How to Smoke a Turkey Texas Style

by Meg Jernigan

A bit of spice and native Texas wood chips give smoked turkey a burst of Southwestern flavor. Brining the turkey beforehand keeps it moist while it smokes and adds a just a hint of saltiness. You don’t have to have a fancy smoker or wait a long time for the finished product. A simple charcoal grill suffices, but if you’re a cook who takes as much pleasure from the process as the finished project, using a smoker triples the time it takes to smoke a turkey Texas style.

Brine the turkey. In a large pot, combine enough water to cover the turkey, red pepper flakes to taste and equal parts brown sugar and salt. Stir the mixture until the salt and sugar dissolve. Remove the giblet pack and neck from the turkey cavities and submerge the turkey, breast side down, in the brine. Cover the pot and put it in the refrigerator overnight.

Prepare the barbecue grill. Place charcoal in the center of the grill, light it and let it burn until the charcoal is covered with ash and hot. When the coals are ready, push them to the side -- the turkey cooks by indirect heat, rather than directly over the coals. Soak mesquite chips in water for half an hour, and add them to the coals.

Drain the brine from the turkey and discard it. Pat the turkey dry with paper towels and use kitchen twine to tie the legs together. Rub the skin with oil and sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper. Set the turkey on a rack in a roasting pan breast side up, add about an inch of water to the pan and set the pan on the side of the grill without charcoal. Cover the grill.

Smoke the turkey for about 3 hours, or 12 minutes per pound. Check the turkey from time to time and add soaked mesquite chips if the smoky smell begins to dissipate. Add charcoal as needed to maintain an even temperature. The turkey is done when a thermometer inserted into the meatiest part of the thigh reads 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

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Items you will need

  • Large pot
  • Red pepper flakes
  • Brown sugar
  • Salt
  • Barbecue grill
  • Charcoal
  • Mesquite chips
  • Paper towels
  • Kitchen twine
  • Oil
  • Roasting pan with rack
  • Probe thermometer


  • If you don’t have a large pot, use a turkey-sized oven cooking bag for the brining process. Put the brine in the bag, add the turkey, seal tightly and place it in the refrigerator.
  • Preheat a gas grill to medium-high and lower the center burners to medium-low when you put the turkey on. If the burners on your grill can’t be adjusted for indirect heat, use a charcoal grill or a smoker.
  • Add flavor by putting a few sprigs of fresh herbs, cloves of garlic or a stick of butter in the turkey cavity. For extra flavor, use a meat injector to infuse the turkey with a Southwestern marinade.
  • If you have an electric or charcoal smoker, follow the manufacturer’s instructions on how to bring the temperature to 250 F and hold it there for the 6 to 8 hours it will take to smoke the turkey. The method will vary, depending on the type of smoker you have.
  • Substitute a heavy-duty disposable roasting pan for a metal pan.
  • If parts of the turkey begin to brown too much, cover them with foil.


  • Do not stuff the turkey. Stuffing needs to come to an internal temperature of 165 F, which may not happen when you smoke the turkey.
  • Mesquite smoke has a very strong flavor -- use it sparingly.

About the Author

Meg Jernigan has been writing for more than 30 years. She specializes in travel, cooking and interior decorating. Her offline credits include copy editing full-length books and creating marketing copy for nonprofit organizations. Jernigan attended George Washington University, majoring in speech and drama.

Photo Credits

  • Goodshoot/Goodshoot/Getty Images