How to Smoke a Turkey for Thanksgiving

How to Smoke a Turkey for Thanksgiving

If you have a smoker, you can produce an amazing, show-stopping turkey for your Thanksgiving feast.

Smoked Turkey Recipe

To start you will first make a brine for your turkey and soak it for 24 hours to impart more flavor and moisture into your bird.

Turkey Brine Recipe:

– 2 gallons water
– 1 cup salt
– 1 cup sugar
– ¼ cup creole seasoning
– fresh herb bundle of sage, rosemary, thyme
– 2 lemons halved
– 2 bay leaves
– 4-5 garlic cloves smashed
– 1 TBS 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.

Once your brine has cooled completely, you need a 12-14lb Turkey, thawed and rinsed under cool water. Make sure to remove everything from inside the cavity.

Smoked Turkey Recipe

The best way to brine – if you don’t have a large container and plenty of room in your fridge – is to use an XL Ziploc bag inside a clean cooler. Everything stays contained, your turkey stays cold and you won’t have any leakage outside your cooler.

Place the turkey inside the storage bag and pour in the brine. Get as much air out as possible and close the bag. Next place the bag in the cooler and put ice around and on top of your storage bag. 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.

Now you are ready to season the outside of your turkey. First spray the skin of the turkey with cooking spray to help the seasonings stick to the skin and keep the outside from getting to dark.

Once the skin is coated with cooking spray, liberally season the turkey with your favorite creole seasoning or poultry seasoning. Make sure to season inside the cavity as well.

Now your turkey is seasoned, stuff the cavity with 2 quartered apples, 1 quartered onion and 1 – 2 stalks of celery. Just add as much as you can to the turkey cavity. This not only adds flavor, but it also adds mass to your cavity and ensures your turkey cooks more evenly.

Smoked Turkey Recipe

Before placing the turkey on the smoker, use butcher twine to secure the legs and wings. This also helps your turkey to hold its shape and cook evenly.

Fire up your smoker so it’s hitting between 275-300 degrees. The higher temps make for a better-smoked bird. For smoke, make sure to use a mild smoke. Turkey absorbs smoke quickly and you want to avoid getting it too dark or making the flavor bitter.

Place the turkey on the smoker and set a timer for 1½ hours. Maintain your temps and let the bird cook. When the timer goes off, rotate the turkey to ensure it is cooking evenly on all sides, but never flip the turkey. Allow it to smoke on the back, breast up, the entire cook.

The total cook time is about 3½ – 4½ hours for a 12-14lb turkey, but since every bird will cook differently its crucial to check your internal temps.

Once your turkey has hit 165 in the breast, 175 in the thigh and the juices run clear, it’s done. Remove your turkey from the smoker and allow it to rest for at least 15 – 20 minutes before carving.

Happy Thanksgiving!


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