Smoked turkey is a great way to do something a little different for Thanksgiving, however, if you are not careful smoking can dry meat out and leave it less than spectacular. The cure for this is brining your turkey ahead of time. This not only makes your turkey far moister, but offers the perfect opportunity to infuse your turkey with wonderful flavors.
The salt from the brine solution forces the meat to take up moisture, and when that moisture is loaded with flavors it results in the most flavorful smoked turkey you have ever had. The easiest way to brine a turkey is to use an ice chest, however if you do not have an ice chest you can brine a small turkey in a bag placed inside of a stockpot or use any non-reactive container such as a food grade plastic bucket. If you use any container besides an ice chest you must put it in the refrigerator during the brining process.
- 2 quarts apple juice
- 1 pound of honey
- 1 cup of kosher salt
- 3 quarts cold water
- 6 bay leaves
- 6 large garlic cloves crushed
To Smoke the Turkey
- 3-5 tablespoons of olive oil
- 1 turkey 12-20 pounds, fresh if possible
- 2-3 chunks of apple wood
Add the two quarts of apple juice, honey, and salt to a large pan and bring to boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium high and stir mixture to help it dissolve. Cook until all ingredients are combined. Let cool completely.
Combine juice mixture with water, bay leaves, and garlic in the container you plan to use for brining. Ice chests are a good option but make sure to substitute a pound of ice for one quart of water to help the turkey stay cold while brining. You can also use any non-reactive container such as a food grade bucket to place your brining solution in.
Set turkey in the brine breast side down, adding a small amount more water if needed to cover. Add a weight to the turkey to ensure that it stays submerged beneath the layer of the brine.
Unless you are using an ice chest and ice you should keep turkey in the refrigerator for the brining process. Let sit in the brine for a minimum of 12 hours and up to 24 hours.
Smoking the Turkey
Remove turkey from the brining solution and rinse thoroughly in cold water. Dry turkey by patting it with paper towels or a clean dish towel.
If you have enough time, let the turkey stand for a few hours to dry, this will result in a tastier crispier skin.
Set smoker to 350 degrees and add the chunks of apple wood. While smoker is preheating let turkey sit on the counter allowing it to come to room temperature. Rub turkey all over with vegetable oil. Once the apple wood is producing good smoke place your turkey in the smoker.
Turkey will take approximately 2 to 3 hours depending on the size of your turkey. Use an instant read thermometer placed in the thickest part of the breast to check for doneness. When thermometer reads 165 degrees the turkey is done.
Remove turkey from the smoker and let rest for one hour before carving and serving.
If you don’t have a smoker you should really consider getting one. They are great for lots of reasons.