Epic Maple Smoked Turkey Recipe

Grey circle with the letters GF
Prep Time
30 mins
Cook Time
3 hrs
Total Time
3 hrs 30 mins
Calories
352

This Epic Maple Smoked Turkey Recipe is perfect for Thanksgiving and easy enough for a novice to do. Rubbed with a Sweet ‘n Spicy Maple Spice Rub then stuffed with citrus and smoked for the perfect juicy turkey every time.

Need some flavorful sides to serve with this Smoked Turkey? Try out my Sour Cream & Chive Mashed Potatoes, Sweet Potato Casserole, or my Healthy Green Bean Casserole. If this smoked turkey doesn’t fit the bill, I highly recommend my 5 star rated Garlic Herb Oven Baked Thanksgiving Turkey!

whole maple smoked turkey on a platter with oranges and cranberries

The Most Bomb Smoked Turkey Ever!

I love it when I try something new and totally 100% nail it! Truth be told, I’ve never actually “smoked” anything before. I’ve eaten plenty of smoked meats. But the cooking process was all new to me. The night before making the turkey I was nervous as all get out because I really wanted to nail it.

Let me tell you. If I can do it. You can do it. Smoking a turkey is just like cooking it in the oven, except it’s infusing way more flavor from the smoked wood. Before making this turkey I wanted to focus on three components to maximize flavor. The Wood, because I didn’t want that smoke flavor to overpower the turkey. The Spice Rub – I wanted something sweet, spicy and a little savory. And lastly, keeping it tender and moist – nobody likes a dry bird.

I seriously cannot wait for you guys to try this. Whether you’re a smoking pro or a novice you can make this turkey and totally blow everyone away this Thanksgiving.

sliced smoked turkey on a platter

How do I Thaw out my Turkey?

This takes some time. Place your frozen turkey on a plate or baking sheet in the refrigerator. Plan on letting it thaw 1 day for every 4-5 pounds. This means if you have a 15-pound turkey, it will be thawing in the refrigerator for about 4 days. DO NOT forget to thaw your turkey!

What You’ll Need for this Maple Smoked Turkey

To infuse flavor, you need to add flavor. So the list might be long, but honestly you probably already have most if not all of this stuff on hand already. Here’s what you’ll need:

For the Turkey:

  • 12-15 lb. turkey – Neck + giblets removed, completely thawed and patted dry
  • Disposable Aluminum Roasting Pan – Make sure it is large enough to fit the turkey. You can find them at your regular grocery store.
  • Butter – You’ll need about a 1/2 stick of butter. We’ll stuff a couple of tablespoons under the skin to keep the meat flavorful and tender.
  • Citrus fruits – I like to stuff my turkeys with oranges and lemons. I find not only does it give the turkey flavor but as the turkey cooks so does the citrus and it releases juce to keep the turkey moist.
  • Chicken stock or broth – You could also use vegetable both if you prefer.
  • Wood – Wood Pellets will not work for this if you’re using a regular smoker, you’ll need wood chunks. If you’re using a Traeger Grill, wood pellets are fine.
  • Vegetables – You’ll use carrots, celery, onions and garlic underneath the turkey which will help flavor the broth that you can use for gravy later on. Here’s a recipe for an easy turkey gravy recipe.
  • Fresh Herbs – I like to use fresh herbs like rosemary, thyme and safe along with the vegetables to infuse flavor in the stock under the turkey to be used for the gravy.
seasoned whole turkey in a roasting pan stuffed with citrus

Smoked Turkey Maple Spice Rub:

  • Spices -You’ll need smoked paprika, garlic powder, dried thyme, cumin, coriander, dried rosemary, ancho chili powder, salt and black pepper.
  • Maple Syrup – Use a pure maple syrup, nothing flavored with butter or other things.

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What Kind of Wood Should I Use?

The wood choice is key here. I wanted to pick a wood that would complement the spices used in this recipe but also not overpower the turkey. After all, you want to taste the turkey not just smoke. So, I chose to use cherry wood and applewood. These are milder woods and slightly sweet, which is perfect for the maple. You could also use maple wood if you can find it. Hickory and mesquite will overpower the turkey so I’d recommend not using them.

a whole maple smoked turkey on a platter with oranges and cranberries

What Temperature do I Smoke a Turkey at?

There are a couple of methods to smoking a turkey. We cooked ours at a steady temperature of 275°Ï-300°F for 2.5 to 3.5 hours uncovered. You could also go low and slow at 200°F-225°F for 5-6 hours. Again, this is not exact. It will depend on the true temperature of your smoker and the size of your bird. I highly recommend buying an instant-read thermometer so you can keep an eye on the internal temperature of your turkey at all times. Here’s what I have.

Can I Smoke my Turkey on a Regular Grill?

Yes, you can use a gas grill or charcoal grill as a smoker. Although, in my opinion, it’s just not the same and does take a bit more work. To smoke your turkey on a grill you’d need to buy one of these wood chip smoker boxes. You’d place the turkey over indirect heat and then add wood chips to the smoker box throughout the smoking process to maintain the correct temperature.

sliced smoked turkey on a platter with oranges and cranberries

How to Prepare a Turkey for Smoking?

Completely Thaw Turkey. It is extremely important that your turkey is thawed before you start the cooking process. Make sure you account for at least 3-4 days for the turkey to thaw in the refrigerator. For more details about thawing times, look here.

Once thawed, place the turkey in the sink and remove it from the packaging. Hold the turkey so the cavity (hole) of the turkey is facing the sink and drain all the water out of the cavity. Remove the neck and giblets (there should be in a bag) from the turkey and set them aside. Hint: you could use these later to make a gravy if you’d like. Make there is no ice left in the cavity. I like to run cold water over and through my turkey to ensure if it is cleaned of any sodium wash that it might have been sitting in in the bag.

Pat the turkey dry using a paper towel and place on an aluminum roasting pan breast side up. 

Make your Smoked Turkey Maple Spice Rub. Instructions below.

Season Turkey: Season the cavity of the turkey (the hole) with salt and pepper!

Rub spice rub all over turkey. Using your hands evenly coat the entire turkey with the homemade turkey spice rub.

Stuff Butter under Skin. Using your fingers, separate the skin from the meat of the turkey. Stuff butter equally under the skin on both turkey breasts.

Stuff the cavity with fresh citrus. The juice from the citrus will keep the turkey nice and moist and the herbs add another layer of flavor!

Add chicken stock, vegetables and fresh herbs to the bottom of the pan. This will catch all the drippings which is LOTS of flavor and great to use on the turkey as you baste it through the roasting process. If the broth evaporates halfway through the cooking process, just add more broth to the roasting pan.

How to Smoke a Turkey

Prep Smoker: Clean smoker before smoking your turkey. Remove any ash and clean grates. Fill your smoker halfway full with half apple wood and half cherry wood. Heat smoker to 275°-300°F.

Place Turkey over Indirect Heat: This is important, place your prepared turkey in an aluminum roasting pan over indirect heat so it doesn’t burn the bottom of the bird. We used ceramic plates on a Kamado Joe Smoker to ensure indirect heat. Place the turkey in the smoker uncovered. Close smoker and cook for 45 minutes.

Baste Turkey with the drippings and broth from the bottom of the pan. Make sure you cover every part of the bird, this will help with browning and add flavor!

Continue to baste Turkey every 30 minutes for another 1.5 hours during this roasting process. If you run out of basting liquid, add more stock. Here is an easy-to-follow chart when it comes to cooking time for turkey.

finished smoked turkey in a roasting pan

Temperature Check. Start checking the temperature of your turkey in the thickest part of the thigh. Remove turkey from the oven when the thermometer reads 165°F.

Let Turkey Rest. Cover your turkey with a tin foil tent and let sit for 15 minutes. This will allow the juices to redistribute and also continue ‘cooking’ the turkey. The safe temperature to serve is 165 degrees F for the thigh and 180 degrees F for the turkey breast.

What to serve with this Smoked Turkey Recipe

This turkey is the bomb, no doubt. And the leftovers are even better. But when it comes to some epic sides to accompany it I’ve got your back. Here are our favorite Thanksgiving side dishes:

whole maple smoked turkey on a platter with garnish
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whole maple smoked turkey on a platter with oranges and cranberries

Epic Maple Smoked Turkey Recipe

  • Author: Krista
  • prep_time Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • cook_time Cook Time: 3 hours
  • total_time Total Time: 3 hours 30 minutes
  • yield Yield: 30 1x
  • category Category: Turkey
  • method Method: Smoker
  • cuisine Cuisine: American

Description

This Epic Maple Smoked Turkey Recipe is perfect for Thanksgiving and easy enough for a novice to do. Rubbed with a Sweet ‘n Spicy Maple Spice Rub then stuffed with citrus and smoked for the perfect juicy turkey every time.

Scale

Ingredients

  • 1215 lb. turkey, thawed & innards cleaned out

Smoky Maple Spice Rub

  • 2 tablespoons smoked paprika
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon dried thyme
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 teaspoon coriander
  • 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon ancho chili powder
  • 1 tablespoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons black pepper
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup

Other Ingredients:

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 orange, cut into quarters
  • 1 lemon, cut into quarters
  • 2 onions, cut into quarter
  • 3 stalks of celery, cut into 3” logs
  • 4 carrots, cut into 3” logs
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • fresh rosemary, thyme and sage

Instructions

Prep Turkey: 

  1. Completely Thaw Turkey your turkey. A general rule is 1 day of thawing in the refrigerator for every 4-5 lbs. So a 15 lb. turkey will take about 4 days to thaw.
  2. Once thawed, remove turkey from it’s packagin and drain water out of the cavity. Remove the giblets and neck. (usually in a bag)
  3. Pat the turkey dry using a paper towel and place on an aluminum roasting pan breast side up. 
  4. Make your Smoked Turkey Maple Spice Rub. To a medium bowl add smoked paprika, garlic powder, dried thyme, cumin, coriander, dried rosemary, ancho chili powder, salt, pepper and maple syrup. Using a spoon, mix together until combined.
  5. Season the cavity of the turkey (the hole) with salt and pepper!
  6. Using your hands evenly coat the entire turkey with the homemade turkey spice rub.
  7. Next, using your fingers, separate the skin from the meat of the turkey. Stuff butter equally under the skin on the both turkey breasts.
  8. Stuff the cavity with oranges and lemons. 
  9. Add chicken stock, vegetables and fresh herbs to the bottom of the pan. This will catch all the drippings which is LOTS of flavor and great to use on the turkey as you baste it through the roasting process.

How to Smoke Turkey:

  1. Prep Smoker: Clean smoker before smoking your turkey. Remove any ash and clean grates. Fill your smoker halfway full with half apple wood and half cherry wood. Heat smoker to 275°-300°F.
  2. Place Turkey over Indirect Heat: This is important, place your prepared turkey in aluminum roasting pan over indirect heat so it doesn’t burn the bottom of the bird. We used ceramic plates on a Kamado Joe Smoker to ensure indirect heat. Place the turkey in the smoker uncovered. Close smoker and cook for 45 minutes. 
  3. Baste Turkey with the drippings and broth from the bottom of the pan. Make sure you cover every part of the bird, this will help with browning and add flavor! 
  4. Continue to baste the Turkey every 30 minutes for another 1.5 hours during this roasting process. If you run out of basting liquid, add more stock. Here is an easy-to-follow chart when it comes to cook time for turkey.
  5. Temperature Check. Start checking the temperature of your turkey in the thickest part of the thigh. Remove turkey from the oven when the thermometer reads 165°F.
  6. Let Turkey Rest. Cover your turkey with a tin foil tent and let sit for 15 minutes. This will allow the juices to redistribute and also continue ‘cooking’ the turkey. Safe temperature to serve is 165 degrees F for the thigh and 180 degrees F for the turkey breast.


Nutrition

  • Serving Size: .5 lb
  • Calories: 352
  • Sugar: 2 g
  • Sodium: 774 mg
  • Fat: 16 g
  • Saturated Fat: 5 g
  • Carbohydrates: 6 g
  • Fiber: 0 g
  • Protein: 42 g
  • Cholesterol: 140 mg

Keywords: smoked turkey, how to smoke a turkey, turkey spice rub

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Krista
Hi! I'm the recipe developer and food photographer behind all these easy healthy recipes! I love food, Jesus, morning lattes, and am obsessed with fantasy football!

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