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Smoking your Thanksgiving turkey takes a lot of time and preparation, but it’s so totally worth it in the end.

In order to smoke a turkey you must brine it because smoking is a drying process, and dry turkey is not really the best turkey. Come on, do you really like your gandmother’s sandpaper turkey? I didn’t think so.

Brine Ingredients

  • 20 Pound Turkey
  • 1 Gallon water
  • 1 Pound kosher salt
  • 2 Quarts vegetable broth
  • 2 Pounds honey
  • Spices, lots and lots of spices (pepper works well)
  • About 10 pounds of ice (7lbs bag works well enough)

Brine Directions

You’ll want to do this a day ahead of smoking.

Boil water, broth, spices, and salt together until all salt dissolves. While still hot (but not boiling) add honey until integrated with the brine. Let brine cool overnight.

Add brine and ice water to a large cooler (a large orange water cooler that you can get at a home improvement store works great). Add the turkey to the brine, and let it sit overnight, but not a lot longer than 12 hours. Make sure to flip the turkey about halfway through brining.

Smoking Ingredients

  • 1 Brined turkey
  • 1 Apple, halved
  • 1 Orange, halved
  • 1 Onion, halved
  • Fresh rosemary
  • Your favorite smoking wood

Smoking Directions

Remove turkey from brine, wash with water and pat dry to remove any excess surface salts.

Steep halved apple, orange, onion, and rosemary in some water for a couple of minutes, then place inside the turkey cavity.

Start your smoker and bring it up to temperature (about 250-300, depending on how fast you want to cook it, and how well your smoker retains its cooking temperature). Use your favorite smoking wood for this process (I recommend apple or cherry wood). Smoke the turkey until the thickest part of the bird reaches 160F/71C.


  • If you brine the bird too long you’ll end up with a very metallic and spongy meat. I really only recommend brining a bird for about 12 hours. Anything longer and things tend to go to poorly, even for larger birds.
  • Don’t use too much wood. Even if you are cooking a large portion of meat the smoke does not penetrate deeper than an inch into the meat. Use a minimal amount of wood (I use wood chunks myself) so you don’t end up with a creosote flavored bird.
  • When the skin of the bird becomes golden brown and delicious, place some aluminum foil over the breasts so they don’t overcook.
  • Let the bird rest for about an hour before carving.


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