Top 5 Rubs For Smoking a Turkey at Christmas, Thanksgiving or Anytime!

To give you a few great options, here are our top 5 best rubs for smoking a turkey.

They are all specifically for turkey and while there are similarities each rub is unique, and can be further customised to your tastes.

Turkey is a lean and tasty meat for smoking all year round, but of course especially good at Christmas or Thanksgiving. A tasty, spicy and herby rub enhance flavour and the smells will make you feel all those holiday feelings all over again.

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Top 5 Rubs for Smoking Turkey

Rubs For Smoking a Turkey at Christmas, Thanksgiving or Anytime!

Like fish or chicken, turkey can be bland if not properly prepared and cooked. These rubs for smoking turkey are anything but bland and will make sure your bird is packed with flavour.

Turkey also has a bad reputation of being quite a dry meat. This is why we would recommend brining your turkey overnight in a solution of water, salt, sugar and herbs. It’s a great insurance against the meat being too dry, but it is optional.

You might need a recipe to brine a turkey for the smoker if you want to go down this route.

1 Classic Rubs for Smoking A Turkey

This classic and easy rub for smoked turkey uses dried herbs and spices which pair well with poultry. Turkey takes on both sweet and savoury flavours well, and some of the classic flavours of Christmas and Thanksgiving such as sage, rosemary and thyme.

  • 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

2 Fresh Herb Rub for Smoking Turkey

What we really like about this rub from ‘Hey Grill Hey’ is that it uses fresh herbs, rather than dried ones. This makes the flavours more prominent and gives us amazing mouth-watering aromas.

The addition of celery salt and cayenne really helps too.

The classic BBQ flavours are still there too, so don’t worry!

  • 3 Tablespoons of brown sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons of smoked paprika
  • 2 Tablespoons of coarse salt
  • 1 Tablespoon of black pepper
  • 1 Tablespoon of garlic powder
  • 1 Tablespoon of onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon crushed rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon of fresh thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon of rubbed sage leaf
  • 1/2 teaspoon of celery salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

3 Extra Smoky Rub for Smoking Turkey

This smoked turkey rub from Smoked BBQ Source is different from the other rubs in this article because it has more of a smoky profile due to extra smoked paprika, and it has the addition of dried mustard for a little heat.

  • 4 tbsp of smoked paprika
  • 3 tbsp of brown sugar
  • 3 tbsp coarse salt
  • 2 tbsp freshly ground black pepper 
  • 1 tbsp dried thyme
  • 1 tbsp dried rosemary
  • 1 tbsp of mustard powder
  • 1 tbsp of garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp of onion powder
Top 5 Rubs for Smoking a Turkey

4 Ultimate Guide for Smoking a Turkey (With Dry Rub too)

This guide for smoking a turkey takes you through the whole process step by step from brining to smoking to serving. There’s also great recipes for Thanksgiving stuffing and Cranberry BBQ Sauce in there as well!

The dry rub has cumin in there to give the flavour profile a real rich, earthy warming aspect.

  • 1 tablespoon onion powder 
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 3 tablespoons of light brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons of finely ground sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon of ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon of chilli powder (leave this out if you don’t like heat)
Top 5 Rubs for Smoking Turkey at Christmas or Thanksgiving

5 Maple BBQ Rub for Smoked Turkey

Turkey takes on the sweetness of this Maple and Butter BBQ rub really well, and it helps to keep the bird moist too. You’ll love this rub recipe if you like sweetness and savoury spices together.

2 Tbsps of Brown Sugar

1 Tbsps Sweet Paprika

2 tsps of Black Pepper

1 tsp of Coarse Salt

1 tsp of Celery Salt

1 tsp of Garlic Powder

1 tsp of Onion Powder

1/2 tsp of Cayenne Pepper

1/2 tsp of Dry Mustard

Maple Syrup & Butter for glazing.

If you’d to read more on smoking a turkey for Thanksgiving or Christmas, try below.

Top 10 Thanksgiving Turkey Recipes

Smoking a Turkey Ultimate Guide

Hickory Smoked Turkey

Smoked Turkey Injection

FAQ’s About Rubs For Smoking a Turkey

Smoked Turkey on a Traeger

If you would like to explore how to smoke a turkey specifically on the Traeger grills try the article below.

Smoked Turkey on a Traeger

What Do You Put on Turkey Skin When Smoking?

To get a crispy, flavourful turkey skin season it liberally with your favourite dry rub, making sure to get the seasonings into the cavities and under the skin as well. If you like you can use a binder such as oil or butter on the turkey skin to give the rub something to stick to.

Consider spritzing the turkey every 45 minutes or so with apple cider vinegar, butter or chicken broth (stock) to keep the bird moist during the smoking process.

Should I Rub Oil on my Turkey Before Smoking?

Oil can be useful too use as a binder which gives your seasonings something to adhere to. It will also help to crisp up the turkey skin and keep it moist during smoking.

How do You Keep a Turkey Moist when Smoking?

There are a number of ways to keep a turkey moist during the smoking process.

  • Brine the turkey overnight in a 50/50 salt and sugar (water) solution
  • Spritz it every 45minutes or so with apple cider vinegar/butter/chicken stock or broth, or a mixture of these
  • Place a water pan in the smoker
  • Inject the turkey with butter/oil and or stock/broth
  • Smoke the turkey in an aluminium tray (the juices collect, keeping the turkey moist and also providing you with the basis of a delicious gravy)

What are the Best Flavours to Smoke a Turkey With?

These are The Best Woods for Smoking Turkey

  • Maple – turkey takes on smoke and sweetness well so maple is a good choice
  • Pecan – pecan wood brings a slight sharpness and a lovely subtle nuttiness that pairs well with turkey
  • Apple – although apple provides a mild and fruity smoke taste it’s still a good choice for turkey which in itself has a mild flavour
  • Cherry – cherry has a slightly stronger smoke taste than apple but it is still fruity and mild and works well with turkey
  • Alder – although not an obvious choice for turkey it has an earthy and light smoke profile which works well with poultry
  • Hickory – although hickory is quite a strong smoke taste turkey stands up to it well
  • Oak – like hickory oak has quite a robust smoke profile but it can work well with turkey or chicken

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