Ultimate Dry-Brined & Smoked Turkey - Thanksgiving Turkey Recipe
Make your flightless bird soar above the flock with this brined and smoked turkey recipe.
For your Thanksgiving turkey, you want to wow all your guests. Don't worry, turkey and smoke are a match made in heaven. This sure-fire way to cook your Thanksgiving turkey will not only free up coveted oven space, but will add bold flavor and moisture to the traditional Thanksgiving dinner.
For this whole turkey recipe, we start with a 24-hour dry brine turkey for smoking, stuff, truss and smoke low and slow until the skin is golden and crispy and the inside is tender and flavorful.
Follow PS Seasoning Turkey baking tips and your Thanksgiving will never be the same. In this complete smoked turkey recipe, we'll show you how to thaw a turkey, how to brine a turkey, how to season a turkey, and, finally, how to smoke a turkey for the best Thanksgiving dinner ever!
1 Whole Turkey, about 14 lbs. If you're wet or dry brining your turkey, go for a natural or heritage turkey and make sure it hasn't been pre-injected with salt. The turkey should be fully thawed before brining.
1 Jar (3.2 oz) Fly the Coop Poultry Blend
1-2 Apples, Onions (halved or quartered)
Smoker (we used the Pro Smoker PK100): Go Pro or go home. This commercial-quality smokehouse will provide you professional results every time.
Temperature Probe: No matter what kind of smoker you use, it’s important that you have a way to gauge temperature accurately.
Time: You'll need about 3-5 days for thawing, 24-48 hours for dry brining, and 5-7 hours for smoking.
1. Prep Time
Does a turkey need to be fully thawed before brining?
A question we often get is: does a turkey need to be fully thawed before brining? The answer is yes, your turkey should be completely thawed before brining in order for the process to truly work.
How to thaw a turkey
There's only one safe way to thaw your turkey: in the refrigerator. Yes, it's tempting to throw it in a sink full of hot water or leave it out on your countertop, but you'll risk attracting some nasty bacteria (it'll definitely be a turkey you'll never forget).
How long to thaw a turkey
How long a frozen turkey takes to thaw is highly dependent on the size of your bird. As a general rule, a turkey needs about 24 hours per 5 lbs. to thaw in the refrigerator, so plan to thaw about 3-5 days before cooking. To check if it's thawed completely, insert a temperature probe into the breast and thighs--it should read between 35-40 F (or the temperature of your refrigerator). When it's ready, rinse lightly and pat dry with paper towels.
2. Dry Brine or Wet Brine?
Dry brining is similar to wet brining with one difference: there's no water. While both methods involve a hefty amount of salt, a wet brine will water-log your turkey and also water down the flavor. Instead of plumping the turkey the way a wet brine does, the dry brine enhances the bird's tenderness and improves its ability to retain moisture. And, because the skin hasn't been soaked in water, it becomes drier and crispier, even when smoked low and slow.
That's why, for this Thanksgiving turkey recipe, we'll use the best method to dry brine turkey for smoking by following these steps:
First, let's properly learn how to season a turkey: place your turkey on a large sheet tray or roasting pan and coat generously in a good, salty turkey seasoning rub, making sure to season the inner cavity. We used Fly the Coop, which is a salt-based turkey seasoning with savory flavors like garlic, lemon, oregano, sage, thyme, and rosemary that will compliment the other dishes on your Thanksgiving table.
Once your turkey is completely coated in seasoning, place in the refrigerator and let rest for at least 24 hours up to 48 hours, uncovered.
About 6 hours before your serving time, remove your turkey from the refrigerator and stuff. Stuffing your turkey prevents the meat from collapsing during the cook and adds flavor and moisture to the inner cavity of the poultry.
When smoking a turkey, we recommend stuffing with aromatics like herbs, apples, onions, citrus fruits, etc. and not a bread-based dressing. Since you're cooking at a low temp, you can run the risk of cooking off any bacteria that soaks into the stuffing. After stuffing, tuck the wings in and truss the legs together using twine.
Preheat your smoker to 245° F. Place turkey directly on the grate, making sure to have a drip pan on the rack beneath it.
Smoke the turkey for about 5 ½ hours, or until internal temperature in the thickest part of the thigh or breast reaches 160-165° F. In general, plan about 20-30 minutes per pound when you smoke a turkey between 225-250° F, but times may vary based on your model of smoker. Let rest for 30 minutes to let juices redistribute, then carve and serve with favorite sides.
Ready to try this smoked turkey recipe for yourself? Grab a bottle (or two) of Fly the Coop and get ready to make the best Thanksgiving turkey ever.