How to Keep a Smoked Turkey From Drying Out

by Petra Wakefield ; Updated December 06, 2017

Smoking your holiday turkey adds a layer of of distinctive flavor that adults and kids alike will appreciate. You don't need to add butter or oil to a smoked turkey to keep it moist, so you can serve your family a lean, healthy main course. Use one or more techniques that keep moisture from escaping while the turkey cooks to prevent it from drying out.

Step 1

Brine your turkey to lock in up to 50 percent more moisture than you would without a brine. Place the turkey in a plastic turkey cooking bag and immerse it in water -- measure the water as you add it so you know how much it takes to cover the turkey. Add 1 cup of table salt or 2 cups of kosher salt per gallon of water. Close the bag and refrigerate the turkey 12 to 24 hours. Discard the brine, rinse the turkey with fresh water and pat it dry with paper towels.

Step 2

Start the smoker with the humidity around 60 percent and the temperature at 140 degrees Fahrenheit to prevent moisture from escaping. After the turkey cooks at this temperature for four hours, increase the temperature by 10 degrees Fahrenheit every 20 minutes until you reach 190 degrees. Keep the smoker at this temperature until the internal temperature of the turkey reaches 165 degrees for a brined turkey or 175 degrees Fahrenheit for a turkey that wasn't brined. The total cooking time should be 10 to 12 hours.

Step 3

Monitor the internal temperature of the turkey closely as it reaches the end of the cooking time; cooking too long dries out the meat. Either watch for the pop-up thermometer to pop up or insert an instant read thermometer at the inside of the thigh. When the turkey reaches the correct temperature, immediately remove it from the smoker.

Items you will need

  • Plastic turkey cooking bag
  • Salt
  • Water


  • Use herbs, spices and sweetener to add flavor to the brine. You can also replace part or all of the water with another liquid.

    If you don't have 10 to 12 hours to smoke the turkey, cook it at a higher temperature. Smoke at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes, then turn the heat down to 250 degrees and cook for about 30 minutes per pound.

    Refrigerate leftover smoked turkey, or freeze it for up to 10 months.

About the Author

Petra Wakefield is a writing professional whose work appears on various websites, focusing primarily on topics about science, fitness and outdoor activities. She holds a Master of Science in agricultural engineering from Texas A&M University.