Brined And Smoked Turkey Recipe

Smoking a turkey may not be the easiest way to cook this big bird, but it may be one of the most flavorful. What's more, smoking isn't nearly as dangerous as deep frying, so there's that. Before you throw your turkey on the smoker, though, there's one very important step you'll need to follow. As recipe developer Stephanie Rapone insists, "You have to brine the turkey before smoking it to get excellent flavor and juicy meat."

There are two main kinds of brining: wet and dry. Rapone herself is a proponent of the former method, and that's the one she uses here. While a brine in its simplest form is simply salted water, you can also add various spices and flavorings, as Rapone does in her apple and rosemary turkey brine recipe. If you don't want to go through all the trouble of wet-brining, though, many cooks recommend the dry brine method which can be used for roast turkeys as well as smoked ones. To dry brine your turkey, you can make use of the same spices and seasonings, just rub them all over the turkey and refrigerate it for the same amount of time, but skip the water.

Gather the ingredients for your brined and smoked turkey

For starters, you'll need a whole turkey. You'll also need a batch of brine, plus some additional seasonings to make a dry rub to coat the turkey as it is smoking: salt, ground sage, dried thyme, black pepper, paprika, onion powder, and brown sugar. You'll also need some olive oil to grease up the turkey, and you may wish to stuff it with an orange, some garlic, and a few springs of fresh rosemary.

Brine the turkey

Begin by mixing up some brine, then brining your turkey overnight in the fridge or in a cooler (Be sure to check the turkey for giblets, and take those out if you find them.) If you go the cooler route, Rapone suggests lining it with a garbage bag. As she explains, "The garbage bag will help keep raw turkey juices from contaminating your cooler," but adds "you should still disinfect your cooler after using it for brining." You'll also need to add on some extra time if you're starting with a frozen turkey, as it will need to be fully defrosted before roasting.

Prepare the smoker and the turkey

About an hour before you plan to start smoking, take the turkey out of the brine and dry it off with paper towels. Mix all the dry spices with the brown sugar, breaking up any clumps that form. Pour the oil over the turkey and rub it in, then rub the dry spice mix over the turkey and inside the cavity. Cut the orange and the garlic head in half (Rapone says "It's fine if it falls apart a little") and stuff them in the cavity along with the rosemary springs. At this point, you can tie the legs together with butcher's twine if you like. As Rapone says, this should "help everything cook more evenly."

Heat the smoker to 325 and pre-soak the wood chips, if necessary. Rapone suggests using pecan or cherry wood, saying "Pecan is a great flavor with this turkey, and the cherry helps the skin brown."

Smoke the turkey

Put the turkey on the smoker. Rapone uses a remote probe thermometer, and says to set it to 165 F if you've got one of these gadgets, too. If not, figure on smoking the turkey for at least 15 minutes per pound. Check the color of the bird after 90 minutes of smoking and cover it with foil if it looks dark enough. Keep smoking it, though, until the breast meat and thigh meat have both reached 165 F. Should you find that either or both are still short of the mark, Rapone recommends allowing an extra minute per degree. "For example," she says, "if your turkey breast is at 155, let it cook for 10 [minutes] before checking it again to see if it has reached 165."

Once all parts of the turkey have achieved the proper temperature, remove the turkey from the smoker and allow it to rest for 20 minutes before you start carving.

Brined And Smoked Turkey Recipe
5 from 33 ratings
For the most flavorful turkey you can serve your guests for Thanksgiving, try this brined and smoked turkey recipe. You won't be disappointed.
Prep Time
Cook Time
sliced smoked turkey on plate
Total time: 3 hours, 45 minutes
  • 1 batch turkey brine
  • 1 15-18 pound turkey
  • 1 orange
  • 1 head garlic
  • 4 sprigs rosemary
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons ground sage
  • 2 tablespoons dried thyme
  • 1 ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 ½ teaspoon brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  1. Remove the giblets from the turkey, if necessary.
  2. Brine the turkey overnight in the refrigerator or a cooler filled with ice.
  3. Remove the turkey from the brine about 1 hour before cooking and dry it off with paper towels.
  4. Heat the smoker to 325 F and pre-soak the wood chips, if necessary.
  5. Mix the dry spices with the brown sugar, making sure to break up any lumps.
  6. Pour the olive oil over the turkey and rub it into the skin.
  7. Sprinkle the dry rub all over the turkey on the inside and outside and rub it in.
  8. Cut the orange into wedges and slice the head of garlic through the middle.
  9. Stuff the turkey with the orange segments, garlic, and rosemary. If you have butcher's twine, tie the legs to help everything cook evenly.
  10. Place the turkey on the smoker.
  11. If you have a remote probe, set the temperature to 165 F.
  12. If you don't have a remote thermometer, figure on cooking the turkey for 15 minutes per pound.
  13. Check the turkey after 90 minutes and tent it with foil if you don't want the skin getting any darker.
  14. Once the 15 minutes per pound have elapsed, check the breast meat with a thermometer (remote or otherwise). If it has reached 165 F, check the thighs, too, since they'll also have to reach 165 F before the turkey is done.
  15. Let the smoked turkey rest for at least 20 minutes before carving.
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