This Thanksgiving, take your turkey to the next level with brining and smoking. Brining keeps the meat incredibly moist and seasoned while smoking infuses it with a delicious smoky flavor. If you're ready to elevate your turkey game and impress your guests with a moist and flavorful bird, then brining and smoking the turkey is the way to go. Follow these simple steps for the best smoked turkey recipe you've ever tasted!
There's nothing quite like the mouthwatering aroma of a perfectly smoked turkey wafting through the air during the holiday season. While we love to smoke ham and ribeye roasts for holiday meals, I finally decided it was time to smoke a turkey. This turkey recipe was definitely inspired by the crock pot turkey breast recipe too. This is a more savory, almost spicy or cajun turkey recipe.
- Why Brine the Turkey?
- Ingredients for Turkey Brine
- Choose the Right Turkey
- What's the stuff in my turkey?
- Instructions - How to Smoke a Whole Turkey
- Make the Brine
- Prepare the Smoker
- Preparing the Turkey for the Smoker
- Smoking Time for a Whole Turkey:
- Variations to Turkey Brine and Smoking
- Turkey Smoking Equipment
- Top tip
- More Thanksgiving Recipes
- Other Smoked Meat
- 📖 Recipe
- Food safety
Why Brine the Turkey?
Brining involves soaking the turkey in a saltwater solution before cooking. The saltwater permeates the meat, seasoning it throughout and keeping it incredibly moist and tender. The salt also enhances the turkey's flavor. While roasting alone relies on basting to add moisture, brining ensures your meat stays succulent.
Ingredients for Turkey Brine
Brining is a crucial step in ensuring a juicy and flavorful turkey. The salt in the brine helps the turkey retain moisture, resulting in a more succulent end product. Here's a simple brine recipe to get you started:
- brown sugar
- black peppercorns
- ice water
- Poultry Spicy Seasoning - I coated the entire turkey with the chicka licka bam bam chicken seasoning. A rotisserie chicken seasoning is also a great option if you want something less spicy.
See recipe card for quantities.
Choose the Right Turkey
Select a 10-15 lb turkey to smoke. The smaller size fits better in most smokers. Either a fresh or frozen turkey is fine to smoke. The turkey will need to be completely thawed before brining. For a fifteen-pound turkey move it to the fridge three days before you want to smoke the turkey
What's the stuff in my turkey?
In the body cavity of the turkey, you will find the turkey neck and giblets. The turkey giblets are the turkey gizzards and turkey liver. These parts of the turkey are great for making the turkey broth or even using it for extra flavor in your stuffing or dressing.
Instructions - How to Smoke a Whole Turkey
While this smoked turkey recipe and instructions are for smoking a turkey the brine works for a traditional oven baked turkey as well. Brining is a was to add moisture to the meat without basting the turkey.
Make the Brine
Start making the brine by chopping the celery and onions up and mincing the garlic. Dissolve the salt and brown sugar in a gallon of hot water. Add any desired herbs, spices, or citrus. Add ice to cool down the hot water. Make enough brine to submerge the turkey.
Place half the chopped vegetables inside the turkey in a large container. Add the remaining vegetables to the container and pour brine over to cover. Refrigerate 8-12 hours for 12-16 lb turkey.
Prepare the Smoker
Set up your smoker with a water pan and aromatic wood like apple, cherry, or pecan. For electric smokers, preheat to 225°F. For charcoal, light coals and maintain a temp of 225-250°F. This low, indirect heat perfectly smokes the turkey. Maintain this temp throughout the 4-6 hours of smoking time. This turkey needs smoked in indirect heat so for the Big Green Egg, place the conveggtor plate setter in the BGE then place a pan with two to three cups of water on the plate before placing the grill grate on top.
Preparing the Turkey for the Smoker
Remove the turkey from the brine and pat it dry with paper towels. Let it sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes to promote even cooking.
Coat the turkey with a light layer of butter or olive oil and generously season with chicka licka bam bam chicken seasoning and any other desired spices.
Place the turkey on the smoker rack, breast side up. Insert a meat thermometer into the thickest thigh area.
Smoking Time for a Whole Turkey:
- Estimate around 15-30 minutes per pound at the recommended temperature.
- Baste the turkey with a mixture of melted butter and herbs every 1-2 hours to enhance the flavor and keep the meat moist.
- Use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature of the turkey. The thickest part of the thigh should register 165°F (74°C). Once the turkey reaches this temperature, it's ready to be taken off the smoker.
- Total smoking cooking time is usually 4-6 hours depending on the size of the turkey.
Allow the turkey to rest for at least 20-30 minutes before carving. This allows the juices to redistribute throughout the meat, ensuring a juicy and flavorful bite with every slice.
Hint: Use the drip pan that sat under the turkey for making the best gravy to top the mashed potatoes and turkey off.
Variations to Turkey Brine and Smoking
Want to change up the flavors of the turkey?
- Citrus - add slices of oranges to the brine. A splash of orange juice in the brine will also work.
- Apple - Both sliced apples and apple cider to the brine to give a sweet apple essence to the brine. Cook the turkey with the apple pieces in the cavity with the celery and onions.
- Cajun - add cajun seasoning to the cavity and outside of the turkey for a spicy cajun turkey.
Turkey Smoking Equipment
Get the right kitchen tools to make this turkey on the smoker or even in the oven.
Tell your visitors what equipment you use and how to adjust the recipe if they use something different, and link to your affiliate link to purchase the equipment.
Store the leftover sliced turkey in the fridge to make some easy leftover turkey sandwiches or turkey and noodles.
Freeze the turkey in a freezer bag for up to three months for a quick weeknight meal that can be used in turkey casseroles.
Use the drip pan that sat under the turkey for making the best gravy to top the mashed potatoes and turkey off.
A 10-14 pound turkey smoked at 225-250 degrees will take anywhere from 15-30 minutes a pound to cook. This means it should take 4-6 hours, roughly to smoke a turkey.
For the best results of not having a smoked turkey dry out, start with brining the turkey for 12 hours. Then be sure to have a pan of water under the turkey as it smokes. Basting the turkey with broth and butter during the smoking process will also help. Lastly, remove the turkey as soon as it reaches 165 degrees. Overcooking will also dry the turkey out.
More Thanksgiving Recipes
Looking for other recipes to serve on Thanksgiving? Try these:
Other Smoked Meat
These are my favorite dishes to serve with [this recipe]:
Easy Smoked Turkey
- 8 cups water
- ½ cup brown sugar
- 3 tablespoons Seasoning Salt like chicka licka bam bam chicken seasoning
- 1 cup sea salt
- 10-14 pounds Whole Turkey
- 3 stalks of celery chopped
- 1 onion rough chopped
- 4 garlic cloves chopped
- 4 tablespoons butter divided in half
- ½ cup chicka licka bam bam chicken seasoning
- 4 tablespoons Olive oil or butter
- Mix brine ingredients together. Place the chopped celery, onions, and garlic in the Turkey cavity after you remove the neck and giblets.
- Place turkey and remaining veggies in large container or tote and pour brine over top.
- Refrigerate overnight.
- Keep vegetables in the Turkey cavity and season with chicken seasoning
- Fill the breast cavity with the veggies and two slabs of butter.
- Any leftover veggies left add around the turkey
- Drizzle the breast with olive oil or melted butter and doused in seasonings.
- Prepare the smoker to 225℉ and place the plate setter in the Egg. Then place a drip pan with 2-3 cups of water beneath the grill rack.
- Cook the turkey unil it reaches 165℉ in the thigh.
When cooking poultry, keeping food safety top of mind is so important.
- Cook to a minimum temperature of 165 °F (74 °C)
- Do not use the same utensils on cooked food, that previously touched raw meat
- Wash hands after touching raw meat
- Don't leave food sitting out at room temperature for extended periods
- Never leave cooking food unattended