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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Smoked Turkey Recipe