The Turkey Virgin


Company Turkeys

For the past 2 years, certain people have begged me to smoke a turkey for the company holiday dinner, but the smoker I had at the time was too small to accommodate the poultry needs they were asking for. This year, they came armed with the knowledge that I have a significantly larger smoker (I believe they obtained said knowledge from this very website) and asked me yet again if I would cook the bird. They had an ace up their sleeves… They changed the party to a Monday to ensure I could smoke all day Sunday!

Sneaky little bastards…

Now we all know you wouldn’t be reading any of this if I hadn’t agreed.

Turkey Smoking Virgin

OK, here’s the deal… I’ve smoked a lot of different meats over the past three to four years, but I have never attempted a turkey. I’ve done turkey wings, turkey legs, and even turkey breast, but never a whole turkey. With well over 30 people to feed, I was starting to get a little nervous.

What to do, what to do? Then it hit me… Ask The Widow! The widow suggested I cut the birds in half and brine them before smoking. Once again, brining is a new technique so The Widow sent me a recipe to get started.

Tis’ a Mighty Fine Brine

For those of you who don’t know, brine is typically water mixed with a lot of salt and sugar. These days, there are hundreds of recipes for brining. You can soak your meat in the brine for up to 24 hours then make sure to rinse the meat very well before cooking. The end result will be a very juicy and flavorful bird, even off the smoker. As I said before The Widow sent me a brine recipe which was quite helpful… But anyone who knows me knows I don’t follow recipes well, so I tweaked it! The following is what I used for these birds, and this recipe is per bird:

Talking Smoked Turkey

The first thing we need to talk about is smoking. If you plan to smoke, plan to spend the entire day with your food. These birds took over 10 hours on my smoker.

For each bird, I got an aluminum roasting pan and 2 small garbage bags. I doubled the garbage bags and placed it in the roasting pan. I placed one bird (cut in half) breast side down in the bag and covered with brine. Tie the bag up and place in the fridge for up to 24 hours. About an hour before you are ready to cook remove the turkey from the brine and rinse very well to get the salt off the skin. Dispose of the brine and place the turkey halves in the roasting pan. Season the bird liberally on both sides with whatever seasoning you like (I used Sweet and Smokey rub from McCormicks).

Prepare your smoker with whatever charcoal/wood combination you prefer (apple wood works well with turkey if you can find it), place the turkeys on the smoker and cover. You want to keep an eye on the fire as you want to maintain a temp of about 250 degrees (see Smoketoberfest 2010 for tips on smoking). While the bird is cooking I check it every 30 minutes and rotate it due to the hot spots on my smoker. While I am checking and rotating, I also spray it with a mixture of 75% apple juice and 25% water. This helps keep it moist. Smoke until you get two consistent meat thermometer readings of 165 degrees from the thigh. When it is at this temp, you can remove it from the smoker and cover with foil.

Allow the turkey to rest for 15 to 30 minutes before carving. This ensures your bird will remain moist.

I received many compliments on how moist and flavorful the birds were from my coworkers. I have to give mad props to The Widow for her hints and suggestions; you really helped me out girl! I don’t think I’ll ever do another turkey without brine again. As always, make this recipe then make it your own.

I could use a nap…

Print Recipe
  1. Combine all ingredients in a large stock pot and bring to a boil stirring occasionally.
  2. The goal is to get the salt and sugar totally dissolved. Once it is at a boil and the salt and sugar are dissolved, remove from heat and allow it to rest until room temp.
  3. At this point you may cover the turkey and refrigerate of just keep the brine in the fridge for a later use.
Share this Recipe