Smoke a Perfect Turkey: Masterbuilt Smoker Guide & Recipe

I’ve explored various recipes using different electric smokers, but when it came to smoking a turkey, the Masterbuilt was my top choice. This decision stemmed from its reputation for consistent cooking and flavor enhancement.

Smoking a turkey in the Masterbuilt is more than just a cooking method; it’s an experience. The smoker simplifies the process, making it accessible and enjoyable, even for beginners.

Whether planning a family gathering, preparing a special Thanksgiving feast, or simply exploring new culinary techniques, this guide will guide you through the basics of smoking a turkey to guarantee a flawless result every time.

From selecting the right turkey to the finishing touches of the turkey recipe that make your humble bird into a smoky BBQ master piece, we’ll cover everything you need to know to impress your guests and enjoy a beautifully smoked turkey.

Electric smoker turkey recipe

Smoking a turkey in an electric smoker especially on masterbuilt is too easy and it is a fantastic way to infuse the bird with a deep, smoky flavor while keeping the meat moist and tender.

This method is straightforward, making it perfect for both beginners and seasoned cooks looking to enjoy a hassle-free holiday or any occasion meal.

the electric smoker that i use

Ingredients That I Used:

  • 1 whole turkey (10-14 pounds), you need to make sure it is completely thawed and brined.
  • For aromatics I personally use turkey with fresh herbs, onions, lemon, and celery.

Turkey Rub

  • For rub stick 2 tablespoons olive oil (If you don’t have olive oil, other cooking oils like canola or vegetable oil can be used as substitutes. )
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional, for a little heat)


  • Electric Smoker, the core piece of equipment. For this recipe my fvt choice was masterbuilt but this recipe also works great for other electric smokers because they maintain a consistent temperature throughout the cooking process. Make sure it’s large enough to accommodate your turkey.
  • Meat Thermometer: A digital probe thermometer that can stay in the turkey while it smokes is especially useful.
  • Wood chips of your choice (I use strong and light wood of hickory, with apple, or cherry are great options)
  • Large Mixing Bowl or Pot: You’ll need something large enough to hold your turkey and the brine solution. I use a bowl or pot for brining.
  • Butcher’s Twine: For trussing the turkey, which helps it cook more evenly.
  • Basting Brush: If you choose to baste your turkey with a glaze or its juices during the smoking process.

Choose the perfect turkey

First, figure out how many people will eat the turkey. by removing bones, giblets, and fat. Plan for 1 to 1.5 pounds of turkey per adult.

If your family members and guests are around 10-12, then you can pick the turkey that weighs around 12-14 pounds.

select turkey

Masterbuilt smokers can typically accommodate a turkey up to 20 pounds, but always check your smoker’s specifications to be sure. Most electric smokers feature removable racks, which, when taken out, provide ample vertical space to smoke additional items.

Turkeys mainly come in two types: self-basting and heritage. If you prefer a turkey that requires less prep and are okay with added flavors from the basting solution, a self-basting turkey might be the way to go. On the other hand, if you’re after a more traditional taste and texture and are willing to invest more time in preparation, a heritage turkey could offer a more rewarding experience.

What chips are best for smoking turkey?

Different types of wood impart different flavors, ranging from mild to strong, so selecting the right one can enhance the natural taste of the turkey without overpowering it.

Sweet-flavored wood chips are great for poultry. Use apple, maple, cherry, and peach varieties to add a smoky flavor.

wood chips

I combine cherry and hickory wood chips to create smoke. This excellent mix uses the sweetness of cherry wood and the strength of hickory wood to perfectly smoke the turkey meat.

It’s not necessary to stick with combinations; you can also use pure wood types. For example, using just hickory or oak might be a bit overpowering.

Thawing turkey

If you plan to brine the turkey for more than a day, you need to allow enough time for the turkey to thaw before you start brining. Therefore, begin this process up to one week before the special occasion.

Thaw the turkey in a way that suits you, but keep this fact in mind while thawing the turkey.

  • A terrible idea is to defrost turkey at room temperature, such as on the kitchen counter, because bacteria can grow rapidly on the outer layers of the turkey while the inside remains frozen.
  • Allow 24 hours of thawing time for every 3-5 pounds of turkey to ensure it is properly defrosted.
  • Never attempt to speed up the thawing process by using hot water. This can lead to unsafe temperature variations that encourage bacterial growth on the turkey’s surface.

Brining your turkey

Brining your turkey before smoking is a fantastic way to enhance its flavor and ensure it stays moist and tender during the cooking process.

Brining is a technique that tenderizes meat by soaking it in a mixture of water, salt, and spices, a method also known as wet brining.

brine into mixture of water and other ingredients

Many people avoid wet brining, considering it a waste of ingredients, and prefer dry brining by applying salt and flavors directly to the meat. I use both methods for various recipes. For instance, I mostly use dry brine for brisket, but for Thanksgiving, especially for turkey, I use wet brine.

Simply in a large pot, combine water, salt, sugar (if using), and your chosen herbs and spices. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring until the salt and sugar are fully dissolved. Remove from heat.

Add some cool water or ice to cool down the mixture.

Place the turkey in a large brining bag or a non-reactive pot (such as stainless steel, glass, or plastic). Seal the bag or cover the pot and refrigerate the turkey in the brine for 12 to 24 hours. If you don’t have enough refrigerator room, use an insulated cooler by putting ice. Avoid brining for too long as it can make the turkey too salty.

When the time is complete remove the turkey from the brine, discard the brine, and rinse the turkey under cold water to remove excess salt. Pat the turkey dry with paper towels.

Preparing the Masterbuilt Smoker

Preparing your Masterbuilt smoker correctly is key to achieving the best smoking results for your turkey or any other meats. Here’s a guide to get your Masterbuilt ready for action:

  • Before smoking your turkey, preheat your Masterbuilt smoker to the recommended temperature at 275F just like the gas grill or charcoal smoker. Basically for turkey, that’s usually around 225°F to 250°F (107°C to 121°C). Preheating ensures a stable cooking environment from the start.
  • Open the top vent slightly to allow for proper airflow. This helps regulate the smoke density and temperature inside the smoker. The position might vary based on weather conditions and personal preference, but a partially open vent is a good starting point.
  • Fill the water pan with water or a mixture of water and apple cider vinegar. This helps maintain a moist environment inside the smoker, which can keep your turkey juicy.

Smoking the Turkey in a Masterbuilt

So, once the turkey is thawed and brined, and the smoker is prepared, it’s ready to be placed in the electric smoker. The smoker I use is a Digital Electric model with the capacity to smoke two whole birds at a single time.

Season your turkey

Now that your turkey is thawed and dried, it’s time to add some final flavor enhancements.

Remove any giblets from the cavity and pat the turkey dry with paper towels inside and out. This helps the skin get crispy.

Add some aromatic to the cavity like quartered onions, apple slices, garlic cloves, and fresh herbs.

seasoning the turkey

To cook everything evenly and keep the aromatics in place, I also like to tie the legs together with butcher’s twine, pulling the legs close to the breast.

To apply the rub, use either olive oil or melted butter. Alternatively, you can spray the turkey with cooking spray, which is the simplest method as I consider.

Sprinkle a generous amount of the seasoning mix inside the turkey’s cavity. Then, rub the rest of the seasoning mix all over the outside of the turkey. For an even deeper flavor, gently lift the skin over the breast meat and rub some of the seasoning directly onto the meat.

Smoking your turkey

Once everything is ready, that’s the perfect time to smoke your turkey.

For smoking turkey in an electric smoker, I typically use my Masterbuilt 30-Inch Digital Electric Smoker for about 3.5-4 hours with cherry wood chips.

Once you’ve prepared the smoker and it starts producing smoke, place the turkey breast-side up on the smoker rack. If your smoker comes with a built-in meat probe, insert it into the thickest part of the breast or thigh, making sure to avoid bones. Set the smoker’s timer for 30 minutes per pound. For example, a 12-pound turkey might take around 6 hours to smoke.

smoking turkey at masterbuilt smoker

This timing is not a fixed guideline; you need to keep an eye on the thermometer and check the bird until it’s fully cooked. And close the smoker, make sure the vent of the electric smoker to be bit open.

Every hour basting the turkey with butter and adding more chips as needed to maintain smoke production. 

The turkey is done when the internal temperature reaches 165°F (74°C) in the thickest parts of the breast and thigh. Use a meat thermometer to check.

Resting and serving

After removing the bird from the smoker, transfer the turkey to a cutting board or serving platter. Loosely cover it with aluminum foil to keep it warm. This makeshift tent helps to retain heat without further cooking the turkey.

Let the turkey rest for at least 20 to 30 minutes before carving. For larger turkeys, a rest time of up to 45 minutes can be beneficial.

A masterfully smoked turkey, ready to impress, straight from your Masterbuilt electric smoker.