How to Make a Tasty Smoky Thanksgiving Turkey

For Thanksgiving, special occasions or any day of the year, nothing looks as inviting as a turkey on the dining room table. Diners of all ages like to eat turkey, and unlike some of the nasty pies and cakes that show up around the holidays, turkey won’t make your butt look big.

In spite of all the yummy qualities of turkey, some chefs shy away from cooking the bird. Maybe they’re afraid that it will be dry or that if they ruin it somehow, the hungry diners will burn the house down. Indeed, some very experienced cooks would rather leave the turkey to someone else. They needn’t worry. Here is one recipe for cooking turkey in a smoker that will yield great results.

Cooking Turkey in a Smoker

There’s a distinct advantage to cooking the turkey outside: It frees up the oven for more Thanksgiving pumpkin pie, cake, etc. Also, when cooked in a Big Green Egg or other smoker, the turkey will take on a smoky flavor that no indoor oven can match.

To maximize the flavor from the smoker, turkey BBQ chefs have a secret weapon: Brine. Here is a simple brine that works well for turkey or other poultry:

  • 1 gallon water
  • 1 cup pickling salt
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder (Here are some great garlic presses for you!)
  • 1 shot whiskey (Wild Turkey, of course)

Combine all of the above and mix well. Put completely thawed turkey into a large container (a cooler can work for this) and add enough brine to completely cover the bird. (A 14 pound turkey will require about 2 1/2 gallons of brine) Place turkey/container in a cool place for at least 24 hours and up to 72 hours. Prior to cooking, remove turkey and rinse well, inside and out. Discard brine. Now, time to cook.

Big Green Egg as a Smoker

A wide variety of smokers are available, and most will yield acceptable results. Smoking a turkey takes quite a bit of time, so someone will have to monitor the smoker during the cooking time and add fuel as needed. This is one place where the trusty old kitchen oven has the edge. However, the Big Green Egg can be filled with charcoal and won’t need re-fueling during the turkey cooking process.

Whatever smoker is used, the cooking recipe is the same. Heat the smoker to 225 degrees and add the turkey. The bird will need between 1 and 1 1/4 hour per pound to be cooked. As long as the temperature stays at/near 225 degrees for the entire time, the eating will be good.

Some things to keep in mind:

  • Thaw a turkey in a refrigerator or cooler whenever possible.
  • Plan ahead. The thawing, brining and cooking process will take several days.
  • A bigger (18-20 pound) turkey can be brined for a day or two longer than a 10-14 pounder.
  • The bigger the bird, the longer the cooking time.

That wasn’t so tough, was it?

Recommended: Try cooking this turkey in the best greaseless fryer!

While you’re here, be sure to check out our kitchen product reviews!