whole smoked turkey

EASY whole smoked turkey (with crispy skin)

Spatchcocking the bird so it lays flat means this turkey is smoked to perfection in just under three hours.

It used to be that you had to sacrifice crispy skin for smoke flavor when you made the decision to smoke your bird. But that doesn’t have to be the case! You can have the best of both worlds, and with a relatively short cook time, with a few simple steps.

Lay the bird flat for faster cook time

Spatchcocking or splaying the turkey means it can cook faster and easier. You don’t have to miss out on stuffing, just prepare it in a separate dish. You can even finish the stuffing in the smoker, too. Spatchcocking the bird is easy – simply use a pair of poultry shears to cut out the spine, then flip it over and press on the breast until it splits. I like to make a superficial cut into the sternum before I flip it to help make the cracking a little easier.

The right seasoning makes a huge difference

So much of the flavor of this delicate meat comes from what you add to it. I used Hardcore Carnivore Red (an all-purpose blend with a great natural color) but I also love their Fried Turkey flavor with garlic, sage & jalapeno.

Don’t make the mistake of double brining

Most birds you buy from the grocery store, even the ‘natural’ ones, will likely already have a brine solution added. It’ll say it right there on the packaging (sometimes it’s referred to as ‘enhanced’). Manufacturers do this in advance because turkeys can get notoriously dry, so home cooks will ultimately have a better (and jucier!) eating experience with a pre-brined bird. Brining a bird that has already been enhanced can denature the protein and lead to mushy meat.

Butter makes your turkey better

You may not need to double brine, but you can still maximize the moisture of the meat with a butter layer. Stuffing salted butter between the skin and meat will help baste and season the meat as it cooks.

Start hot, then finish low

The secret to the crispy skin is all in the temperature. Pellet grills have made it so easy to get smokers up to higher temps, and this is to your advantage. Starting the smoker hot then turning it down to more traditional low n slow temps is how the achieve great textured skin. I use Kingsford Classic pellets in my smoker because they’re 100% hardwood and a great combo of classic wood flavors.

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whole smoked turkey

EASY whole smoked turkey (with crispy skin)

  • Author: Jess Pryles



whole turkey, about 16lb
1/41/2 cup Hardcore Carnivore seasoning
1 stick salted butter, softened


  1. Spatchcock the turkey by cutting along the spine on both sides, and removing. Remove any giblets or neck pieces. Use a knife to score the breast bone, the flip the turkey breast side up, and press down to crack the breast bone flat. Tuck the wing tips under the breast to prevent burning. All the turkey meat should now be facing upwards.
  2. Heat a smoker to 450f.
  3. Use your thumb to create a pocket between the skin and meat over the breast and thighs, then stuff the pockets with butter.
  4. Season the turkey liberally with the Hardcore Carnivore seasoning.
  5. Place meat side up into the smoker, and cook for 15 minutes.
  6. Lower the temperature to 275f, and cook until the breast meat measures 165f internal temperature. For a 16lb turkey this will take about 2 hours. The cook time will increase if the bird is larger.
  7. Remove from smoker and serve.