How To Smoke a Turkey With Brine Recipe

Smoking a fresh turkey leads to a juicy, delicious dish and is a great excuse to cook outside. You don’t have to wait until Thanksgiving to take your bird to the smoker. Smoked turkey can be more flavorful and tender compared to a roasted turkey because of the longer cooking time and the flavors infused through the smoke and brine. My favorite part of a smoked turkey is the crispier skin. 

We loaded the steps below with information to help make your smoked turkey a success. Smoking a turkey may take a little more time than roasting but the results are well-worth the effort. 

Smoking Turkey
Use a high quality temp probe to monitor your turkey cook. I use Thermoworks Signals.

Do I need a smoker for smoked turkey? 

Despite the name smoked turkey, you can use your gas grill, charcoal grill, an electric smoker, or any grill that you have on deck. You just need one where you can add in the element of wood smoke and maintain consistent temperatures with indirect heat. 

Today we are going to use our Camp Chef SG 24 Pellet Smoker. It’s easy to use and with the onboard WIFI, we can keep an eye on our bird from anywhere during the cook. Many people struggle with temperature control when smoking meats, but this has a digital control board that ensures you can keep the temperature consistent when smoking turkey. There are lots of options out there, so start by checking out our recommendations for the best smokers.

The other key thing to keep in mind is the size of your turkey, as it needs enough space around it so air can circulate properly. You likely won’t be able to fit a full-size turkey on smokers smaller than 18″. Typically pellet grills are large enough to handle any size of turkey.

What size turkey do I need for smoked turkey? 

It’s best to use a 10 to 12 pound turkey, which feeds 7 to 8 people. A larger turkey may lead to food safety issues, as a turkey must reach 140°F within 4 hours. Harmful bacteria starts to multiply as meat stays in the temperature danger zone (40 – 140°F) for over 4 hours. Remember the 4-hour window for smoked meats. 

Preparing the Turkey for the Smoker

Smoked Turkey Brine Ingredients

I always brine my turkey whether I’m smoking it or cooking it in the oven. Turkey is a lean meat that doesn’t produce a lot of natural flavors when compared to beef. A brine helps add so much flavor to a turkey, so I believe this is a must for any turkey cook. Give yourself two days of brine time before the day of the cook.

Turkey Brine Equipment

  • Clean 5 gallon pail (only used for food) or a Very Large Ziploc Bag
  • Large Wooden Spoon
  • Measuring Cups
  • Measuring Spoons

Turkey Brine Ingredients

  • 12 Garlic Cloves
  • 2.5 Cups Brown Sugar
  • 1.5 Cups Kosher Salt
  • 1 Cup Soy Sauce
  • 6-7 Bay Leaves
  • 1 TBS Coarse Black Pepper
  • 5 Quarts of Water – Cold
  • 1 – 12-15lbs Turkey – Thawed

Turkey Brine Instructions

  1. Skin the garlic cloves and use a knife to crush each clove.
Skinned Garlic Cloves
Crushing Garlic Cloves with Knife Side

2. In the clean 5-gallon pail, add all the brine ingredients together and mix well with a large wooden spoon.

Crushed Garlic Cloves Added to Turkey Brine
Adding ingredients to brine mixture in pail
Mixing Turkey Brine Ingredients
Stir ingredients well

3. Clean your turkey and make sure the giblets are removed.

4. Submerge the turkey in the pail of brine. Do your best to make sure the turkey is completely submerged.

Submerging turkey in brine
Add turkey to brine

Turkey completed submerged in brine
Do your best to completely submerge the turkey

5. Store in your refrigerator for 48 hours, turning the turkey 180 degrees after the first 24 hours.

6. After the 48 hour brine is complete. Remove your turkey from the brine, rinse and pat dry with paper towel and store in the fridge for 1 hour. The brine process is complete.

Drying Turkey After Brine

Smoked Turkey Rub Recipe

Once the turkey brine process is complete, we can now focus on seasoning the turkey before the smoking begins.

Turkey takes on flavor easily. Using spices and rubs on a turkey adds a great texture to the skin. Plus, there are more spice combinations than we can offer here. But to get you started, here is a simple spice rub recipe: 

  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 2 tablespoons onion powder
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons paprika
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder 
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons pepper 
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried sage 
Smoked Turkey Seasoning
Smoked Turkey Seasoning Complete

Add all ingredients to a small bowl and mix into a paste. Use a basting brush or your hands to cover the turkey. Show the bird some love by spreading the rub all around. As always, wash your hands after handling raw turkey. 

How Long Does it take to smoke a turkey? 

A smoked turkey must reach an internal temperature of 165°F in the breast before being served. Smoking at 300F takes about 15 – 20 minutes per pound. For a 12-pound turkey with no stuffing, plan on smoking the bird for around 4 hours. For more of a breakdown on cooking times for various turkey sizes at different temperatures, Epicurious has a great article. For this cook we are going with 300F for around 4 hours.

4 Tips to Smoking the Entire Turkey 

 1. Invest and use a digital thermometer. We talk about temperatures a lot here because the safest way to cook meat is to use temperature checks during your cooking process. A thermometer reads quickly and accurately so you’re not guessing when your turkey is done. Keep in mind for smoking a turkey it will continue to cook after being taken off the smoker. You’ll get a smoky flavor and avoid a dry overdone turkey, if you smoke the turkey to an internal temperature of 155°F. Let it rest until it reaches 165°F. Our favorite smoker thermometers.

2. Don’t stuff the turkey. It’s critical that the inside of your turkey reaches a certain temperature in a period of time to avoid bacteria growth. Stuffing causes the bird to cook slower. Instead, make your stuffing in the oven. 

3. Choose your type of wood. The type of wood you use in your smoker affects the smoke flavor. Cherry wood, alder wood, and maple wood complement a turkey’s natural flavors. Although hickory is frequently used with barbecues, the deep strong flavor may overwhelm the subtle turkey flavors. Read our article on best woods for smoking turkey.

4. Control the temperature inside your grill. The goal is to maintain a grill temperature of 300°F. If you are not using a Pellet Grill, managing a perfect 300F temp can be a challenge. If you are using a charcoal grill with wood chunks, you will need to watch the temperature regularly and adjust your top and bottom valves. This is even more of a chore on windy days.

Smoked Turkey Recipe

After you brined the turkey for 48 hours, it is time to move on to the actual smoking part of the cook. This is the easiest part and since we are not adding any stuffing to the turkey, the time to cook will only be around 3 to 4 hours with a 12lbs turkey. Make sure you have completed making the seasoning above or have your favorite turkey seasoning available.

Equipment Needed

  • Smoker: We are using a Pellet Grill/Smoker, You can also use a Charcoal, Kamado, Electric or Offset
  • Temperature Probe
  • Butcher Twine
  • Cherry or Maple Pellets for the Smoker
  • Aluminum Foil
  • Carving Knife
  • Cutting Board

Ingredients

  • Brined Turkey
  • Turkey Seasoning / Rub (from above)
  • 1/4 Cup Peanut Oil
  • 1 Stick of Butter (melted for basting)

Instructions

  1. Fire up your smoker to 300F.
  2. Take your brined turkey out of the fridge and prep it for the smoker. Move the wings behind the body of the Turkey as shown below and tie the legs together with butcher twine.
Turkey Wings Folded Behind
Wings folded behind

Turkey Legs Tied Together
Legs tied together with butcher twine

2. Apply the turkey seasoning liberally to the entire turkey. Then lightly brush some of the peanut oil over the entire turkey.

Seasoning Applied to Turkey
Seasoning Applied
Peanut Oil Brushed on Turkey
Brushed with Peanut Oil

4. Once the smoker hits 300F, place your turkey in the smoker and attach your meat probe into the breast of the turkey.

Smoking Turkey with meat probe

5. After the first 1.5hrs, I’ll check in on the turkey and see how it looks. I’ll baste it with melted butter now and then. I’ll sometimes spritz the turkey with a 50/50 mixture of apple cider vinegar as well. It helps attract the smoke to the skin.

6. Once the Turkey reaches about 160F, I will remove it and quickly wrap in foil. The Turkey will keep climbing in temperature and reach the 165F while it is covered in foil. Let the turkey rest a minimum of 20 minutes under the foil. The longer it rests, the better.

Turkey Resting Wrapped in Foil
Smoked Turkey Done

It takes a lot of time to make a great turkey but you will notice how much more juicy and tender it is and the smoker gives it a nice flavor. The brine makes the biggest difference for any turkey. When the turkey is carved, make a broth out of the rest because a brined turkey makes for amazing stock.

Smoked Turkey with Brine Recipe
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5 from 1 vote

Smoked Turkey with Brine Recipe

A brined turkey smoked on a pellet grill will always be the best way to cook a turkey. Here we share the best turkey brine recipe, and our favorite turkey rub. Then we provide step by step instructions to smoke it on your pellet grill.
Prep Time2 d 30 mins
Cook Time4 hrs
Total Time2 d 4 hrs 30 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American, BBQ
Keyword: bbq recipes, how to smoke a turkey, Pellet Grill Turkey, Smoked Turkey, Turkey Brine
Servings: 12
Calories: 582kcal
Author: Michael Haas
Cost: $40

Equipment

  • Clean 5 gallon pail or Very Large Ziploc Bag
  • Large Wooden Spoon
  • Measuring cups
  • Measuring Spoons
  • Smoker: We are using a Pellet Grill/Smoker, You can also use a Charcoal, Kamado, Electric or Offset
  • Temperature Probe
  • Butcher Twine
  • Cherry or Maple Pellets for the Smoker
  • Aluminum Foil
  • Carving Knife
  • Cutting Board

Ingredients

Turkey Brine Ingredients

  • 12 Garlic Cloves
  • 2.5 Cups Brown Sugar
  • 1.5 Cups Kosher Salt
  • 1 Cup Soy Sauce
  • 7 Bay Leaves
  • 1 TBS Coarse Black Pepper
  • 5 Quarts Water cold
  • 12 lbs Turkey thawed

Smoked Turkey Rub Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 2 tablespoons onion powder
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons paprika
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried sage

Smoked Turkey Ingredients

  • 1/4 Cup Peanut Oil
  • 1/4 Cup Butter melted for basting

Instructions

Turkey Brine Instructions

  • Skin the garlic cloves and use a knife to crush each clove.
    Skinned Garlic Cloves
  • In the clean 5-gallon pail, add all the brine ingredients together and mix well with a large wooden spoon.
    Mixing Turkey Brine Ingredients
  • Clean your turkey and make sure the giblets are removed.
    Cleaned out turkey before brine
  • Submerge the turkey in the pail of brine. Do your best to make sure the turkey is completely submerged.
    Turkey completed submerged in brine
  • Store in your refrigerator for 48 hours, turning the turkey 180 degrees after the first 24 hours.
    Submerging turkey in brine
  • After the 48 hour brine is complete. Remove your turkey from the brine, rinse and pat dry with paper towel and store in the fridge for 1 hour. The brine process is complete.
    Drying Turkey After Brine

Turkey Rub Instructions

  • Mix all the rub ingredients together and set aside for later.
    Smoked Turkey Seasoning

Smoking the Turkey Instructions

  • Fire up your smoker to 300F.
    Camp Chef Smoker set to 300F for turkey
  • Take your brined turkey out of the fridge and prep it for the smoker. Move the wings behind the body of the Turkey as shown.
    Turkey Wings Folded Behind
  • Tie the legs together with butcher twine.
    Turkey Legs Tied Together
  • Apply the turkey rub liberally to the entire turkey. Then lightly brush some of the peanut oil over the entire turkey.
    Peanut Oil Brushed on Turkey
  • Once the smoker hits 300F, place your turkey in the smoker and attach your meat probe into the breast of the turkey.
  • After the first 1.5hrs, I’ll check in on the turkey and see how it looks. I’ll baste it with melted butter now and then. I’ll sometimes spritz the turkey with a 50/50 mixture of apple cider vinegar as well. It helps attract the smoke to the skin.
    Basting Smoked Turkey with Butter
  • Once the Turkey reaches about 160F, I will remove it and quickly wrap in foil. The Turkey will keep climbing in temperature and reach the 165F while it is covered in foil. Let the turkey rest a minimum of 20 minutes under the foil. The longer it rests, the better.
    Turkey Resting Wrapped in Foil
  • You are done and ready to carve the turkey. Enjoy.
    Smoked Turkey Done

Nutrition

Serving: 3.5oz | Calories: 582kcal | Carbohydrates: 3g | Protein: 70g | Fat: 31g | Saturated Fat: 8g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 8g | Monounsaturated Fat: 12g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 242mg | Sodium: 978mg | Potassium: 766mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 344IU | Vitamin C: 3mg | Calcium: 52mg | Iron: 3mg
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