on the exterior and some injecting on the interior will help season your turkey and help it retain its flavor.

Keep in mind that injecting the turkey adds WEIGHT to it, so it WILL take longer to cook in the Masterbuilt electric smoker, all else being equal.

But if you are OK with that, then inject away.  Make sure to put the turkey in an aluminum pan to catch the runoff and inject every 2-3 inches across and around the surface of the meat at varying depth levels.

You can let the injection diffuse throughout the turkey in the refrigerator for about 1-2 hours, or even overnight, before putting it in the electric smoker.

 

The Best Rubs and Seasonings for a Masterbuilt Smoked Turkey

Now, if you are going for a classic Thanksgiving style turkey smoked in your Masterbuilt electric smoker, stick with salt, pepper, and maybe a little thyme for seasoning.

a raw turkey being seasoned

However, if you want to do more of a barbecued style smoked turkey, then feel free to go a little bigger with your rubs and flavors you add.

We have a great BBQ Turkey Rub recipe from scratch below, but if you want something easy right off the shelf, check out Three Little Pigs Kansas City Championship BBQ Rub.

It’s got a great flavor of not only typical BBQ seasonings but also onion, garlic, and even a little cayenne for some heat.

We also love it on smoked chicken!

 

The Best Wood Chips for Smoking a Turkey in a Masterbuilt Electric Smoker

You need to be a little selective when it comes to choosing the right wood chips to smoke a turkey in a Masterbuilt electric smoker.

loading wood chips into a masterbuilt electric smoker

Mesquite and hickory will give a very aggressive smoke flavor and should probably be used only in combination with some other varieties of wood chips.

If aggressive smoke on the turkey is not your thing, we recommend a milder smoke flavor by choosing oak or fruitwood chips.

Pecan, apple, beech, alder, and cherry all give great results on smoked turkey.

Also no reason you can’t mix a few different kinds together in your Masterbuilt!

 

Refilling the Wood Chips

Now, as we mentioned, you will need to refill the wood chips every 20-30 minutes as they smolder fairly quickly compared to wood chunks and wood pellets.

adding wood chips to a masterbuilt electric smoker

If you are using a Masterbuilt Electric Smoker, we recommend you check out their Slow Smoker Accessory Attachment.

It allows you to preload the wood chips, much like a pellet hopper on a pellet grill like a Traeger and smokes them more slowly so that you don’t need to constantly refill.

This especially works great for longer smokes like beef brisket in your electric smoker!

 

Using a Masterbuilt Electric Smoker

Now, if you aren’t quite familiar yet with how to use your Masterbuilt electric smoker, don’t worry, we’ve got plenty of good resources for you to get you caught up before you throw the turkey in on the big day..

We have previously covered how to season, start, and clean a Masterbuilt electric smoker.

We’ve covered how to load them with wood chips, use the vents properly, make a smoker stand for them, and even how to use them in the rain!

You can tell we are big fans of this great electric smoker, especially for beginner smokers and bbq enthusiasts.Masterbuilt MB20071117 Digital Electric Smoker, 30 inch, Black

Read Masterbuilt Reviews on Amazon

Now that you know how to properly set up and use your Masterbuilt electric smoker, we will go over what is needed to properly smoke the turkey step by step.

 

How to Smoke Your Turkey in a Masterbuilt Electric Smoker

Now that the turkey is trimmed, dry brined, and seasoned, all that left to do is smoke it in our electric smoker!

Let’s jump into the details of time and temperature and how to know when your turkey is done smoking.

 

What Temperature do you Smoke a Turkey in a Masterbuilt Electric Smoker?

Set the temperature of your electric smoker to 325°F, and let it come up to temperature.

While “Traditional BBQ”, like brisket and ribs, is cooked low and slow in the 225-250°F range, you will never get crispy skin on smoked turkey, or chicken for that matter, cooking poultry at this temperature in your electric smoker.

This is because the fat underneath the skin will not render at those low temperatures before the meat is finished cooking.

Lastly, skip putting water in the water pan when you’re cooking skin-on poultry like a whole turkey.

While the moist chamber is great for pork butts and ribs, it will prevent the skin on your turkey from getting crispy while smoking.

Now, we know many older and smaller models of Masterbuilt electric smokers don’t go higher than 275°F.

This is ok.

If you dry brined your turkey, the skin should still come out crispy, it will just take longer for your turkey to cook.

If you aren’t happy with the turkey skin texture when it’s getting close to being done, just finish it in a hot over around 375°F for the last 10-20 minutes if needed and that skin will crisp up nicely.

 

What About Basting or Spray Butter?

Don’t do it, or you’ll negate everything you did to the skin during the dry brine.

Don’t baste, or spray anything like turkey stock, broth, cooking oil, butter, etc. on the skin while its cooking.

Leave it alone.

That is, if you want crispy delicious skin.  There is plenty of fat already in the skin that needs to render out and will keep the bird moist, you don’t need to add anything additional.

 

How Long Does it Take to Smoke a Turkey in a Masterbuilt Electric Smoker?

After the electric smoker has come up to temperature and you have added your wood chips to the chip loader, it’s time for the turkey.

Put your turkey on one of the middle shelves with the breasts pointed up and let the electric smoker do its thing!

a turkey smoking in a masterbuilt electric smoker

Place temperature probes, if you have them, in both one of the thighs and one of the breasts of the turkey.

Otherwise, you can spot check later with an instant read thermometer.

Always use good insulated grill gloves when rotating or moving the turkey around.

There really is no need to flip the turkey over as the electric smoker provides indirect heat like an oven.

You are welcome to experiment and try cooking it “upside down” if you want through, but you may lose some of your rub on the breasts against the smoker grates.

A whole turkey smoked at 325°F will take about 15 minutes per pound to fully cook.

So plan on a 12-14 lb turkey taking roughly 3 to 3.5 hours.

 

How Much Wood Smoke to use on a Turkey?

Turkey, like most poultry, and fish for that matter, absorbs a lot of smoke in a short amount of time.

vent on an electric smoker

You don’t want to overdo it, especially if you are new to smoking a turkey in your electric smoker.

Use a handful or two of wood chips at the beginning of the cook, and maybe refill one more time.

But we wouldn’t recommend refilling with any more after that.

Once the chips have smoldered out you can empty them from the chip loading tray.

 

How Do You Know When a Turkey is Done Smoking in a Masterbuilt Electric Smoker?

You’ll want to monitor the internal temperature of both the turkey breast AND turkey thigh for doneness.

the temperature probe in the thigh of a smoked turkey in a masterbuilt electric smoker

Your Masterbuilt electric smoker smoked turkey is ready to eat when the breast meat hits an internal temperature of 165°F and the thigh meat hits 175°F on your instant read thermometer.

These usually occur at about the same time.

If you don’t yet own an instant read thermometer, it’s going to be hard to really know exactly when that turkey is done cooking in the Masterbuilt.

One of our go-to and very affordable favorites is this one from Thermopro.

If you prefer a leave-in thermometer you can just monitor from your phone while visiting with guests or doing other stuff, then check out our newest favorite, the MEATER leave in thermometer.

It is extremely accurate and has an incredible 165 foot bluetooth range and works right with your smartphone so you don’t need to carry a separate controller around with you like many other remote thermometers require.

It’s got a great free app that is constantly being updated and even has an algorithm to predict how much longer your type of meat will take to cook based on cooking temperature, target temperature, and current internal temperature.

It’s like a GPS for your meat!

Anyways, back to our turkey…

 

Carving and Serving a Masterbuilt Smoked Turkey

Remove the turkey from the electric smoker and let it rest for about 30-45 minutes uncovered on a cutting board before carving and serving so that the juice stays in the meat where you want it.

smoked turkey after coming out of masterbuilt electric smoker

First pull the leg and thigh away from the rest of the bird and cut at the thigh joint.  Repeat on the other side.

Separate the leg and thigh and slice the thigh into smaller pieces.

Now slice each of the breasts off the breastbone, keeping that nice crispy intact on each breast.

Lastly, slice the breasts into 1/2 inch thick pieces keeping some of that delicious skin on each piece.

This all works better with a good meat slicing knife like our favorite from Mairico.

 

Holding a Smoked Turkey

an oven

If you need to keep the smoked turkey hot while waiting for guests to arrive or to be ready to eat, put the carved smoked turkey into a large aluminum foil tray with a little turkey stock poured over to keep it moist and put it in the oven at 170°F until you are ready to eat.

The only downside to doing this is your skin will lose some of its crispiness.  So best to plan to eat right when the turkey is carved.

If you want something delicious to serve alongside, check out our Sticky Smoked Sweet Potatoes which you can prepare right with your turkey in your Masterbuilt electric smoker too!

a tray of smoked sweet potatoes

Enjoy!

 

Trash Can Turkey – The Hottest, Fastest, Most Fun Way to Cook a Turkey

pouring hot charcoal on top of garbage can

Looking for another FUN way to make Turkey?

Check out this RIDICULOUSLY FAST AND FUN method for cooking a full sized turkey in only 2 hours!  Click HERE NOW.

 

What Else Can I Smoke in my Masterbuilt Electric Smoker?

So glad you asked!

Check out some of our other favorite recipes below that can all be easily modified for an electric smoker if not done so already.

Pork

 

Beef

 

Seafood

 

Poultry

 

Lamb

 

Other Odds and Ends

a smoked turkey in a masterbuilt electric smoker

Smoked Turkey in a Masterbuilt Electric Smoker

Our Smoked Turkey in a Masterbuilt Electric Smoker is first dry brined and seasoned overnight to get the most flavor and crispiest skin possible.
We then review step by step how to set your Masterbuilt, or ANY electric smoker, to perfectly smoke this whole turkey to perfection.
5 from 2 votes
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 3 hrs 30 mins
Dry Brine Time 12 hrs
Total Time 4 hrs
Course Main Course
Cuisine American, Australian, barbecue, BBQ, Smoked
Servings 10 people
Calories 350 kcal

Equipment

  • Masterbuilt Electric Smoker or any brand electric smoker
  • Wood chips Preferrravly Oak, or Fruitwood
  • Large Cutting Board
  • Paper Towels
  • Large Baking Sheet with Wire Rack
  • Internal Meat Thermometers
  • Carving Knife
  • Insulated BBQ Gloves

Ingredients
  

  • 1 Whole Turkey 12-14 lbs, thawed

Dry Brine

  • 1 Cup Kosher Salt
  • 3 Tbsp Fresh Course Ground Black Pepper

Seasonings

  • 2 Tsp Dried Thyme
  • 1 Tsp Dried Rosemary
  • 1 Tsp Dried Sage
  • ½ Tsp Garlic Powder

Instructions
 

Clean the Turkey

  • Remove the thawed turkey from the packaging and remove the neck and giblet bag(s) form the main cavity.
    1 Whole Turkey
    removing the giblet bag from a raw turkey
  • Clean, rinse, and pat dry the turkey well with paper towels.
  • Trim any excess pieces of skin or fat off of the turkey.

Dry Brine the Turkey Overnight

  • Place the turkey on a wire rack placed on top of a baking sheet.
  • Mix together the 1 cup Kosher salt and 3 Tbsp pepper, and sprinkle generously over the top and bottom and inside the cavities of the turkey. DO NOT use cooking oil to adhere or skin will not get crispy.
    1 Cup Kosher Salt, 3 Tbsp Fresh Course Ground Black Pepper
    brining a raw turkey with kosher salt
  • Place the turkey, on the wire rack and baking sheet in the refrigerator overnight or for at least 4-6 hours.

Remove the Next Day

  • Take the turkey out of the refrigerator and wipe off any excess salt still remaining on the outside with a damp paper towel.
  • Mix the thyme, rosemary, sage, and garlic together and rub all over the entire exterior of the turkey.
    2 Tsp Dried Thyme, 1 Tsp Dried Rosemary, 1 Tsp Dried Sage, ½ Tsp Garlic Powder
    a raw turkey being seasoned

Start the Masterbuilt Electric Smoker

  • Open up the electric smoker door and make sure the racks are all cleaned off and in their proper place. You may need to remove a couple shelves to make room for the turkey. Aim for the middle of the smoker for your turkey as much as you can.
  • Do not fill the water pan. Close the door.
  • Plug in and turn on the electric smoker and set the temperature to 325°F.
  • Once the electric smoker is up to temperature, load your wood chips in the chip loading tray. There is no need to soak the wood chips in water.
    loading wood chips into a masterbuilt electric smoker

Smoking the Turkey in the Masterbuilt Electric Smoker

  • Once smoke is being produced, position your seasoned turkey on one of the shelves with the breast side up.
    a turkey smoking in a masterbuilt electric smoker
  • Place an internal temperature probe if you have one into the center of one of the breasts, and another one, if you have one, into the middle of one of the thighs.
  • Close the door.
  • When the internal temperature of the breast has reached 165°F, and the internal temperature of the thigh hits 175°F, carefully remove the turkey from the electric smoker.
    the temperature probe in the thigh of a smoked turkey in a masterbuilt electric smoker

Rest and Carve

  • Let the turkey rest for 30-45 minutes before carving to allow the juices to distribute.
    smoked turkey made a pellet grill
  • Carve, plate, and serve immediately.

Nutrition

Calories: 350kcal
Keyword barbecue turkey, BBQ Smoked Turkey, BBQ Turkey, Dry Brine, electric smoker, Electric Smoker Turkey, Masterbuilt Electric Smoker Turkey, Masterbuilt Smoked Turkey, Masterbuilt Turkey, smoked thanksgiving turkey, smoked turkey
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

3 Comments

Leave a Reply
  1. 5 stars
    I tried this method with our older Masterbuilt Electric Smoker yesterday and it worked great!

    The smoked turkey meat turned out delicioius!

    I could have probably pulled it out of there a tad sooner but overall it was still a great success!

    Thanks for all the directions!

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