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Smoked Self-Basting Turkey

Photo: Hector Sanchez; Styling: Buffy Hargett Miller


Hands-on time 20 mins
Total time 6 hrs, 50 mins
Yield Makes 8 to 10 servings
Chris Lilly, one of our favorite pitmasters and four-time Memphis in May grand champion, taught SL recipe tester and developer Pam Lolley this cool technique. The key? Mounding herb butter on top of the breast, covering the bird with aluminum foil, and cutting a slit in the foil. The butter will slowly melt and baste the turkey as it cooks, and the smoke will permeate the bird through the hole. Find more techniques in Chris' book, Fire & Smoke.


  • 1 (12- to 14-lb.) whole fresh or frozen turkey, thawed
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 fresh thyme sprigs
  • 2 fresh sage sprigs
  • Kitchen string
  • 1 (12 7/8- x 10-inch) disposable aluminum foil roasting pan
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh sage
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 to 2 cups hickory or oak wood chips

How to Make It

  1. Light 1 side of grill, heating to 225° to 250°; leave other side unlit. Close grill lid, and maintain temperature 15 to 20 minutes.

  2. Remove giblets and neck from turkey; pat turkey dry. Sprinkle salt and pepper over skin and inside turkey cavity; place thyme sprigs and sage sprigs inside cavity. Tie ends of legs together with string, and tuck wing tips under; place turkey, breast side up, in pan.

  3. Stir together softened butter, chopped sage, and chopped thyme. Shape butter mixture into a 2-inch ball; press ball firmly onto top of turkey breast. Cover roasting pan with a double layer of heavy-duty aluminum foil, sealing edges tightly. Cut a 2- x 1-inch hole in foil directly over butter.

  4. Place wood chips directly on hot coals. Place pan with turkey on unlit side of grill; cover with grill lid.

  5. Smoke turkey, maintaining temperature inside grill between 225° and 250°, for 6 to 7 hours or until a meat thermometer inserted in thickest portion of turkey thigh registers 165° to 170°. Peel back foil from turkey during last 1 to 1 1/2 hours of cooking time.

  6. Remove turkey from grill; let stand 15 minutes before carving.