Cooking Techniques for BBQ Thanksgiving | Grilling with Rich Cooking Techniques for BBQ Thanksgiving

Smoking: An alternative to the traditional turkey roast

Posted By: Richard Wachtel
Published: October 6, 2014

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Editors Note: We would like to thank our great friends at Thermoworks for providing another great barbecue and grilling article.

Don’t forget to check out our BBQ Thanksgiving Themed Website to make your next Thanksgiving memorable.  


Smoking: An Alternative to the Traditional Turkey Roast

Here at the ThermoWorks we’ve been hard at work pouring over recipes looking for the perfect alternative to the traditional Thanksgiving turkey roast. We’ve consulted with top chefs and leading BBQ gurus, and have cooked up the better part of a “gang” of turkeys. Finally, we’ve come up with – what we believe – is a great way to shake things up this 4th Thursday in November.

Smoking a turkey, as opposed to roasting, will not only free up your indoor oven for more important things (e.g. pie), but will also add a unique flavor that your guests may have never had before. And because smoking meats hearkens back to our pilgrim forbearers, it’s only right that this Thanksgiving you introduce your guests to the rich and flavorful tradition of smoked meats.

Step One: Prepare the Pit

Smoking a turkey requires an outdoor cooker. To be honest, a gas grill or traditional grill will work too, it’ll just require a little creativity to help you achieve the indirect cooking method you’re looking for. But, that’s another article. Suffice it to say, you don’t want to try and smoke a turkey in the house. Consider yourself warned!

Don’t forget to check out our BBQ Thanksgiving Themed Website to make your next Thanksgiving memorable.  

To achieve an even cook throughout the bird you’re going to want to steady the heat in your pit between 235-275°F. This is going to require just the right amount of coals (or wood), a quick lesson in ventilation and a few heavy duty thermocouple temperature probes to give you accurate temperature readings. (We found that cooking lower and slower helps the meat retain much of its moisture and more often than not, leads to a delicious flavorful bird. Where possible, aim low!)

Lay down a layer of unlit coals at the bottom of your cooker (For a four-hour cook we used an estimated 10 lb of charcoal.). In an effort to achieve an even burn throughout, add several hot embers to the top of the unlit coals and let them go to work until they’ve brought your smoker up to temperature.


Adjust the vents on the bottom and top of the smoker until you’ve achieved your ideal cooking temperature. Opening the vents will allow for more airflow and will increase the heat. Closing the vents will shut off the airflow and decrease the heat. Play with the vents until you find the perfect balance and achieve a steady temperature.

Most cookers come with factory installed dial thermometers mounted to the hood of the pit. Whatever you do, don’t count on them to give you an accurate indication of what’s going on inside your cooker. Not only can they be several degrees off, but positioned in the dome of the cooker, they’re not telling you what’s happening near the turkey on the grates.

Know what’s going on inside your cooker with professional-grade thermocouple sensors that clip directly onto the grill grates. They’ll give you accurate and real-time temperature readings. When you know the actual temperature you’ll be better able to adjust the vents and stabilize your temperatures.


Grilling a Holiday Turkey - How to Grill a Turkey in a Smoker

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