If you are looking for THE most irresistible, juicy best smoked turkey recipe, you’ve come to the right place.
When smoking a whole turkey, you need to start preparing 4 to 5 days prior to smoking. First, if your turkey is still frozen, it can take up to 3 full days to safely thaw your turkey in the refrigerator. You MUST have a thawed turkey before brining your turkey which takes an additional 24 hours. This is all preparation prior to smoking your turkey for 7 to 8 hours. I cannot emphasize the importance of preparing ahead. Trust me… your smoked thanksgiving turkey will be a highlight for years and worth the time, but it does take some planning ahead.
I’ve brined several whole chickens and turkeys prior to smoking. Every. Single. Time. I’m grateful I took the extra time and preparation. Although your smoked whole turkey would still turn out somewhat decent without brining, there is a distinct difference between brining and not brining. It turns out SO juicy!!!
To prepare the brine, I like to make sure my brown sugar and salt are dissolved. I quickly add the brown sugar, salt, and just enough water in a saucepan over medium heat and bring it to a boil only until the sugar and salt are dissolved. Add the mixture to the additional water and submerge your turkey. Double check the turkey is fully submerged (especially the breast portion).
So the next step will potentially gross you out… but don’t skip it! You have to gently separate as much skin from the turkey breast as possible and generously spread the butter all over the turkey breast and any other parts of the turkey you can reach. There will be a thick layer of butter. Generously season with salt and pepper and you’re almost ready to go!
I like to add at least an onion into the cavity of the turkey. You could add additional things like garlic cloves, fresh rosemary and/or sage leaves. It adds additional flavor and seasoning while smoking. You could also stuff the cavity with this delectable classic bread stuffing recipe. I love this stuffing recipe and the additional smoke flavor would be incredible!
Oh, and don’t forget to make gravy from your smoked turkey (hence why I have you smoke in a roasting pan). You want to keep all those drippings in order to make the most perfect turkey gravy.
Okay, I could go on and on about this smoked turkey, however you need to start preparing! I cannot wait to hear about your success stories! Happy Thanksgiving!
Best Smoked Whole Turkey Recipe
- 1 12 to 16 lbs turkey, completely thawed and all giblets removed
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1/4 cup salt
- 3 gallons water
- 1 cup salted butter softened
- 1 large onion peeled and slice in half
Important Note: For best results, completely thawed turkey must brine for at least 24 hours. Please make preparations to allow proper amount of time for brining.
In a small saucepan over medium heat, add brown sugar, salt, and 2 cups waters. Bring to boil and only cook until sugar and salt are dissolved (about 1 minute after bringing to boil). Remove from heat.
Place turkey into a large 4 to 5 gallon container or brining bag (I have a very large mixing bowl where I can fit both my turkey and brine) and add remaining water and brown sugar/salt mixture. Make sure the entire turkey is submerged by the liquid. Cover and refrigerate for at least 24 hours.
Remove turkey from brine and pat dry. Carefully separating the skin from the turkey, spread the butter under the skin on the turkey breast. Continue spreading butter on all places you can get under the skin. Season turkey with salt and pepper. Place turkey in roaster pan and stuff the cavity with the onion OR with options suggested in the above post.
Meanwhile, turn your wood pellet grill (I own a Traeger) to the Smoke setting and open lid to establish fire.
Leave grill on Smoke and place turkey in roasting pan on the grill and smoke for 2 1/2 to 3 hours.
Increase grill setting to 350 degrees and cook for additional 3 1/2 to 4 hours, or until the breast internal temperature reaches 160 degrees F.
Remove from grill and let rest for 15 minutes before slicing. Enjoy!