If your thinking about smoking a turkey this year, I highly recommend it. You can skip the traditional roasted bird or the deep fried disaster-waiting-to-happen and fire up your smoker. Once you try this recipe, you’ll never cook turkey any other way.
The first thing we need to talk about 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.
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.
- 2 gallons of tap water
- 1 cup Brown Sugar
- 1 cup Molasses
- 1 cup Honey
- 1 ½ cup Salt
- ¼ cup The BBQ Rub
- 3-4 Bay Leaves
- Fresh Thyme Bundle
- 1 TBS Whole Peppercorns
The best way I’ve found to brine 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.
- 1 cup Kosher Salt
- 1 cup Granulated Garlic
- 1 TBS Poultry Seasoning
- 1 stick real butter
- 1 cup chicken broth
- 1 TBS Hot Sauce
- 1 tea Granulated Garlic
- 1 tea Cajun Seasoning (I used Louisiana brand)
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.
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.
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.