Smoked Turkey

Prep Time:
36 Hours
|
Cook Time:
5 Hours
|
15-20
Servings
Poultry
Turkey
Dinner
Holiday
North American
Updated:
December 5, 2022
|
Published:
December 1, 2022

Prepare Ahead

Study the instructions below one week out to get a game plan. Start 2 days ahead with a brine so prepare to have the turkey mostly thawed (or fresh) and a container big enough to hold the size of the turkey as well as room in fridge or cold place between 30F and 40F.

Make a plan when to start your brine and your smoking. If using a wet brine, it will need 12 hours to soak. Starting around 10pm will have you moving to the next step at 10am the following morning. Resting to dry will take 24 hours. Starting at 10am will have you moving to the next step at 10am the following morning. Smoking, depending on the size of your turkey or temperature of your grill will take 4-6 hours. Starting at 10am will have your turkey ready to serve around 2pm - 4pm.

Ingredients

Wet Brine

(Optional; skip to Dry Rub if desired)

1 whole 15-20 lb Turkey (Fresh or Thawed)

8 qts Cool Water

2 Tbs Whole All Spice

2 Tbs Whole Black Peppercorn

2 Medium Onions (Halved)

3 Rosemary Branches (~5" inch each)

1.5 Cups of Kosher Salt

1.5 Cups of Brown Sugar

6 Whole Bay Leaves

Dry Rub

5 Tablespoons Brown Sugar

3 Tablespoons Smoked Paprika

1 Tablespoon Kosher Salt (3 Tbs if skipping a wet brine)

2 Tablespoon Freshly Ground Black Pepper

2 Tablespoon Garlic Powder

2 Tablespoon Onion Powder

1.5 teaspoon Crushed Rosemary

2 teaspoon Thyme

1 teaspoon Dry Rubbed Sage

1 teaspoon Celery Seed

Glaze

1 1/4 Cup Bourbon-Aged Pure Maple Syrup (Standard Pure Maple Syrup will do)

1/3 Cup Apple Bourbon (or any favorite)

1 Habanero Pepper - Sliced

Grill

Lump Charcoal or Charcoal Briquettes

Apple Wood (or favorite flavor)

Directions

  1. Start by thawing the turkey a couple days ahead so that it is nearly thawed the day you start the brine.
  2. For the brine, combine all ingredients into a large vessel. Remove the giblets and neck form the turkey and give a quick rinse under cold water. Pat dry the turkey dry with paper towel.
  3. For more optimal smoke coverage of the breast, you can cut skin between the rib cake and legs so that that more of the breast meat is exposed. You can also cut the skin where the joints meet the wings and tuck the wings back under the turkey to help stabilize the bird on the grill. (This preparation is completely optional.)
  4. Submerge the turkey in the brine and cover. Store in a cold place or refrigerator to keep for the next 12 hours. Optimal temperature is between 32F (0C) and 40F (4C).
  5. After 12 hours brining, remove the turkey and run it under cool water to give a quick rinse of any excess saltiness.
  6. Pat dry with paper towels and place the turkey on a baking sheet lined with a cooling rack. If you are skipping the wet brine, you can add the dry rub now. Else, leave the turkey as is; uncovered, and return it to the cold place where you stored it during the brining, for the next 24 hours.
  7. After 24 hours, prepare your grill or smoker. The goal is to keep enough coal and wood going for up to 6 hours.  Plan for extra if needed. The temperature should be maintained between 200 and 280 the best you can. For kettle grills, this works well leaving the bottom vents fully open and the top vents ~1/2 open. Remove the top rack and align the coals on the bottom rack, roughly 3 inches wide and up to 4 inches tall in a snake pattern around 1/3 of your grill. Soak the smoking wood for about 10 minutes in water. Shake off any excess water and set the damp smoking wood on top of the coals. Using a few more loose coals, use whatever method works best to light them. Once the coals are no longer flaming, carefully add them at one of the ends of the snake to start the snake burning process. Place a disposable drip pan in the remaining area of the coal rack. You can bend and shape it if needed to avoid as much contact with the burning coals as possible. Add the top rack back to the grill.
  8. In the meantime, if your turkey isn't already dry rubbed, add the rub mixture now, generously covering all exposed areas of the skin. Prepare some grilling probes. Using two or three probes is best, placing one in the breast on one side, and the other in the leg on the opposite side. 
  9. Add the turkey to the top rack of the grill directly over the drip pan. Preferably facing the feet of the turkey towards the heat source to avoid cooking the meat of the bird too quickly. If using a third probe, simply set it near the bird touching the open air to gage how hot the internal temperature of the grill is during the smoking process. Cover the grill with the top vents at roughly 1/2 open and facing where the vent is over the turkey or just offset from the turkey if the bird is too close to blocking the vent holes. This will allow the smoke to escape but pass over the bird on its way out.
  10. Watch the probes carefully to make sure the temperature of the grill is between the desired temperature. Also keep an eye on both probes in the turkey to make sure the temperature is cooking evenly. By the time one side reaches 100F, the other side may be 40-50F behind. At this time, turn the bird 180 degrees.  This will help even out the temperatures and they should reach their desired cook temps of 165F white-meat and 175F dark-meat. You can also cover the part of the turkey that is overcooking to help balance the temperature. This is also a good time to add the first glaze.
  11. Brush the glaze over the turkey on all exposed areas of the skin.  Return the cover to the grill and come back for a repeat glazing when the turkey is around 145F on any probe. You can also add another glazing just before the turkey reaches 165 on any probe or wait until the turkey is done if desired.
  12. Once the turkey has reached 165F white-meat and 175F dark-meat, take it off the grill and rest it on a clean baking sheet with a wire rack. Cover the turkey with aluminum foil and rest for roughly 45 minutes before serving.

Tools and Vessels

  • 10-12 qt Food Container for Brine
  • Baking sheet with cooling rack for drying
  • BBQ Tongs
  • BBQ Smoker or Grill
  • Disposable Drip Pan
  • 1-3 Grilling Probes

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