smoked turkey

Classic Thanksgiving Turkey Recipe

Classic Thanksgiving Turkey Recipe

When I think of the classic Thanksgiving turkey I have the image of the Norman Rockwell painting in mind. Grandma setting the big ole bird on the table with Grandpa waiting right behind her to carve it up. Everyone at the table is eagerly watching and anticipating a juicy, perfectly cooked bird. That’s the turkey that everyone knows and it’s exactly what I’m going to show you how to cook with my spin on it of course.

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smoked turkey

Thanksgiving Turkey Recipe


When I think of the classic Thanksgiving turkey I have the image of the Norman Rockwell painting in mind.  That’s the turkey that everyone knows and it’s exactly what I’m going to show you how to cook… with my spin on it of course.  


  • 1 whole Turkey 14-16lbs
  • 1 bottle Malcom’s Bird Brine
  • 2 gallons water
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 Tablespoons Killer Hogs AP Seasoning
  • 1 Tablespoon poultry seasoning 
  • 2 sticks butter
  • 1 onion quarterd
  • 3 stalks celery
  • 68 cloves of garlic
  • 1 bunch of fresh poultry herbs (sage, rosemary, thyme)


  1. Completely thaw the turkey in the refrigerator for 3-4 days, remove the turkey from packaging discarding the neck and giblets (save those for stock or other uses). Place the turkey in a Meat Bag or other large container. Pour in the bottle of Bird Brine and add the water. Remove as much air as possible and close the bag. It helps to place the bag into a large container to keep the bird submerged and catch any accidental spills.
  2. Place the brine container in the refrigerate or into a cooler with ice for 48 hours. Make sure the turkey stays submerged and cold the entire time.  
  3. Remove the turkey from the brine solution and rinse gently. Place the turkey on a raised cooling rack over a sheet pan and pat the outside dry with paper towel. Place the turkey back in the refrigerator for 1 hours minimum to dry the skin.
  4. Stuff the cavity with the celery, garlic cloves and onions. Tie the legs together with butcher twine and apply vegetable oil the the skin with a basting brush.
  5. Mix the Killer Hogs AP seasoning and poultry seasoning together in a dredge shaker and apply a good coat to the outer surface of the turkey.
  6. Prepare Traeger Pellet Grill or other smoker/grill for indirect cooking at 325 using a mild pellet such as Apple or Maple for light smoke flavor.
  7. Place the turkey on the smoker and baste with melted butter every 45 minutes. Insert a probe thermometer into the breast to monitor internal temperature.
  8. Remove the turkey from the pit once it hits 165°F in the thickest part of the breast
  9. Rest the turkey for 15-20 minutes before carving.

Keywords: Smoked Turkey, smoked turkey recipe, classic thanksgiving turkey, Turkey, best smoked turkey, smoked turkey brine, how to smoke a turkey

For this recipe I start with a 48 hour brine on the turkey. A brine is the best way to get moisture and flavor deep down into the meat. Before you brine the turkey make sure you give yourself plenty of time to allow it to thaw properly. It takes 3-4 days for a whole turkey to thaw in the refrigerator plus the 48 hours for brining, so you need to plan it out.

To brine this big 16lb turkey, I used my brand new Malcom’s Bird Brine. I placed the turkey in one of my Meat Bags (oversized ziptop bag) and poured the bottle of bird brine around the bird. Next about 2 gallons of water went in to submerge the turkey. Here’s a pro tip: Place the bag inside another large container to catch any spillage and help keep the turkey down in the brine.

Classic Stuffed Thanksgiving Turkey Recipe

Place the container in the refrigerator for 48 hours. You can also store it in a large cooler with plenty of ice to keep it cold. After the soak, remove the bird from the meat bag and let it drain. Rinse the outside with cool water and place the turkey on a wire cooling rack (I used a Chicken Rack) over a sheet pan. Use paper towel to dry the skin and absorb any moisture in the cavity. I also set the turkey back in the refrigerator for an hour to air dry.

glazing smoked turkey

Now it’s finally time to cook this bird. First I stuff the turkey with aromatics. Celery, Onion, Garlic, and fresh herbs (rosemary, sage, thyme) go in the cavity and the legs are tied with butcher twine to keep everything inside. Then the skin gets basted with vegetable oil. The oil helps the seasonings sticks and it also creates a nice brown, crispy skin. To season the classic turkey I used some of my Killer Hogs AP Seasoning combined with ground poultry seasoning. It’s a simple seasoning but it has a ton of flavor.

seasoning thanksgiving turkey

The classic turkey was always cooked in the oven, but you know I’m not doing that. I fired up my Traeger Timberline 850 for this cook set for 325°F. I also filled the Traeger with apple pellets for just a hint of smoke flavor. To make moving the turkey on and off the grill I set it on a half size cooling rack (chicken rack). This keeps me from touching the skin while moving it and makes it really easy to get off the grill once it’s done. As soon as the Traeger was up to temp the turkey went on the pit.

Smoked Thanksgiving Turkey

Every 45 minutes I basted the skin with melted butter and about 1 1/2 hours in I started monitoring the internal temperature with a meat probe. Turkey needs to reach a minimum of 165°F in the thickest part of the breast and 175°F in the thickest part of the thigh. This 16lb bird took 3.5 hours to cook completely. At this point I removed it from the Traeger and let it rest on the cutting board for 15-20 minutes. It’s hard to let a bird that pretty just set there without pulling off a piece but I managed to hold myself in check.

Smoked Thanksgiving Turkey

At this point all that’s left is to carve the turkey and serve. I usually don’t do this right at the table like ole Norman, but if you want everyone to wait with anticipation feel free to bring it out on a platter and dive right in!!

Sliced Thanksgiving Turkey

Here’s to wishing you and yours a Happy Thanksgiving!

Malcom Reed Connect on Facebook Follow me on Twitter Subscribe to my YouTube Channel Follow me on Instagram

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45 responses to “Classic Thanksgiving Turkey Recipe”

  1. Jonathan Leeper says:

    Hey Mr. Reed, your videos are awesome and I’ve learned a lot. I’ve got a question about brining turkeys. When I go to the store all the turkeys I see say “Contains up to 8% of a solution of Water, Salt, Spices, and Natural Flavor.” Do you still recommend brining them or smoking them as is? Thanks again for teaching me so much about smoking and grilling!

  2. Ben says:

    Hi Malcom,

    You taught me everything I know about smoking since day 1, so THANK YOU. I’m gonna order your turkey brine for this year’s T-giving. Question: I am getting ready to buy my first pellet smoker ever (been on a Big Green Egg until now). What pellet smoker under $2,000 do you recommend? Is it the Timberline, Yoder 640 or is there another one out there that you think would be better.

    Thank you,

  3. Neal Pitcher says:

    Do Turkeys wear earrings down there in Mississippi? What is that in the wing on your main photo?

  4. Devin says:

    Hi Malcom, my AP seasoning just came in and my family is loving it!

    I am debating on doing this new recipe or your last turkey recipe (with stuffing inside). Which one do you recommend? It’ll be the first time cooking a turkey on a smoker! Want to impress the fam!

  5. Tim H Morey says:

    Do you brine turkey with low or no salt brine. I always get a fresh turkey. I hate the salty meat taste.

  6. bruce knolle says:

    morning Malcom, I met you at the last years Memphis in may, love your ribs. I need a good brine recipe for my turkey this year. I was going to get yours but you are out of stock, hoping you can help.
    big man (bruce knolle)

  7. David Dalton says:

    Hi Mr. Reed, when I was shopping for turkeys I’m not sure what was going on but the smallest I could get was 23 lbs. First time attempting to smoke a turkey, is this going to be an issue?



  8. Brian Deutsch says:

    Mr Reed! I’m trying the beef tenderloin recipe tonight! And had a question on the thanksgiving turkey recipe. Everything I see using Ovens says to cover the turkey with foil the first 2-3 hours and then uncover and raise temp last 1.5-2 hours until you reach temp. If I attempt this years turkey on my Wilmington Grill, which is indirect, Dino need to cover it? I noticed your recipe appears to cook at 325 degrees uncovered the entire cook? Just wanted to be sure so I don’t mess this thing up! Thanks!

  9. LORI PICCINI says:

    Love your recipes! Please help. How long to smoke an 18 lb turkey? I think I should spatchcock this bird. Any help??
    Thank you
    P.s. Happy thanksgiving to you and yours!!

  10. Brian Hyde says:

    How do I set the Big Green Egg for this and would the cooking temp be the same

  11. David Mekeel says:

    I want to try this for T-day. I am just concerned about brining for 48 hours and then adding AP. Will it be too salty?

  12. Andrew says:

    I’ve decided to follow this recipe for our Thanksgiving turkey and I’m so excited. About to go get the few items I don’t already have for the brine and the bird stuffing. Thanks for a great looking recipe!

  13. Jim Ernst says:


    Question When smoking the turkey on a offset smoker. would you use primarily charcoal then, add a few chunks of wood every hour or do I just use wood as primary source of fuel and no charcoal?


    Jim Ernst

  14. Michael says:

    What is the poultry seasoning you use? Love the videos. Thanks!

    • The poultry seasoning is Malcom’s Bird Brine!

      • Eric Jessup says:

        So you use one bottle of Malcoms Bird Brine for brining the bird for 48 hours, and for the seasoning its 1 tablespoon of Malcoms Bird Brine for the poultry seasoning along with 3 tablespoons of killer hogs AP?

        Thanks again. Love the website, the shop and all the recipes.

  15. Michael McCluskey says:


    What would you recommend for a injection recipe for this Turkey recipe above? My family does not really like the Cajun turkey flavor. So I was looking for something more savory. We love your videos and products. We have been using them for year!

    Mike from Texas

  16. Jim buehler says:

    Malcolm I love your bbq. Do you have a good gravy recipe.

  17. Jim buehler says:

    Malcolm I love your bbq. Do you have a good gravy recipe for your smoked turkey.

  18. Dean says:

    Hi Malcom,
    With this recipe would it be OK to inject some Tonys? I’ve injected before using your other turkey recipes, and they turned out great. Thanks !

  19. Mark says:

    I have a 22 lbs turkey, how long will it take on the smoker?

  20. Jim says:

    I have a turkey that is 21lbs, would that be able to be smoked and how long long per lb do you think?

  21. Good afternoon Malcom,
    Going to try this recipe, was wondering what butter ???? you use? Salted or Unsalted, Thanks!

  22. ben says:

    Malcom, what do you think about using Timberline super smoke on this recipe?

  23. Tom says:

    Really enjoy your videos! I had a question I thought you may be able to help with… I have the turkey in a sugar and salt brine, but we are just doing a turkey breast cause of the small gathering this year how should that affect my cook time if I put it on the grill at 325? Thank you! Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family!

  24. Josh T. says:

    Doing your Cajun recipe today but love this video for the cutting tips! Thanks,

  25. Bill Grenzer says:

    I liked your classic thanksgiving turkey cook. I followed tour directions to a t One complaint the skin was not crispy. Any suggestions?

  26. Bill says:

    Turkey was moist and flavorful.

  27. Troy King says:

    Question on this can you fill the bird with traditional stuffing for this recipe or will it dry the bird out?
    Thank you for the recipes that have my friends thinking I’m a pro at the smoker

  28. Craig Thompson says:

    Malcolm, smoked our first thanksgiving turkey with this recipe. It turned out awesome!! Thank you so much. Craig

  29. Scott Dillon says:

    I made this bird for Thanksgiving. It was the most delicious and juicy bird I have ever cooked. Including deep-frying and spatchcocking. Since I couldn’t get your bird brine in time, I used the simple brine in the video and added some Poultry seasoning to the brine. Used my Traeger Ironwood 885 and smoked at 325 for 4 hours. Thanks Malcom, Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family.

  30. Brandon says:

    I made this for Thanksgiving yesterday and everyone loved it. More than one person said it was the best Turkey they’ve ever had. One friend took a picture to send to her family saying that “she never understand why turkey was such a big deal until now.”

    I’m looking forward to trying the apple cobbler for Christmas.

    Thanks Malcom!

  31. Eric Jessup says:

    Hi Malcom,

    I love your content. I recently came across your website and youtube channel, and have been following many of your videos and recipes. I am hooked! I am going to try this Classic Smoked Turkey on Saturday. This morning I but the bird into one of your bags, with a bottle of your brine, and have it in a cooler with ice. I have purchased your brine, your AP as well as many of your spices. I am curious does your AP and Brine contain any gluten. My sister has celiacs disease, and cannot have any gluten at all. Thanks again!


  32. Carson says:

    I used this recipe yesterday for our Christmas turkey. It turned out awesome. My oldest two grandsons were quite impressed. They were almost on top of me when I carved it! We all enjoyed it.

    Thanks Malcom you made me a hero.

  33. Jacob Plaizier says:

    Made this over the holidays, my mom said she’d never let anyone else do another turkey but me after this recipe. Fantastic flavor, great instructions! Love your recipes, Malcom!

  34. Nate says:

    Loved this recipe! My family loved the recipe, it was the best turkey we’ve ever had! Thanks for the amazing recipe Malcom!

  35. Mike says:

    I made this for Mother’s Day this year and everyone loved it! I’m just starting out with smoking meats and this recipe was easy to follow, videos are great as well. Thank you!!

  36. Dave says:

    Best turkey I have ever had. As mentioned in the video better than the oven or Deep fried, yes the dark meat is awesome coming of the pit. I did mine on a Rectec 700 with there premium blend pellets a combination of Red oak, White oak, and Hickory.

  37. Chase Beier says:

    Made this last year for Thanksgiving and it was an amazing moist and favor full turkey. The whole family was beyond amazed with how perfect this was. I recommend this 10 times over

  38. Tony says:

    Hey, Malcolm! What is your opinion on hickory for Turkey? A lot of on-line sites recommend against, but then I do see some that call for hickory….

  39. Tony says:

    BTW, sorry for misspelling your first name!

  40. Jonathan Boj says:

    This has been my go to recipe for a few years now. It’s July and I have a bird taking a bath right now. Only difference I have is that I baste with bacon fat. Love your recipes and your products.

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