Smoked Thanksgiving Turkey - What's Smoking (2023)

Nothing beats a good smoked Thanksgiving turkey. This recipe has some amazing smoke flavor combined a delightful brine, may have the family asking you to do the whole turkey every year! If this is your first go around with smoking a turkey, don’t worry. We have you covered.

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Preparing For A Smoked Thanksgiving Turkey

If you have not done this yet, you are going to need to pick a turkey size. Here is a graphic that may help with that decision:

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Once you have your size, and I usually do an 15-20 pound turkey, in many cases you need to defrost it. Here is another graphic giving you some info on time needed to defrost. Keep reading below! More important information follows this graphic.

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Once you have the turkey thawed we can get to work and start talking more about the brine.

How To Brine A Turkey For Smoking

Now that the turkey is thawed, we can start brining it. I need to review this a bit first and will essentially break it down into 2 categories. Fresh turkeys and frozen turkeys, usually your Butterball turkey.

Brining A Frozen Turkey

If you are using a frozen turkey from a company like Butterball, there is probably a salt/brining solution involved. In many cases those turkeys have been injected with a brine. You will see something along the lines of “Contains up to 8% of a solution of Water, Salt, Spices, and Natural Flavor.”. If that is the case, then there this turkey has either been injected or brined already. If you start looking around the internet, I make a bet you find a 50/50 split of people that still wet brine the Butterballs.

In this recipe, using a Butterball, I still do a brine but cut back on the salt content of the brine and the time. At this point its more flavor that we are looking to achieve over actual brining. The recipe card brine will reflect a brine and instructions for a frozen Butterball turkey.

Brining A Fresh Turkey

A fresh turkey either from a butcher or from a grocery store is probably not going to have any brine solution involved so that will want a full brine. I will reflect the adjustments in the recipe card for a full brine of a fresh turkey. Not brining a fresh turkey will likely result in a dried out turkey so take the extra time to brine.

Smoked Thanksgiving Turkey Brine Recipe

You will first need either a food safe bucket or brine bag. I personally use a brine bag so I will review that method here. Because we are using the Butterball turkey, we are going to cut down on the brine time and instead of a normal 24 hours of brine, we are just going to do 12 hours, essentially a long overnight brine.

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Remove the turkey from the package, remove any giblets from the inside. I do not use those, if you do, go right ahead and put them off to the side. Cooking or using the giblets has never been a priority for me. You can leave any twine or plastic ties on the legs for now. It will make handling the turkey much easier as you are going in and out of the brine bag.

We are going to combine our dry ingredients and add them to the cold water and broth. Make sure with the broth you use low sodium, we don’t want additional salt content being added to the brine recipe. Once you have everything combined and in the bag, you can place the turkey in the bag. Once its in the bag, you have two options, leave it in the regfrigator or place it in a cooler. If going in a cooler you need to add ice. It is important that you keep the temperature below 40°.

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After 12 hours of brining you can remove the turkey and we will prepare to move onto the next steps of prepping the turkey so we can smoke it.

Easy Smoked Turkey Recipe

We are going to smoke our turkey hot and fast. This will mean getting the smoker up to a temperature of 325. If you smoke a turkey down in the 225 degrees range, low and slow, the result is rubbery skin. Most people like having that crispy skin on their poultry and doing the turkey at 325° will accomplish that.

I did this smoked turkey recipe on my Weber Smokey Mountain, using B&B lump charcoal and some apple wood chunks. Wood chips work as well and go with the charcoal you are familiar with. This recipe should be pretty transferable whether you are doing this turkey on a Traeger pellet grill or some other style smoker. Turkey smoked with pecan or cherry wood are also good pairings.

While the smoker is getting up to temperature you can work on seasoning your turkey. As we talked about above, if you are using a previously brined turkey you want to be mindful of the rub you are using and ensuring it is salt free. Here is a rub I used and works great:

  • 3 tablespoons of ground sage
  • 2 tablespoon of dried thyme
  • 2 tablespoon of dried rosemary
  • 4 teaspoons of pepper
  • 1 teaspoon of allspice
  • 1 teaspoon of ground mustard

You will want to pat your turkey dry, if you feel like the rub is not sticking, give it a light coating of olive oil but this should not be necessary. Make sure you apply the rub generously and inside the turkey as well. Now that the turkey is seasoned, place it in a roasting pan. A roasting pan helps minimize the mess and collects those juices for some gravy later on.

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As a gauge for how long to smoke a turkey at 325°, figure about 20 minutes per pound. When it comes to measuring the IT of the turkey, ideally you want two probes in the turkey. One in the breast and another in the thigh. Something you need to know, thigh meat can take a higher IT, upwards of 175°. On the flip side, you do not want your breast meat going above 165° or you risk drying it out.

I highly suggest checking out the ThermoPro TP829, its a great 4 probe unit that will not break the bank.

How To Smoke A Turkey

Our rub is on, smoker is up to temp and probes are set, its time to get the bird on the smoker. No need to get nervous now, just remember smoking turkey is not much different than smoking any other meat.

Now that the turkey is on, we don’t need to do to much. If you did everything else correctly on the front end things start to get easier. You are going to let it ride, again figure about 20 minutes per pound. Depending on how big your turkey is, you will want to baste it twice, with some melted butter. Once at 135° and then again at 150°.

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Be mindful that the turkey will start moving must faster than you may have anticipated but then it will slow down and not stall but not cook at the speed it was, when you started.

Once you see your turkey breast get to 165°, and your thighs are at least at 165°, you can go ahead and pull the turkey. If you want to let it rest for 15 minutes or so you can but not necessary. After having pulled it off, you can start slicing and serving.

Smoked Thanksgiving Turkey Wrap Up

Nothing beats a smoked turkey and this will have you being the talk of the holiday, hopefully for all the good reasons.

Thanks for being here and checking out this Smoked Thanksgiving Turkey recipe. I hope you enjoy it! We always appreciate comments, 5 star recipe rating and social media shares. As always, keep that smoke rolling!

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If you are looking for some more info and tips for smoking a turkey, whether you are smoking a turkey on a Traeger grill or charcoal smoker, like myself, we put together 5 Tips For Smoking A Turkey. It covers some of what is in here but we also talk about some things like doing a smoked stuffed turkey.

If you are looking for some other recipes, here are some suggestions:

  • Smoked Turkey Breast
  • Smoked Turkey Soup (perfect for that leftover turkey)
  • Smoked Roast Beef
  • Smoked Pork Loin
  • Grilled Stuffed Mini Peppers

This post contains affiliate links. If you use these links to buy something I may earn a commission. Thanks!

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Smoked Thanksgiving Turkey

Prep Time:30 minutes

Cook Time:5 hours

Total Time:5 hours 30 minutes

Nothing beats a good smoked Thanksgiving turkey. This recipe has some amazing smoke flavor combined a delightful brine, may have the family asking you to do the turkey every year!

Ingredients

  • 15-20 lb. turkey
  • butter

Turkey Brine

  • 1 1/2 gallons of water
  • ounces of vegetable broth (low sodium)28
  • 2 tsp. of crushed allspice berries
  • 2 tsp. of crushed crystalized ginger
  • 1/2 cup of kosher salt (for a fresh turkey, use 1 cup of salt)
  • 1/2 cup of brown sugar
  • 1 tsp of ground black pepper

Dry Rub

  • 3 tablespoons of dried sage
  • 2 tablespoon of dried thyme
  • 2 tablespoon of dried rosemary
  • 4 teaspoons of pepper
  • 1 teaspoon of allspice
  • 1 teaspoon of ground mustard

Instructions

  1. Start thawing your turkey, if frozen (see graphic in post for more details)
  2. After turkey has thawed, brine. For a frozen brined turkey, we will brine for 12 hours.
  3. Brine using either a brine bag or a food grade plastic container. Keep in regfrigator or cooler. Keep temperature at no more than 40 degrees.
  4. After 12 hours, remove from brine and pat dry
  5. Set smoker to 325° using either cherry, apple or pecan wood
  6. Ensure at this time all giblets are removed and any kind of plastic ties or wraps
  7. Once patted dry, apply the dry rub, generously in and outside the turkey. Use some olive oil as a binder if needed
  8. Place on smoker, in a roasting pan, with probes in the breast and thigh
  9. Baste twice, at 135° and 150°
  10. Once the breast hits 165°, your thighs should already be there, pull the turkey
  11. You can serve and slice immediately
Nutrition Information:

Yield: 30Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving:Calories: 75Total Fat: 2gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 26mgSodium: 510mgCarbohydrates: 3gFiber: 0gSugar: 1gProtein: 10g

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