When it comes to creating the ultimate smoked turkey off the grill — tender and juicy — the answer is simplicity.
Smoking a whole turkey will catapult your Thanksgiving meal game, but it’s also something that can and should be grilled all year long.
The simple answer to tasty, juicy smoked turkey is … the smoke. Smoking a whole turkey means low and slow, which will keep your star of the feast tender and juicy. The wood choice can highlight the fresh flavor of the bird. In this recipe, we’re going with apple wood, and it seems to work nicely with this rich fowl.
Some may think the only way to achieve a perfectly smoked turkey is with a fancy, bulky smoker. That’s not always the case, as a simple kettle grill can turn out perfectly smoked turkey with ease.
Ultimate Smoked Turkey
Note: Try to use fresh herbs from your garden or grocer.
- 1 12-pound turkey
- 5 tablespoons butter, optional
- 1/2 tablespoons sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon sage
- 1 teaspoon thyme
- 1 teaspoon basil
- 1 tablespoon chopped chives
- 1 tablespoon puréed garlic
- 1/2 cup sea salt
- 2 tablespoons celery salt
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 quarts apple juice
- 3/4 cup dark brown sugar
- 1/2 cup local honey
Light up the grill
To make the brine, bring the juice, salts, bay leaves, sugar and honey to a boil. Simmer until sugar is dissolved and let cool completely.
- In large container, pour the brine over the turkey making sure the entire bird is covered by the brine. Cover the container. Let sit overnight in a refrigerator.
- Finely mince the fresh thyme, basil and sage, and add them to the salt, ground peppers, cumin and smoked paprika.
- Free up the skin on the turkey with your fingers to spread the seasoning under the skin and onto the meat of the bird. Be sure to add the rub mixture all over the inside of the bird cavity and on the skin. Adding tabs of butter under the skin can dramatically enhance the flavor of the turkey, but this is optional for those wanting to keep it healthy.
- Optionally, you can slice an apple, orange or both and add to the cavity.
- Bring your grill to 250 degrees and place turkey in an aluminum pan in the center of the grill. Add apple wood chips/chunks every hour for four hours to your coals. The amount of time it takes to smoke the turkey typically takes about five hours for a 12-pound turkey.
- If you are a basting fan, try using a 1/2 cup apple juice, half-stick of butter, garlic and chives. Melt the butter and add the juice, garlic and chives. Brush on over the final hour on the grill.
- Grill the turkey until the temperature at the thickest part of the turkey (breast) reads 162 degrees from an instant-read thermometer, such as the Thermapen MK4. Take the turkey off the grill and wrap it up with foil and set aside for 20 to 30 minutes. This will let it reach 165 degrees while absorbing all of the juices created on the grill.