Turkey Smoking Time!


Thanksgiving is almost here and I love barbecuing (or "smoking") the Thanksgiving day bird. Ever since I was little boy having smoked turkey at Thanksgiving dinner has been a tradition. Both my grandfather and my father smoked turkeys for our holiday meals and sometime ago I picked up the tradition myself. I love smoked turkey. So how do I prepare it?

Well, the following recipe has been my go-to for several years now. In fact my mouth is salivating right now thinking about this turkey.

My recipe is adapted some from this one on the Food Network website.


Dry Rub:

  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons ground sage
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons thyme
  • 1/2 tablespoon black pepper
  • 1/2 tablespoon of your favorite paprika based dry rub. I like this one


  • 1 (22-pound) turkey
  • Olive oil
  • 4 cups hickory wood chips, soaked in water for 60 minutes

Turkey Brine:

  • 1 gallon water
  • 2 cups salt
  • 3 cups apple juice
  • 1 cup bourbon (you can have a little if you like too)
  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar


For the rub. 

Mix all ingredients in a small bowl and reserve.

For the brine:

Mix the water, salt, apple juice, bourbon, peppercorn, and sugar into a 5-gallon bucket lined with a resealable bag. Stir until the salt and sugar is dissolved. Add the turkey into the bag with the brine. In a garbage bag-lined ice chest filled with ice, place the bucket in and surround with ice. Keep in a cool place and let brine 6 hours or overnight. Turn the turkey after 3 hours. Remove turkey from the brine and pat dry with paper towels.

For the Turkey on the Barbecue (smoker or grill)

Rub the turkey with olive oil and massage the rub onto the Turkey.

If you are preparing this turkey on a standard charcoal grill, soak wood chips for 1 hour prior to cooking the turkey and drain well. Fill the chimney starter with charcoal and light. Burn until they ash over. Place the burned coals to 1 side of the grill. Place wood chips on top of coals. Line a standard size loaf pan with aluminum foil and fill 2/3 with water. Place in the grill opposite the coals.

Take the turkey and place on the grill over the pan of water. Insert a probe thermometer in the thigh to keep a check on the temperature as it cooks. Place the lid on the grill with the vent open.

The temperature should remain constant at 225 degrees F. You will need to add more coals and chips every few hours. In fact keep the chips coming. More smoke = better turkey. Trust me. 

After 1 hour check the turkey, if the skin is golden brown cover with foil. Continue cooking for 4 to 6 more hours or until a probe thermometer reaches 160 degrees F. (Now some of you will balk and say "poultry should be at 165 before it's ready. That's why you don't skip the next step. Seriously. I know what I'm doing.)

Remove from the oven and let rest (that means don't touch it) 20 minutes before you carve.

What's your favorite Thanksgiving turkey recipe?