The BEST Smoked Turkey Recipe – From Brining to Seasoning and on to Smoking

After a lot of trial and error here is our best smoked turkey recipe from brining, to the BBQ rub and the eventual smoke.

If you are looking for the right temperatures, times, and information required to smoke a fantastic whole turkey in your pellet grill or offset smoker then read on.

Why This Recipes Works

This best smoked turkey recipe brings together all the flavours of Thanksgiving and Christmas – citrus, herbiness, sweetness and saltiness. From the flavour-packed brine to the seasoning and the wood choices this recipe for smoked turkey hits all your senses for maximum nostalgia and taste.

The Best and Most Flavourful Turkey Brine

Although brining your turkey could be considered optional, we believe it’s part of the best smoked turkey recipe. Brining undeniably helps impart flavour and it’s a good insurance against your turkey drying out in the smoker.

If you don’t want to brine your turkey then please at least consider using our turkey injection below for extra flavour and moisture.

If you have a particularly large turkey try using a coolbox. Otherwise a container for the fridge or a large ziplock bag could do the job.

Ingredients For the Turkey Brine

  • 3/4 cup of salt
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • Cold Water to Cover the Turkey
  • 1 Whole Stick of Cinnamon
  • 3-4 Whole Cloves
  • 4 Peeled Whole Garlic Cloves
  • A Tablespoon of Black Peppercorns
  • A Handful of Rosemary Leaves & Thyme sprigs
  • 3-4 Bay Leaves
  • A Whole Lemon Cut in Two
  • A Whole Orange Cut in Two

Simply submerge the turkey in the ingredients above, making sure to just cover the bird with water. Ideally brine your turkey overnight but up to 24 hours (anymore than this will make your turkey too salty and wet).

TOP TIP – Always rinse meat under the tap after brining otherwise it will be too salty. Do this before you cover the turkey in your BBQ seasoning.

Best Smoked Turkey Recipe
Best Smoked Turkey Pellet Grill Recipe

Smoked Turkey Injection (Optional)

Injecting your turkey is optional (especially if you have brined it first) but it’s well worth considering for the extra flavour it can provide.

You can inject your turkey in a few different points along the breast – do so slowly and carefully so the liquid doesn’t squirt out everywhere and get wasted.

Smoked Turkey Injection Ingredients


  • 1 stick of melted unsalted butter
  • 1 cup chicken broth (stock)
  • 1 tbsp of your favourite hot sauce
  • 2 tbsp of fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tsp of onion powder
  • 1 tsp of garlic powder
  • 1 tsp of coarse salt
  • 1 tsp of freshly ground black pepper

Dry Rub For Smoked Turkey

This great dry rub really brings out the best flavours in turkey and makes for the perfect nostalgic tastes of Thanksgiving and Christmas.

It’s such a great combination of sweet, salty and seasonally herby flavours.

Drizzle your turkey with a little oil to act as a binder and then cover it liberally with this delicious rub. Try to get the rub under the skin of the turkey and in the cavity.

  • 1 tablespoon of coarse salt
  • 1 tablespoon of brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of paprika
  • 1 teaspoon of black pepper
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons of dried thyme
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons of dried rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon of dried sage
  • 1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon of onion powder

Alternatively you can use a ready made rub such as Meat Church Honey Hog.

Best Woods For Smoking Turkey

Hickory is the classic wood for smoking turkey, and it ensures a golden colour to your smoked chicken which is great for presentation. Mesquite would make the whole turkey darker and has the tendency to bring a bitter taste.

If you want a milder smoke taste then apple or cherry might be a better fit for you. You could also go half hickory and half apple (or cherry).

Pecan is also a good choice for turkey and it imparts a slightly sweet and nutty taste to smoked food.

Spatchcocked Smoked Turkey

Spatchcocking your turkey is also an optional step which you might consider. Spatchcocking the bird makes for more even and quicker cooking cooking and it arguably makes the turkey look better for your guests. It also helps to create a crispier skin and juicier breast meat.

To spatchcock the turkey you will need to remove its backbone with a pair of sharp scissors. Watch the video below to see how it is done.

How to Spatchcock a Turkey

Smoked Turkey Recipe

  • Fill the hopper of your wood pellet grill with your wood of choice and preheat to 275F or 135C (alternatively fill your offset smoker with charcoal and wood of choice)
  • Place your seasoned turkey directly on the grill grates and close the lid
  • Smoke for around 3 hours or so until the internal temperature of the turkey reaches 160F or 71C (due to carry over cooking the internal temperature will continue to rise until it reaches a safe 165F or 74C) – take the reading in the breast because the darker meat of the thighs cooks quicker and will be at a higher temperature
  • After around 45 minutes of smoking baste the turkey with a little butter or spritz with apple cider vinegar – repeat this about an hour later (around 2 times during the smoke)
  • Rest the turkey in foil for around 15-20 minutes to allow the juices to redistribute across the meat
  • Carve the smoked turkey into thin slices and enjoy with all the trimmings!

Smoked Turkey Glaze Recipe

Although your turkey will have plenty of flavour as is you may want to glaze it for the last 10-15 minutes of cooking.

Orange, Maple Bourbon Glaze Ingredients

  • ½ cup orange marmalade or orange juice
  • 3 tablespoons of your favourite bourbon
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon of butter
  • optional – a little freshly grated nutmeg

Place all the ingredients in a pan over medium heat (except the nutmeg if using) and cook for 10 minutes or so until the glaze has thickened and reduced slightly. Grate the nutmeg in if you like and remove from the heat.

During the last 10 minutes or so of smoking your turkey brush the glaze over it and place the lid back down.

Best Smoked Turkey Recipe FAQ’s

How do you Prepare a Turkey that is Already Smoked?

If you want to prepare a turkey that is already smoked you should simply reheat it in the oven. Putting it in the smoker will almost certainly oversmoke it and make it taste unpleasant.

What not to do when Smoking a Turkey?

Should I put a Pan of Water in My Smoker for a Turkey?

Putting a pan of water in your smoker when cooking turkey can help to keep the smoker environment moist and the temperature consistent. If you are using a good quality wood pellet or electric smoker you probably don’t need to worry about a water pan.

Should I Wrap my Turkey in Foil While Smoking?

You shouldn’t need to wrap your turkey in foil while smoking – especially if you have brined it first. You can also make sure it doesn’t dry out by basting it with stock or butter or spritzing it with apple cider vinegar.

Wrapping your turkey means less exposure to the smoke and the flavours it brings.

Should Turkey be Covered in the Smoker?

There’s no need to cover your turkey in the smoker in fact covering it will mean less smoke getting into the meat. To avoid the turkey drying out spritz it every hour or so with apple cider vinegar or baste it with butter.

Do You put the Turkey Directly on the Rack when Smoking?

If you place the turkey directly on the rack when smoking you will get a more even all round cook than if you place it in a tray. Cooking it in a tray will also take longer. That being said, you may want to collect the juices to use for gravy which won’t be possible if you smoke the bird directly on the rack (unless you place a pan underneath the grills).

Should you Baste a Turkey on the Smoker?

It’s a good idea to baste a turkey on the smoker every hour or so with a little butter to stop it drying out.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *