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Published November 17, 2021. This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure policy.
Learn the absolute best most flavorful way to prepare a turkey by making this delicious Brined Smoked Turkey Recipe.
I mean I’m cool with eating turkey on Thanksgiving and all, just as long as it’s this.
More often than not I preach to get out of the norm and make a big prime rib roast, or beef tenderloin, just anything other than turkey. Well, if you are making this, I will give you a pass because it is that delicious.
Seriously, it is the only way to make and eat turkey if you’re doing up a bird for the holidays. A few years ago, I decided to help out my mother-in-law by making these. Well, I made this recipe and at the end of the meal, my father-in-law asked to see a show of hands who thought I should do it every year.
Yeah, everyone raised their hands haha.
Why do You Brine a Turkey
The main reason to brine is for flavor and juiciness. The acid in the brine will tenderize the meat while the salt, sugar, and herbs will flavor it up to perfection. If you’re asking me, this is the only way it.
How to Make the Brine
Making this is actually really easy, all you need is a big huge stockpot or an extremely clean paint bucket. You choose! The brine that I’ve been making the last few years is apple cider.
It’s a simple solution that packs a serious punch. Meanwhile, the smoked part of this is tasty, it wouldn’t be anything without the brine I whipped up.
The ingredients for this are:
- Apple Cider
- Bay Leaves
- Fresh Thyme Sprigs
- Garlic Cloves
The Instructions are:
You start by bringing the water, cider, sugar, and salt to a boil to ensure all of those ingredients are dissolved and incorporated and then you let it chill.
Once the brine is chilled toss in the peppercorns, bay leaves, thyme, onions, and garlic.
Yes, this recipe is easy to make, but it will require you to get prepped up a few days before you want to cook and serve it.
How to Brine It
1. Once the brine is chilled and the other ingredients have been put in it add in your trussed turkey making sure the giblets have been removed from the turkey, and completely submerge it. You can add in a little ice if you’d like to help make sure it stays really cold, and then I add a few of my plates over top to ensure the turkey stays submerged.
2. Place it in the refrigerator, yes you will probably need to make some room in there because the pot or bucket is pretty big.
3. Brine for 24 hours. I think this is ample time to bring out some really good flavor, but you can absolutely push it to 36 to 48 hours if you’d like, but I don’t think you need it.
Rinsing Off Turkey
One of the most important steps to this recipe is rinsing off the turkey once it’s done brining. Remove it from the brine and rinse it extremely well in your sink on all sides including the cavity.
You want to make sure it’s seasoned, not a salt lick so take the time to do this. Next, pat it dry and let it sit for 45 minutes at room temperature before smoking it. The cooking process can drag on if you through a really cold bird into your smoker, not to mention and can decrease the smoker’s temperature.
How Many Minutes Per Pound Does It Take to Smoke
A brined turkey will cook much faster than a non-brined turkey. Here are the basic rules of thumb for smoking:
- Smoking at 225° – 235° at 21-23 minutes per pound
- Smoking at 245° to 255° at 19-21 minutes per pound
- Smoking at 265° to 275° at 17-19 minutes per pound
This will also vary slightly depending upon how big your bird is and if you can hold your smoker’s temperature.
Smoking a Brined Turkey
Now it’s time to smoke. Since my in-laws aren’t keen on super smoky foods I do a light smoke and because it’s brined it actually cooks a bit quicker than if it wasn’t’.
Be sure that your smoker up to 275° before putting the turkey in it. I don’t care if you are smoking on the big green egg, a Traeger or in a digital smoker, just get it to 275°.
This recipe will require you to cook it for a total of 4 hours Now, if I were to smoke this turkey completely through it would take about 4 hours for this 14-pound bird but since I lightly smoke it I only keep it in there for 2 hours.
Transfer it to the oven and cook it at 275 for another 90 to 120 minutes or until the thighs read 165°.
Be sure to then cover it in foil and let it rest for 30 minutes before slicing and serving. Resting it allows for the juices to soak back into the turkey while ensuring the meat gets over that 165° internal temperature mark.
Can I Brine If It’s Pre-Brined
You can definitely brine a pre-brined turkey but I highly recommend against doing so. It will be extremely salty and most likely the protein will overly break down due to all of the acid infusing into the meat.
I can promise you one thing though, if you love turkey then this is the recipe for yours!
Recipe Chef Notes + Tips
How to Reheat: to reheat it simply place it in a saucepan with a little bit of chicken or turkey stock, or gravy, cover it with foil, and heat it in the oven at 350° for 12-15 minutes or until warm. You can also simply heat it in the microwave until warm.
How to Store: It will hold in the refrigerator covered in plastic for up to 5 days. In addition, you can freeze it covered for up to 3 months. Be sure to thaw it in the refrigerator for a full day before reheating it.
How to Reheat: Add the desired amount of turkey to a saucepan along with ½ to 1 cup of chicken stock. Cover and cook in the oven at 350° for 15-20 minutes or until warm. You can also heat the turkey in the microwave on a plate until warm.
You may need to add plates or bowls to the turkey in the brine to ensure it is completely submerged.
Feel free to add whole black peppercorns as well to the brine.
If you do not have a smoker and can only cook it in the oven, you may do so at 350° for 10-13 minutes per pound.
Other ingredients you can add to the brine include fresh rosemary, sage, orange peel, lemon peel, or brown sugar.
After the brine is in the 5-gallon container and is whisked together and you find it still is not very cold, feel free to add in 2 cups of ice.
If the bones on the ends of the legs or the tips of the wings begin to turn dark brown too quickly, wrap them in a small amount of foil.
Other Holiday Recipes
- Roasted Beef Tenderloin
- Acorn Squash
- Scalloped Potatoes
- Cornbread Stuffing with Chorizo
- Bone-In Ribeye Roast
Brined Smoked Turkey Recipe
- 1 gallon apple cider
- 1 gallon water
- 1 ¼ cups salt
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 peeled and roughly chopped medium size onions
- 12-14 garlic cloves
- 4 bay leaves
- 1 bunch fresh thyme sprigs
- 1 14-16 pound trussed turkey, giblets and neck removed
- Add 4 cups of the cider with all the salt and sugar to a medium-size pot and bring to a boil and cook until the salt and sugar are completely dissolved. Whisk occasionally.
- Transfer the mixture to a large 5-gallon container along with the remaining amount of cider, water, onions, garlic, bay leaves, and thyme, and whisk to combine.
- Add in the trussed turkey and ensure it is completely submerged.
- Place in the refrigerator for 24 hours or up to 48 hours.
- Remove the turkey and rinse very well with cold water on all sides.
- Transfer the turkey to a roasting pan and pat it dry using paper towels.
- Preheat the smoker to 250°.
- Add the turkey to the smoker and cook for 4 hours to 4 ½ hours. The thigh meat should read 160° to 165° when it is finished, or the button in the breast should have popped out.
- Wrap in foil and let it sit at room temperature for 20 to 30 minutes before slicing and serving