Last Updated on January 20, 2023 by Anne-Marie
The best smoked turkey brine and smoked turkey rub recipe. Included are tips on how to brine and smoke a turkey.
Why this recipe works
This is the easiest and best turkey brine for smoking that I’ve made after trying many recipes.
It also uses a turkey rub recipe, which is key to giving this brined smoked turkey a fantastic flavor.
These brining and dry rub recipes are gluten-free, keto, paleo, and low-carb. Don’t worry about the maple syrup in the brine. It’s just there to flavor and moisten the turkey and doesn’t add any carbs.
Forget dry turkey. Brining gives you juicy turkey that everyone will rave over.
Adding a homemade seasonings rub enhances the smoky flavor, giving you the most flavorful turkey for the holidays.
For the brine
- hot water
- maple syrup
- kosher salt
- whole bay leaves
- garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
- fresh sage
- fresh thyme
- fresh Italian parsley
- fresh oregano
- fresh rosemary
- freshly ground black pepper
For the smoked turkey rub
- olive oil
- sea salt
- nutritional yeast
For the smoked turkey seasoning mixture
- sprigs of sage, thyme, rosemary, oregano, and parsley
How to make the brine
Brining gives any turkey an amazing flavor, juicy breast meat, and flavorful dark meat.
1. Prepare the turkey by removing the wrapping and taking out the giblets, liver, and neck, which you can save for making stock or gravy.
Don't wash your turkey before cooking. According to the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service, you shouldn't wash raw poultry before cooking.
Bacteria in raw poultry can be spread to other foods, utensils, and surfaces. Washing just splashes the bacteria around your sink and countertops.
2. Combine all the brine ingredients in a large stockpot and stir until the salt is dissolved.
3. Place your turkey in a container big enough to stay submerged in the brine, such as a deep pot or food-grade bucket.
4. Pour the brine over the turkey and refrigerate for 24 to 36 hours.
You can also place the turkey in a brining bag, fill it with brine, and seal it. Then place the bagged turkey in an insulated cooler with ice. Place the cooler in a cold place like the garage or outside on the back porch.
How to smoke a turkey
You'll never return to oven-roasted turkey once you cooked a smoked turkey.
1. When you are ready to begin smoking the turkey, remove it from the brine. Pat the turkey with paper towels.
2. In a bowl, combine the rub ingredients and rub the inside and outside of the turkey with the seasoned paste. Toss any of the remaining smoked turkey rub recipe into the main cavity of the turkey.
3. Stuff turkey with apple, onion, whole lemons, and herbs.
4. Truss the brined turkey, securing the openings with skewers. Then place a meat thermometer in the thickest part of the thigh.
5. Place the turkey breast side up on a wire rack in a roasting pan that will fit Into your smoker.
6. Bring your smoker up to 400 degrees F smoker (or the highest temperature if it doesn't get that hot)
7. Place the roasting pan containing the turkey on a grill grate in your smoker for about 30 minutes. Then bring the temperature down to 240 to 260 degrees F and maintain that temperature throughout the smoking time.
8. Cook until an instant-read meat thermometer reads an internal temperature of 165 degrees F. Cooking time is approximately 6 to 7 hours for a 12-15 pound turkey or 30 minutes per pound.
9. When it's done, and the turkey skin is golden brown, remove the turkey from the smoker. Place it on a cutting board and let it sit for 20 minutes before carving to ensure the meat stays moist and flavorful.
10. Store leftover turkey in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
What equipment do you need?
You can use a large Styrofoam cooler if you don’t have a super large stockpot as a container for the brine. Just make sure to clean it well with hot water and bleach, then rinse it well.
You can use a large plastic picnic cooler. Remember there will be raw meat in there, so clean thoroughly before and after.
Weighing down the turkey
After making your brine and placing the turkey in the cooler, you’ll need to weigh down the turkey since it will float.
You can use gallon-sized Ziploc bags filled with ice or ice packs placed on top of the turkey. The bags will weigh down the turkey and keep everything cool without diluting the brine.
My preferred method is to use a brining bag, which makes setting up and cleaning up super easy, even if you have a larger turkey.
After sealing it, just place the filled brining bag in an ice-filled cooler to keep it overnight.
After placing the lid on the cooler, keep it somewhere cool or cold, like the basement, garage, or back porch if you live in a cold area.
What kind of smoker grill?
At first, we smoked our turkeys in an electric smoker.
Read why you should buy a Masterbuilt Electric Smoker to see if that type of smoker is for you.
Compared to the Green Egg, we found the Kamado Joe has more easy-to-use features and is more affordable. It’ll make the ultimate gift for the griller on your holiday list!
Not sure what's the best smoker grill to cook your turkey on? Check out my Best Smoker Grill Combo Guide!
What type of wood to use for smoking turkey?
Here are the best wood chip or wood pellets for smoking any type of turkey recipes:
Double brine recipe for a larger bird: You may want to double this wet brine recipe if you’re making a larger bird. That way, you know you'll have enough for the entire turkey.
Nutritional yeast: This is the dry rub secret ingredient. You can buy nutritional yeast online or at a natural grocery store.
Use any leftovers to soup stocks, rice, and stir-fries. I suggest using it to thicken my Easy Gluten Free Cream of Mushroom Soup Recipe along with a cornstarch slurry.
Turkey smoking tips
Keep it warm: Remember to cover the entire bird with aluminum foil to keep the moisture in. You can then cover it with a few clean kitchen towels to keep the juicy meat nice and warm.
Speed up the cooking time: If you want your brined turkey to cook even faster, try butterflying your turkey.
This is also called “spatchcocking.” Check out the faster cooking method at How to prepare and cook a spatchcock or butterflied turkey.
More Thanksgiving recipes for your smoker
What to serve
Don’t forget to make a batch of Sara Moulton’s Best Make-Ahead Turkey Gravy Recipe.
Then serve your delicious turkey dinner with these easy-to-make side dishes:
- Gluten-Free Cornbread Stuffing
- Easy Gluten-Free Skillet Cornbread Recipe
- Crockpot Mashed Potatoes
- Marinated Asparagus
- Sweetened Collard Greens
- Sugar-Free Cranberry Sauce Recipe
- Brussel Sprouts Salad with Cranberries
Looking for more delicious recipes for your holiday table? Then check out:
- The Best Gluten Free Thanksgiving Desserts Recipes
- What to Serve with Smoked Turkey Breast – 15+ Best Sides
- 30+ Best Keto Thanksgiving Recipes
- 33 of the Best Healthy Pumpkin Recipes
What’s your favorite side dish to serve with turkey?
- 1 12-15 pound turkey
- 2 1/2 gallons hot water
- 1 1/2 cups maple syrup
- 1 cup kosher salt
- 2 whole bay leaves
- 10 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
- 1 cup roughly chopped fresh sage
- 1 cup roughly chopped fresh thyme
- 1 cup roughly chopped fresh Italian parsley
- 1/2 cup fresh oregano
- 1/2 cup fresh rosemary
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
For smoked turkey rub
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 teaspoons sea salt
- 2 teaspoons paprika
- 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
For smoked turkey seasoning mixture
- 1 cup apple, roughly chopped
- 1 cup onion, roughly chopped
- 2 whole lemons
- Several large sprigs of sage, thyme, rosemary, oregano, and parsley
- Unwrap the turkey and remove the giblets, liver, and neck.
- Combine all the brine ingredients in a large pot and stir until the salt is dissolved.
- Place your turkey in a container big enough to stay submerged in the brine, such as a deep pot or food-grade bucket. You can also place it in a brining bag, which you can place in an insulated cooler with ice.
- Cover the turkey and refrigerate for 24 to 36 hours.
- When you are ready to begin smoking the turkey, remove it from the brine, and pat dry with paper towels
- In a small bowl, combine the rub ingredients. Rub the inside and outside of the turkey with the seasoned paste.
- Toss any remaining turkey seasoning mixture into the main cavity of the turkey.
- Stuff the turkey with apple, onion, whole lemons, and herbs.Truss the brined turkey with skewers. Place a meat thermometer in the thickest part of the thigh.
- Place the brined turkey breast side up on a wire rack in a roasting pan that will fit Into your smoker.
- Bring your smoker up to 400 degrees F smoker (or the highest temperature if it doesn't get that hot)
- Place the roasting pan containing the turkey on a grill grate in your smoker for about 30 minutes. Then bring the temperature down to 240 to 260 degrees F and maintain that temperature throughout the smoking time.
- Cook until a meat thermometer reads an internal temperature of 165 degrees F. Cooking time is approximately 6 to 7 hours for a 12-15 pound turkey or 30 minutes per pound.
- When done, remove the turkey from the smoker. Let the smoked turkey sit for 20 minutes before carving.
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Serving Size:1 pound
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 877Total Fat: 34gSaturated Fat: 10gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 22gCholesterol: 556mgSodium: 479mgCarbohydrates: 0gFiber: 0gSugar: 0gProtein: 132g
Nutritional information is automatically calculated per the ingredients list. Serving size may not be accurate. Please double-check with your preferred nutritional app for the most accurate information.