November 22, 2014

Smoked Turkey Recipe

If you want a Smoked Turkey this year, I highly recommend it. You can skip the traditional roasted bird or the deep fried bird and fire up your smoker.

Once you try this smoked turkey recipe, you’ll never cook turkey any other way.

The first thing we need to talk when for Smoked Turkey is what size bird to buy.  I prefer the 10-12lb avg. turkeys.

This size turkey cooks evenly throughout the breast and thighs, and the meat is very tender in young turkeys.  You can find them at any grocery store this time of year sometimes for as low as .29 per lb if you watch the sales ads.

Smoked Turkey

Most of the time, it’s going to be a frozen bird which is perfectly ok as long as you know how to thaw it properly.

The safest way is to give yourself plenty of time and let it thaw slowly in the refrigerator. It takes several days to thaw a 12lb turkey, so you’ll need to plan your cook well in advance.

If you do get in a pinch and have to hurry the thaw, place the turkey in a large vessel and fill it with water. Never let a turkey sit out and thaw on the counter; it creates the perfect environment for harmful bacteria to grow.

Once you have the turkey thawed, remove the neck and giblets (most turkeys have these stuffed in the neck and cavity areas), and rinse the bird under cool water.

Now it’s time for the brine.  

You don’t have to brine your bird, but it makes all the difference in the end.I brine my turkeys for 24 hours. This soak gives the turkey plenty of time to absorb flavor throughout the entire bird, and it makes for a juicier final product.

My Smoked Turkey Brine Recipe:

  • 2 gallons of tap water
  • 1 cup Brown Sugar
  • 1 cup Molasses
  • 1 cup Honey
  • 1 ½ cup Salt
  • ¼ cup Killer Hog’s The BBQ Rub
  • 3-4 Bay Leaves
  • Fresh Thyme Bundle
  • 1Tbsp Whole Peppercorns

In a large stock pot bring 1 gallon of water to a boil and add the brown sugar, molasses, honey, bbq rub, and bay leaves. Once the ingredients have dissolved turn off the heat and allow the mixture to cool. I make this the night before and refrigerate until time to brine.

The best way I’ve found to brine a Smoked Turkey is using a XL Ziplock bag inside a cooler. This way everything is contained and if there is any leakage it will be contained in the cooler.

Place the turkey inside the storage bag and pour in the brine. This is when I toss in the thyme bundle and peppercorns (and you can use any herbs or aromatics you like here).

Top the turkey off with an additional gallon of water and the entire bird should be covered.  Close the bag and lay a bag of ice on top (this will help keep the turkey submerged). Let the turkey soak for 24 hours replacing the ice as needed.

The next day remove the turkey from the brine and rinse under cool water. Allow it to drain and pat off any excess water with paper towels.

Cut a couple apples in half and stuff in the cavity. I also add onion and celery. This will add mass to the turkey helping it cook even and gives it some additional flavor.

smoked turkey brined and rubbed

To season the Smoked Turkey skin I use a mixture of:

  • 1 cup Kosher Salt
  • 1 cup Granulated Garlic
  • 1 Tbsp Poultry Seasoning

**NOTE: This is more seasoning than you will need for one turkey, but it will keep for several months in an air tight container. I keep it in a ziplock bag, and fill a Stainless Shaker with enough to last a couple weeks. It stays in my spice cabinet and anytime we’re cooking poultry, it gets some of this seasoning.

First spray the outside of the turkey with cooking spray to help the seasonings stick to the skin and keep the outside from getting to dark.  Apply the seasoning mix to the outside making sure to cover everything; then apply a light layer of Killer Hog’s The BBQ Rub.

The next step is to inject the turkey.  You can use a store bought injection like Tony’s Creole Butter, but I created my own version.  Here’s the recipe:
Smoked Turkey Butter Injection

  • 1 stick real butter
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 Tbsp Hot Sauce
  • 1 tsp Granulated Garlic
  • 1 tsp Cajun Seasoning (I used Louisiana brand)

Melt the butter in a sauce pan and add the chicken broth, hot sauce, garlic, and Cajun seasoning. Whisk the ingredients together and remove from heat once incorporated.  It doesn’t need to come to a boil.

Let the injection cool and shoot it into the turkey. You can check out the BDI Injector I used in my video here >>

Hit the breast in 3-4 locations on each side and do the same for the legs and thighs.  Before placing the turkey on the smoker, use butcher twine to secure the legs and wings.

Smoked Turkey ready for smoker
Now, after all of that comes the easy part… smoking the turkey. 

I smoke turkeys at temps between 275-300 degrees. Higher temps make for a better bird. The outer skin turns a beautiful mahogany color and is almost crispy.For smoke, I use pecan or a fruit wood like cherry. And it’s pretty easy to over-smoke a turkey, so go easy on the wood.

Place the turkey on the smoker and set a timer for 1 ½ hours. As long as you maintain temps, there’s not much to do, just let it cook.

To make your life a lot easier – every BBQ’er and griller needs a Thermapen – an instant-read thermometer.  And using a DOT (probe thermometer) will allow you to monitor the Turkey while you cook and even set to alarm when it hits the right internal temp.

When the timer goes off, rotate the turkey on the rack to ensure it is cooking evenly on all sides.  I never flip the turkey.  It stays on the back, breast up, the entire cook.

turkey on smoker

It takes about 3 ½ hours to smoke a 10-12lb turkey but checking the internal temps is key.  It has to hit at least 165 in the breast and 175 in the thigh. Once again – this is when a Thermapen comes in real handy.

When you stick the turkey, juices should run out clear. There should be no trace of blood or pink colored liquid.

I start checking the internal about the 2 ½ hour mark just to see where it is.  At this point if the outside is starting to get dark, I’ll lay a piece of aluminum foil over it.  The foil acts as a tent and will prevent the skin from browning any further.

Once I see a temp of 165 in the thickest part of the breast and the juices are running clear out of the thigh (175 internal), the turkey is done…. Almost… you want to let it rest for at least 15 minutes before carving.  If you go at it too soon with the knife, all of the juices will run out onto your cutting board and you’ll have dry turkey.  Be patient and let things cool off for a few minutes.

smoked turkey ready to eat

Now your ready to dig in…

Once you try Smoked Turkey you won’t be able to stomach oven cooked bird. This turkey is guaranteed to be the star of your Thanksgiving feast, so brush up on your carving skills and Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

 

Tips for Smoked Turkeys:

– You can baste your turkey with apple juice every few hours to give it more flavor and keep it really moist… but it is not necessary, just an added step you can follow if you have the extra time.

– I let my turkey smoke for 2 hours, then check my coals and then take a look-see at the bird. If it looks dark, give it a good spray. If it looks fine, check it out in another 30 min. or so.

– Keep a good smoke on it the entire time and start checking the internal temp after 1 ½ hrs. If you do notice that the turkey is getting darker than you want it, Take a big piece of aluminum foil and tent the bird. This will keep it from getting any darker.

– Remove the turkey once you get it to the proper internal temp and allow it to rest before carving. If you don’t let it rest, all of the juice will run out when you start carving resulting in a dry turkey.

Malcom Reed
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Smoked Turkey Recipe

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76 Comments

  1. John Taylor says:

    Great recipe I am going to do this on Thanksgiving. One question I have to to grandmas house about hour away , how do i keep it warm , Just use towels and put in cooler ? Thanks for great information

    • Yeah, that is exactly what I would do. Pull it off the smoker, wrap it in aluminium foil and put it in a dry cooler with some towels lining the bottom. The hour rest in that cooler will be fine and it will still be warm when you go to slice it.

  2. Fernando says:

    Thanks a bunch for this turkey video. The family will be impressed when but out the bird! I’ll be ordering your rub soon!

  3. Brett Cunningham says:

    Great recipe Malcom! I Smoked 12 turkeys last year and 100% of the people that got them have called and wanted me to do it again.

  4. Mikey says:

    Malcom,
    I’m gonna do your smoked turkey recipe on Thanksgiving day
    I just made the brine and man it smells great !n my kitchen (I Mean Great)
    I did your BBQ meatloaf recipe last weekend and Loved it
    I’ll be putting My 13lb bird on my Pellet Pro Grill Thursday am @ 11am
    It will be 20 degrees outside and thats the beauty of pellet smokers i can smoke meat all year long, right through Wisconsin’s long cold winter
    Thanks Again & Go Packers
    & keep the recipes coming and i will let you know how it the the outcome

  5. Kenneth Bishop says:

    Malcom,
    I followed this video exactly to a “T”. I smoked 2 turkeys. One for myself and one for a friend. Needless to say I am the smoking king, at least for their neck of the woods. It was awesome. thanks for the video

  6. Jamie P. Bishop says:

    Put the turkey in the brine & can’t wait to put it on the smoker tomorrow. My mouth is watering already!!! Also gonna use your recipe for smoked ham. Man am I gonna be eating good. Love Your site, hell I even bought your spice rub & a few other items.

  7. Vince says:

    The flavour of this bird was fantastic. My company raved that this is what turkey is suppose to taste like. couldn’t believe the moisture in the white meat, even in the leftovers the next day!! Your recipes definitely deliver.

    thanks Malcom

  8. Excellent recipes! I have a customer who recommended this recipe while I was updating our community page on our website. We do chicken! But this works amazing on our chickens too! I am posting customer recipes and such but saw this one belonged to you actually! So figured I’d better ask you if I could share this on our webpage for other people to try on their chickens? Keep cooking up the good stuff! We appreciate it

  9. Jason B. says:

    I’m going to be smoking the turkey in a couple days. How necessary is the brine will it still turn out good if I skip that process?

    • Oh yeah – it will still turn out great without putting your turkey in the brine. If I’m close on time, I’ll skip the brine occasionally. The brine just gives the turkey more flavor and moisture. It adds to the finished product.. but skipping this step isn’t going to take anything away.

  10. Anonymous says:

    What about smoking a turky with a rotisserie?

  11. Todd says:

    If you brine the bird, do you really need to inject? It seems the brine would bring enough flavor to the process.

    I really enjoy watching your videos. Keep them coming.

    • It’s just another layer of flavor. You can just do one or the other – but when I’m cooking turkeys for the family, I like to brine and then inject with the creole butter. It makes a super moist and delicious turkey.

  12. Dion says:

    I am not one to leave comments, but after smoking a turkey breast this weekend following the recipe above, I just had too.

    It turned out amazing!!

    The brine was the key and adding some cherry wood to add to the sweetness even had my youngest kid eating it.

    Thanks for the guidance and looking forward to my next smoke.

    Side note: I didn’t do the injection and I opted to sit it in a cast iron skillet on top of some veggies.

  13. Art says:

    Malcolm, besides taking more time, why not smoke in the conventional 225-250 temp range? Thanks for the great videos, recipes, and products. You’ve brought my smokin’ and bbq’n to the next level.

    • The reason for smoking at the higher temp is to over-come the “chewy” skin. Your skin isn’t going to get crispy on a smoker, but it can be nice and bite-through, which is what the higher temps do.

  14. Bob says:

    Malcom, I am looking forward to trying the smoked turkey recipe this year. At any point during the process can I put dressing (stuffing) in the bird ?

    • Yeah, I get this question all the time… stuffing the bird is no problem. You would just start off with the stuffing inside the bird and replace the apples and onions.

      The only crucial thing about stuffing is that you have to make sure it temps out to 165 too… that just ensures that all the juices from the bird that got into the stuffing have reached the safe temp.

  15. k.kiser says:

    Sounds good but I have found doing a dry brine for 36 hrs in the fridge as the bird defrosts adds a tremendous amount of flavor v and moisture. But hay I’ll try your recipe all the others I’ve triedchave been great. Thanks

  16. Matthew Long says:

    Gidday from Townsville, Australia. I’ll be doing a 12lb bird in my homemade horizontal drum BBQ smoker using heat beads (or charcoal) and its pretty hard to get cherry wood or maskeet, can I use Hickory? Or would that be too strong?

  17. Ana Lastres says:

    I’ll be doing a 12lb turkey in my regular bbq. How do I know which quantity of charcoal or wood to put so I don’t have open it and loose heat?

  18. Don Foscalina says:

    I’m going to be trying this recipe this year. One question I did have was yoir thoughts on replacing the water on the brine with a chicken broth? I’ve seen quite a few different brine recipes out there and they basically are all pretty close to the same thing. But I notice some use a broth as opposed to water. Is that worth it in your opinion?

  19. Travis says:

    I used your video and recipe today and my family raved about! And I must say it was the best turkey I’ve EVER had!!

  20. Brian says:

    I noticed the recipe for the brine calls for 1 1/2 cups of salt but the instructions don’t call it out when you boil the ingredients together. Do you need that much salt in the brine?

  21. Danny says:

    Malcom, hey thanks for the great smoke turkey recipe. I just smoked one started out on my uds, but couldn’t get the temp where I wanted so I finished on my pellet grill. I took it off my grill and thought I had ruined it because it was dark on the outside, but let it sit for about an hour and half and I had to taste it and man it is the best turkey I have ever had. Thanks again for all your videos, and all the help and tips you share I have learned a lot.

  22. Phil Seddon says:

    Can’t wait for Thanksgiving this year to try smoking turkey your way! I’ll let you know how it turns out. I orderd the Bird Boosters Honey injection and am hoping that will be a good injection. Just curious, do you think it would be better to use your recipe for injection? What are the differences?

  23. Mike says:

    Malcom,
    Using my Weber Smokey Mountain to cook a 20lb bird this Thanksgiving and using this recipe. If I can hold the temp between 275 and 300 any idea on how long it should take?

  24. Amy says:

    We have loved every one of your recipies and would really like to smoke a thanksgiving turkey to bring to my sister-in-law’s 3 hours away. Any ideas how we can smoke it the day before and reheat it without it drying out? I’d like to put it in a roasting dish on the smoker to catch the dripping to reheat it in. Ideas/thoughts? Appreciate any help on this! Thank you!

    • It would be hard to re-heat it without drying it out a little. It will be good, it just won’t be as good. I do think it will still be better than any oven cooked turkey – even a day later. I would just het it in the oven until it hits 140-145 internal (if it’s already fully cooked).

  25. Matt says:

    Malcom,
    I love the videos! I want to smoke my turkey this year and use your recipe. What are your thoughts on spatchcock turkey vs. whole turkey? Will it cook more even that way?

  26. Brad Romanelli says:

    Malcom,
    I just cooked a 21lb. turkey for the first time. Did a trial run for Thanksgiving. After 61/2hrs of cooking the turkey, the breast was at 166 degrees and the dark meat was just over 150. Does the placement of the coal have anything to do with the turkey cooking uneven or just the size of the bird. Any suggestions on the bigger birds to make them cook even or is just hit or miss with the bigger birds?

    • That’s the problem with smoking the bigger turkeys. The white meat gets dry before the dark meat gets done. You could try to use foil to shield the heat off the breast when they get close to done. Or just do what I do – and smoke two 12lb birds if you need the extra meat.

      • Allison says:

        This will be by first try BBQing a turkey. Thanks for the recipe! I bought apple flavored pellets and you use pecan pellets. Would there be a big difference in taste if I use apple pellets.

  27. justin says:

    Hey Malcom i like the recipe and i am definitely going to try it . i was wondering if you think adding beer to your recipe would be ok. and how much.. i just brewed a orange honey hefeweizen . i really like cooking with beer. but this is our recipe so i would like to know your input. Thanks

  28. justin says:

    Hey Malcom i like the recipe and i am definitely going to try it . i was wondering if you think adding beer to your recipe would be ok. and how much.. i just brewed a orange honey hefeweizen . i really like cooking with beer. but this is your recipe so i would like to know your input. Thanks

  29. Mike says:

    Hey Malcom, I’ve watched you video countless times and can’t wait to smoke my bird! Ran around all day sifting through 14lb birds and finally found a 12.5! One question. I have an electric smoker and was wondering what you think I should set the temp at? I was guessing 185 or 190? Also what type of chips work best in the electric considering I usually use hickory and I read that you say it might give too smokey of a flavor! Thanks for any advice and I can’t wait for the big day!!

  30. Tyler says:

    Malcolm,
    The day has finally came. I put the bird in the brine and I’m ready to smoke it tomorrow. I plan to eat it Thursday and Wednesday is a travel day. Any suggestions on reheating in an oven?Temp? Time? Thanks!

  31. Mike says:

    Hey Malcom,
    Thanks for the video! Was running around all day sifting through 14lb birds and finally got a 12.5! I will be using an electric smoker and I had a couple questions. First would you recommend I set the temp at 185 or closer to 300? Also what type of chips do you recommend considering i usually use hickory but I read that you said it might be too smokey of a flavor? Thanks again and I can’t wait to impress the family hear in Long Beach CA!

  32. John says:

    If I am smoking a 22 lbs turkey what adjustments should I make?

  33. matt says:

    ever smoke a turkey and a prime rib at the same time?

    • I haven’t, but if you have the space on your smoker you could make it happen. I would keep the temps at 275 and let them cook. Watch the internal temps. Depending on the size of your turkey, your prime rib will get done first – but can be held in a dry cooler no problem – in fact that makes it better.

  34. Chad says:

    I have meticulously followed every step of this process exactly and I’m about an hour away from it being done. Smells so good can’t wait to carve it up!!!

  35. G.I. Joe Bane says:

    I spent 22 years as an Army cook. I have found your web-site to be excellent, and your recipes to be great. I will be smoking my Turkey Saturday on my new Akorn Kamado Kooker.. I will be buying some of your spices later,

  36. Josh says:

    I used this recipe this weekend for a family Christmas party. Followed exact same steps, brined the bird for about a day and a half though and did use a different rub. I used a 60/40 mix of pecan/cherry pellets, set my Traeger Jr. to 275 for 3 and a half hours, and let it rest 20 minutes. I did use a deep roaster pan to cook it in, to catch drippings for gravy. Everybody said this was by far the best turkey they’ve ever had. And I would have to agree!!! Just glad the family saved some so I can have leftovers 🙂

  37. David Vaughn says:

    Christmas turkey recipe was the moistest bird we’ve ate. Damn good!!@TfxcmanVaughn

  38. Jonathan Molina says:

    All your recipes are great and thank you! They are so great, i have been asked to smoke a turkey and ship it! My question for you is what is the best way to freeze a turkey after cooking and keep it frozen during transport?

  39. Donny Ard says:

    I got a BGE this July and I am having a blast. I have found all of your videos so far very helpful. I am from Louisiana and I have fried my turkeys for over 20 years. This is the year of the smoke though. Any tips with using the BGE XL and smoking? I will continue to brine and inject like I do when I fry them. Thank you.

  40. John Shama says:

    So, I have a Humphrey’s Smoker with a drop in water pan. My question is, should I remove the water pan so the skin will get crispy or leave it in and smoke the turkey at a higher temp? I’ve been having a heck of a time getting good skin. By the way, your recipes and video’s never let me down. Keep up the good work!

  41. Anthony Chip Carpenter says:

    Hi Malcom, I have used your recipes for the Brisket and the ribs and the food came out Great.
    Now I have several questions for my smoked turkey. I have a propane Master Forge smoker. I am smoking 2- 18 pd. turkeys, Would you recommend vertical or lying the turkey flat on the grill as it would look in a pan? Why take out the water pan?, and the skin on my turkey always comes out like a leather texture, unable to eat, What am I doing wrong? Thank You for your help. Happy Thanks Giving

  42. Sidney says:

    Malcom my name is Sid and I would like to be on your mailing list. I like cooking outside it just seems to make the food taste better. Im new to it so I’ve got a lot to learn so thanks to any help I can get.

  43. Danny kincaid says:

    First time trying the recipe. I have a electric master built smokers elite 40″ smoker. I have two 10# turkeys. Will it be fine cooking them together since they will be on separate racks one will be above the other. Will it be fine? Or is the top one going to take longer?

    • as long as you have the space – and have plenty of airflow around the turkey, it will work without much added time. If your smoker is at max capacity, it will take longer and you will need to rotate it during the cook.

  44. Frank says:

    We just smoked 19 lb turkey using this method. Smoked it for 4 hrs at temp running around 288-290 Then we pulled it off, wrapped in aluminum foil and cooked for 1 hr. @ 350*..It must been good cause it is all gone..Planning on smoking some whole chickens with this method..

  45. Stacey says:

    Just want to say we did this recipe this year. By far the best turkey we ever had. So moist. And the favors were amazing. Thanks for sharing

  46. Kit says:

    Wanted to let you know I used your method for a turkey yesterday. My brother-in-law’s wife, who does not like turkey no matter how it’s prepared and by who said it was absolutely amazing.

  47. mike madden says:

    Malcom;
    I have a lot of cookers and added a pit barrel cooker. Is there a trick to cooking on a uds without getting too much smoke? I only use kingsford charcoal on it so far and only cooked chicken but I thing it has too much smoke. Thanks for your help,

    Mike

    • Hello Mr Malcom!

      I have been watching your videos for a couple years now. I enjoy food about as much as you do. I travel for work so I dont always have the time to experiment with different foods so its nice to see your videos and say :yeah that looks good ill try that” you have taken the experiment out of it for me. I started with a little smokey. A guy at church gave it to me. i thought i was a pit master till i invited my now BBQ partner over and he laughed at me. nicely he said check out your website. I then bought a smoker off craigslist and within a year i was changing the design to a reverse smoker and added a horizonal to it. I pulled the trigger this year and bought a 30 ft enclosed trailer. we hit some events and set up wed-sat in a town near by. we had a huge first year. the events were so big what i thought was enough meat precooked that we closed 3 times a day waiting on the smoker. it ran us rugged. i was sleeping at the events in a chair smoking 24 hrs a day and all we sold was pork and brisket! last month a bought a used southern pride. its been rebuilt but its a 1997 model. started cheap and work my way up. it was still $8,000 but well worth the 500lb capacity. im hoping to blow the top off my business. we are focusing on just festivals and fairs this summer to generate some cash. here is to my retirement plan! i could be were i am today with out the instruction you are giving us. im sure at first you recieve a lot of static from the competition world for giving to many secrets away, but kudos to you! I have not much desire to compete, i have a few small ones. just want to sell for a little profit and keep people coming back for more. the compliments never get old! thanks again and merry christmas.
      shane porter
      Triple P BBQ
      ps website is nearly done. check us out soon at triplepbbq.com

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Contact Malcom
Welcome to HowToBBQRight

I'm Malcom Reed and these are my methods and techniques for mouth-watering, slow-smoked BBQ. Recipes, videos, detailed procedures and BBQ tips.

To me, it's all about Barbecue... I love creating, cooking and sharing my recipes.

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