Charcoal smoking 12lb turkey for Thanksgiving?


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Mar 15, 2005
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We've picked up a frozen 12lb turkey for Thanksgiving, and have a charcoal water smoker that's never been used as of yet. It's this one that was given to my wife as an employee gift: Amazon product

Reviews on Amazon don't look very good for this one, however we got it for free, it's brand new and never been used, and it all looks well built with no issues to me.

We have NEVER done this before. Any help or secrets anybody has to try this?
Smoking a nearly 13lb turkey in a Meco charcoal smoker, first time! Got the coals going, and it's been in there since 9am. I'm using Kingsford Applewood charcoal, with applewood chunks for smoke. It already has a nice patina on the skin from the smoke. It's going at about 200 - 225f, and should take about 7 hours or so, as it's only 36f outside today. We will be making a fresh apple pie for later also, along with stuffing on the stove.

Yes, it's sitting on an old Dish Network dish I dug out of somebodies junk to keep my deck from setting on fire. The cardboard is blocking the wind, as it's a little windy today.
I hope it turns out well... Stay tuned.

Update, 4pm: Coals started getting suffocated in ashes, and temps went way down. Pulled out the bowl and got rid of the ashes. Put the remaining still burning coals back in, and it's back up to 225f. I checked internal turkey temp, and it was around 158-160f, so almost there! Gotta make mods to the bowl that holds the charcoal to get ashes out easier, for future smokes.
2nd update, 6:45pm. Just finished eating smoked turkey dinner. It was in the smoker for 8.5 hours. Turned out great, if a little longer than I expected! First smoked turkey I ever did, definitely has a different "smoky" taste compared to "regular" over turkey. If we ever do it again, we'll get a slightly smaller turkey, and make some additional mods to the smoker to keep temps up a little higher.
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I find using charcoal to smoke for 2-3 hours then moving the food to a preheated electric smoker, or even inside oven if you don’t have an electric smoker, produces almost the same results without the ashes problem or constant temperature tweaking. This is especially important for my 24 hour pork butt runs.
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