Smoked Turkey Recipe
This week I’m firing up the Big Green Egg to show you how I do a smoked turkey just in time for Thanksgiving. I’ve been smoking our Thanksgiving bird for many years and it always gets rave reviews.
First let’s talk about the Smoked Turkey. More than likely you’ll be buying a turkey at your local grocery store, and these birds come frozen. Allow at least 3-4 days for the turkey to thaw in the refrigerator.
Once thawed place the turkey in the sink and remove it from the packaging. Normally turkeys are packed with the neck and a bag containing giblets. Remove these and rinse the bird with cool water.
Like all poultry, turkey has a neutral flavor and is really acceptable to the seasonings and injections you use on it. My process involves a few steps: First I soak the turkey in a brine, then a good dose of seasoning goes on the skin, and last an injection to fortify the flavors inside the meat.
Brining is a great way to add flavor and moisture to the turkey. It needs to soak for at least 24 hours to take full advantage of the brine and what you get is a moist turkey that has all the flavors of the seasonings trapped deep inside the meat.
Smoked Turkey Brine Recipe:
- 2 gallons water
- 1 cup salt
- 1 cup sugar
- ¼ cup creole seasoning* (recipe below)
- fresh herb bundle of sage, rosemary, thyme
- 2 lemons halved
- 2 bay leaves
- 4-5 garlic cloves smashed
- 1 Tsp whole black pepper corns
- 2 small onions quartered
Pour 1 gallon of the water into a pot on the stove and bring to a boil. Add the salt and sugar and stir until dissolved. Pour this mixture into 1 gallon of cold water and add the Creole Seasoning, Herb Bundle, Lemons, Bay Leaves, Garlic, Black Peppercorns, and Onion. Allow the mixture to steep in the refrigerator and cool completely. The brine can be made a day ahead of time for better results.
Smoked Turkey Creole Seasoning Recipe:
- 1⁄4 cup salt
- 2 Tsp cayenne pepper
- 5 Tsp granulated garlic
- 4 Tsp ground black pepper
- 1 Tbsp chili powder
- 1 Tsp paprika
- 1 Tsp onion powder
- 1⁄2 Tsp dried oregano
- 1⁄2 Tsp dried thyme
- 1/2 Tsp dried parsley
You’ll need a container large enough to hold the turkey and 2 gallons of brine, so I use an oversized ziplock bag. You can usually find these at Walmart, Home Depot, or Lowe’s in the storage section.
Place the turkey in the bag and pour the brine over it. The turkey should be completely submerged in the brine. It’s easier to do this in a cooler just in case something spills. Pack ice along sides of the turkey and leave in a cool place for 24 hours. You’ll also want to check on it occasionally to make sure you have plenty of ice in the cooler.
After 24 hours remove the turkey from the brine and place in the sink to drain. Pat the skin dry with a paper towel.
Now it’s time to season the outside of the smoked turkey. First spray the skin with cooking spray (vegetable or canola). This helps the seasonings stick and keeps it from turning dark during the cooking process.
I use two seasoning blends on the skin. First my AP seasoning (a blend of salt, granulated garlic, and black pepper) then the Creole Seasoning (recipe above). Layer both of these seasons on all sides of the turkey.
For stuffing the cavity I use a few stalks of celery, onion, and apple. You can use whatever you like here but skip the stuffing. We cook dressing in the south and not inside the bird. The vegetables and fruit add extra mass to the turkey which helps it cook evenly.
The next step is to inject the turkey for added moisture and flavor. I’m a big fan of Butcher’s line of injections, and David’s Bird Booster products are excellent with turkey. I use ¼ cup of Bird Booster Honey mixed with 2 cups of water. Inject the breast, legs, and thighs spreading the needle out about 1” for every stick.
The turkey is ready for the Big Green Egg at this point, so fire up the smoker and bring the temperature up to 300 degrees. You can duplicate this procedure on any cooker just hold your temps in the 275-300 range. Higher temps are needed for the skin to turn out perfect.
Smoked Turkey really absorbs smoke flavor and there’s nothing worse than over smoked meat, so take it easy with the wood. I use a couple small chunks of pecan and hickory and that’s all. You only need about 2 hours of smoke; any more will overpower the turkey and will eventually build up on the skin giving it a dark color.
Place the turkey on the smoker and close the lid. It’s going to take about 3-4 hours to hit the target temperatures of 165 in the breast and 175 in the thighs. Every 45 min to 1 hour spray the skin with cooking spray for moisture. This is also the biggest aid in keeping the skin a nice golden color.
At the two hour mark it’s time to monitor those internal temperatures of the Smoked Turkey. I use a Thermoworks DOT probe thermometer stuck in the thickest part of the breast. Set it for 165 and keep a close eye on the temps.
After 3 hours the smoked turkey should be getting close. I always double check the internals with a hand held Thermapen just to be sure. Internal should read 175 in the thickest part of the thigh and juice should run clear when you remove the probe.
Get the smoked turkey off the smoker when you see these temps and let it rest inside for a minimum of 15 minutes. It doesn’t hurt to cover it loosely with aluminum foil and rest it in a dry cooler until ready to serve.
The smoked turkey will stay piping hot for 3-4 hours in a dry cooler. This is also a great method to transport the turkey to your dinner even if it’s a couple hours away.
This Thanksgiving skip roasting that turkey in the oven and forget about messing with all that hot oil; fire up your smoker and get ready to feast on the best Thanksgiving Turkey your family has ever tried!
Happy Thanksgiving and Keep on Smokin’!
How To Smoke a Thanksgiving Turkey on the Big Green Egg | Smoked Turkey Recipe