Smoked Brined Turkey

Once you try brined turkey on the EGG, you’ll agree that nothing does a better job of roasting meats. The turkey has a subtle smoky flavor and is moist and succulent, but if you prefer a bolder smoky flavor, add more hickory or pecan smoking wood chips in increments during cooking. This turkey is great for holiday meals, and you can use the leftovers to make wonderful sandwiches or meat pies. Recipe courtesy of Kevin Rathbun.

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Ingredients

  • 1 gallon water
  • ½ cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • Rind of 1 navel orange
  • 3 sprigs rosemary
  • 1 cup kosher salt
  • 3 yellow onions, quartered
  • 1 garlic head
  • 2 lemons, quartered
  • 1 turkey, appx. 12 lbs
  • 10 sprigs thyme
  • 10 sprigs sage
  • 3 cups chopped potatoes
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Garlic powder

Instructions

BRINE: Pour the water into a large bowl. Add the brown sugar, orange rind, rosemary, salt, two- thirds of the quartered lemons and onions and 1 halved garlic head. Mix until the sugar and salt dissolve.

Remove the giblets from inside the turkey and reserve for another use. Rinse the turkey well. Place the turkey in a 2 1⁄2 gallon resealable plastic bag or any container that is large enough to hold the turkey and the liquid. Pour the brine over the turkey, making sure it’s completely covered. Refrigerate for 12 hours, turning occasionally.

Soak 2 cups of hickory or pecan chips in water for 1 hour.

Set the EGG for indirect cooking at 325°F/163°C, sprinkle smoking chips over charcoal and add the convEGGtor.

Remove the turkey from the brine, rinse well to remove the brining liquid and pat dry with paper towels. Discard the brining liquid and solids. Stuff the turkey with the remaining lemon and onion quarters, the remaining halved garlic head, thyme, sage, and 1 cup potatoes. Brush the turkey with olive oil and season with pepper and garlic powder.

Place the turkey on the Roasting Rack in a Drip Pan; scatter the remaining potatoes in the pan and place the pan in the EGG. Cook for 12 minutes per pound until the turkey has reached a safe minimum internal temperature of 165°F/74°C throughout the product. If the turkey starts to brown too quickly, carefully tent the turkey with aluminum foil. Reserve the drippings from the drip pan to make gravy.

Remove the turkey from the EGG and let rest for 15 to 20 minutes. Carve and serve immediately.

120 thoughts on “Smoked Brined Turkey

  1. what is a “garlic head” Is it an indivdual clove or is it the whole garlic bulb. I am just not used to the term ‘garlic head’ Thanks for the assistance. Looking forward to a smoked turkey for our Canadian Thanksgiving dinner.

    1. A garlic head is the entire bulb of garlic. This recipe original called for 2 head but has been changed to 1…unless you REALLY like garlic!!

    1. I never baste. But, I always cover with foil when skin blackens. However, I usually add either wine or chicken broth to drip pan to ensure a very moist turkey.

    2. Don’t baste because you don’t want to keep opening the Egg. You will lose your temperature consistency. Also, if it is brined, it will not dry out. You will want the turkey to sit out for 1 hour to be close to room temperature. While doing that, put a bag of ice over the breast, this will keep it from drying out.

  2. How do you add more chips every 30 min? Do you literally remove the turkey and convEGGtor and put more chips on? What does this do to the temperature ?

    1. I have this question, as well. I did a smoked turkey on the BGE years ago and this was a problem. The only possible solution I’ve come up with is a smoker box??? Please advise. Also, what is a convEGGtor?

      1. I save the smallest chips to add during smoking . I carefully slide them through the handle opening in the cooking grill and through the small opening in the plate setter/convEGGtor. Line them up when placing them both on Egg.

      2. In reality you do not need to keep adding wood chips, meats can only take on so much smoke, usually the first couple hours of cooking is the most smoke meats can absorb, the meat is still getting smoke throughout the cook, it is just not as obvious as when you first added the smoking wood.

      3. YOU ABSOLUTELY DO NOT NEED TO CHECK ON THE TURKEY NEARLY AS MUCH AS WITH ROASTING IN AN OVEN. GET THE EGG TO LOW SMOKE AND LEAVE IT ALONE. CHEF DAVE, MY HUSBAND COOKED A SMOKED TURKEY EVERY YEAR FOR ALMOST 40 YEARS EVERY THANKSGIVING FOR THE FAMILY AND FRIENDS. AFTER A WHLE, HE WOULD SET UP THE EGG, PUT ON WOOD CHIPS , CLOSE THE LID WATCH THE AMOUNT OF HEAT BEING SENT UP THROUGH THE VENT, ALMOST CLOSING THE BOTTOM VENT, AND GO TO BED. iN ALL THOSE YEARS, HE NEVER BURNED OR OVERCOOKED A TURKEY. YOU ARE SMOKING…NOT HIGH HEAT.
        i AM DOING THEM NOW AS HE PASSED ON 19 MOS AGO…I HAD A GREAT TUTOR!

        1. Helen, I’m smoking a 21lb turkey for the first time I already have it in the brine can you tell me how long I should cook it and at what temp.

    2. If you look at how to set up the Egg, you never need to add chips. I’ve smoked things for over 14 hours and it stays smokey as long as they are set up correctly.

    3. It’s problematic adding wood chips/chunks when using the convEGGtor because it’s tough moving it plus the rack plus the bird. What works for me is interspersing the wood with the charcoal as you build your base in the fire box. This allows for consistent smoke throughout the cook, no muss no fuss. For smokier flavor, add higher proportion of the wood on the top charcoal layer, because smoke penetrates meat more quickly during the early stages of the cooking cycle. FYI, the convEGGtor is a ceramic place setter that creates a solid barrier between the fire and the meat, allowing for indirect cooking.

      1. We use chunks of wood, soaked for a day in water.
        We don’t use anything under the turkey at all…just manage the heat to smoke, not cook with high heat. I’m doing a 25# one today for my vet like every year and will put it on after dinner time tonight and slowly smoke till about 11 AM tomorrow. We don’t add more chunks of wood after our initial set up.
        They are moist, smoked and delicious! We test doneness with the looseness of the legs.

      2. You can add wood chips under the firebox through the intake at the bottom. It gets hot enough under there to burn the chips at 275

  3. The ConvEGGtor is feet up. Do you not place the grill on top of that first before you place the drip pan/V-rack and turkey in the EGG?

    1. Bottom to top…Coals, ConvEGGtor (plate-setter), drip-pan, grill-grate, meat. This way the drip pan doesn’t cause un-even cooking of the bird. You also don’t need a v-rack with this technique.

      1. THANK YOU! I know this is an old
        Post but new to me and I appreciate your consice language. I had been wondering how and where to place my drip
        Pan amd you “bottom up”
        Advice was right on point. Happy Thanksgiving!!

  4. This was the best turkey we have ever tried – even better than a fried turkey that we thought couldnt be topped. Highly recommend following this recipe.

    1. Lydia, I haven’t tried a dry brine with turkey yet; but can attest that it has worked beautifully for baby back ribs and pork butt that I smoked recently. If I try, I’ll let you know the result.

  5. Note, you can make the brine on you stove top! Also cool the brine to 40 F. before pouring it in the bag with the turkey. Food safety issue

  6. Could someone please explain what a V-rack is? Is it the vertical turkey roaster rack, or a horizontal rack? If the vertical rack, how can you get the rack inside the turkey after stuffing according to the recipe?

    1. I think they are referring to the v-rack that traditionally comes with a big oven roasting pan. It keeps the meat just off the bottom of the pan & improves airflow (heat-distribution) around the it. I’m not aware of BGE making a V-rack for the grill.

    1. I’ve cooked a 23 lb beast of a bird on my large BGE!! It was spectacular! I actually lowered the temp to 250 and tented it with foil around the 3 hr mark. It cooked for a total time of 6 hrs. It could have used another 30-45 minutes as the dark meat was slightly undercooked and had to be placed back in the Egg separately.

    1. I want to stuff and smoke but I’ve heard a lot of conflicting comments about the stuffing and juices from bird not being cooked enough when the rest of the meat is done.. I’m not too scared but my friends are… any advice?

      1. I’ve added the stuffing to the bird, after cooking it some in the oven, about halfway thru the smoking process. That way you eliminate, almost entirely, the risk of the stuffing getting “contaminated”, but receives plenty of flavor.

  7. Can this recipe be used on a larger turkey (20 lbs) in same proportions, or should I scale up?

    Can you estimate the additional cook time for that size to get to 165?

  8. This recipe is excellent, though the cook time (2.5 hrs for 12lb turkey) seemed off. It took me closer to 4.5 hrs, which is more in line with the BGE turkey temp cooking guidelines.

  9. You speak of a “V rack” and a “drip pan” in this recipe. I understand using a foil drip pan under the bird, on top of the plate setter but where would someone learn about the “v rack” as I don’t see such an item on this website, for sale.

    1. I think they are referring to the v-rack that traditionally comes with a big oven roasting pan. It keeps the meat just off the bottom of the pan & improves airflow (heat-distribution) around the it. I’m not aware of BGE making a V-rack for the grill.

    2. V rack is an accessory you can purchase. Holds meets and birds one way. Flip it over and it holds ribs on their side. Great tool which I highly recommend. However, I don’t thick it’s imperative to have here.

    1. Mark – Use 12 min per lb as your guide. But use a meat probe to find the temp in the breast, it should be 165ºF/74ºC when done!

    2. I have cooked many Turkey Breast never a whole turkey. What is ideal temperature to cook on Big Green Egg and how long per pound . Does smoking or roasting cooking time make a difference? what is best wood to use?

    3. Kevin said 12 minutes per pound, which I have done in the past. Let it “rest” for at least thirty minutes and it will continue to cook some, and still be so hot it is hard to carve.

    4. Ok – I have used this recipe a few times now and here is my take on cooking times: I usually do a 19-20 pound bird. At 250 the cook time was 9 hours. I found that the skin darkened quickly and at around 4 hours I had to tent it with foil. This time I have a 24 pound turkey and I am anticipating a 12-14 hour cooking time. Bottom line is that time is not the measure you are looking for. Temp is. Have a legit temperature probe in the thickest part of the breast and thigh and measure the temp. When the temp of the breast is around 175 in the thigh and 170 in the breast I remove it, let it stand for 15 minutes, carve and serve. Nothing is worse than cutting into a turkey that is not done,

      Remember – the only time you should lift the lid of the egg is to marinate the turkey with the drippings, and when you need to add more wood. The key is to trust in your probe and above all…..use common sense. Last year I had a inch thick smoke ring. We had two turkeys, one smoked and the other oven roasted. The smoked turkey was gone and the oven roasted was leftovers for the guests.

  10. Depends on the temperature you cook it at…for a 15 pound turkey, it’ll take a good three hours at 275…maybe a little longer. I usually just the let the bird go (chicken or turkey) for a couple hours and check the temperature with a digital thermometer to see where I’m at. If you can, get a thermometer that will sound an alarm when you reach 165 degrees. That the magic temp you want.

  11. One other note…I like to cook my poultry around 300 degrees…12-15 minutes per pound usually does the trick. I never pull it off until I’m in the 165-170 degree mark.

  12. look like 12.5 mins per pound 12lb turkey and 2 1/2 hours (150 min) /12= 12.5 min per pound But use a meat thermometer for 160 degrees internal temp

  13. We just got a Big Green Egg this summer and have really enjoyed using it. We are, for the first time, going to make a smoked turkey for Thanksgiving. In the recipe it states to put the V-rack and drip pan on the ConvEGGtor. Does this mean that a grill rack is not needed? I’m assuming that since the ConvEGGtor is is legs up that the drip pan, etc. sits directly on the flat surface. Thanks for your time.

    1. I use a drip pan under the cooking grate on top conveggtor (legs up) then put grate on, then v rack on top of cooking grate, then turkey.

    1. The v-rack and drip pan are available through the Big Green Egg company. I use the v-rack to place the turkey on, and then place the v-rack inside the drip pan and put on the grill. This way I can add wine/broth, into the pan directly below the turkey.

  14. At that temperature, this is not smoked turkey. It’s more like roasted turkey. It’s still probably delicious, but 350 degrees is a little hot for smoking.

    1. That means covering the turkey with aluminum foil. I always take 2 pieces of foil, place on top of each other, fold over one side about one inch and do that 2-3 times. Then, open the foil, making it almost twice as wide, and enough to cover the turkey without removing the temperature probe.

  15. Your cooking instructions start by saying set the Egg up for direct cooking (no convEGGtor) and then it says to add the convEGGtor. Which is it?

    1. It’s been changed. It’s with convEGGtor. The reason they say no convEGGtor in the beginning is so you can add smoking chips. Sorry for the confusion.

  16. Excellent results! 165 degrees F is the correct target temp to cook ! Had a 13.6# fresh turkey and a cook time of 4 hours @ 350 degrees. (+/- 18 min/# ) Suggest bringing the Egg to 350 before putting the turkey in the Egg. We will substitute butter for olive oil to brush on the outside before seasoning with pepper and garlic!

    1. About the same here. I put butter under the skin throughout, with a good rub down of olive oil and seasonings on the outside of the skin. Careful with the butter, it can burn.

  17. At the beginning of recipe you state no convEGGtor Then later you advise using convEGGtor???? Which is it? Then if read this correctly you advise placing roasting pan directly on convEGGtor no on the grill grate. Why? Does this help heating legs and thigh faster than breast so they finish at same time.

    1. Large BGE can cook a 20lb turkey per unit specs. Probably safe to go a little higher but I learned the hard way not to get all the way up to 24.

  18. I have a question on what is the maximum size turkey you can put in a green egg. The egg is large. Are you suppose to remove the grate to cook it if the bird is too large?

  19. I’ve never soaked wood to go into the egg. I’ve read places that you shouldn’t do this in an egg. Should I be soaking the woods I use while I cook on this? Had my egg for about 4 years and never soaked the wood.

  20. Temperature Control – DigiQ Just brought one!!! What took me so long, at first the price! But now after cooking two chickens, I am can not wait to see how my 18 Lbs. brined turkey comes out. After cooking I will post the results.

  21. Following the recipe, I did a 13.5 lb turkey Thursday morning, at 340 F, for 3.5 hours. It cooked for two hours breast side down and breast up for the remainder. Internal temp was at 168 F when I pulled the bird off my large BGE. It rested for about two hours before dinner, wrapped and well insulated. Turkey was perfect. Super moist and tender, without being over cooked and pasty. Not one to brine chickens or turkeys in the past, going forward I will be brining at least 24 hours in advance. Great recipe, great brine.

  22. Tried this recipe this Thanksgiving. Skipped the potatoes, but it was fantastic. Left the plastic “popper thing” in the breast and it did not indicate that it was done but pulled from the Egg at 165 (read at inner thigh), and my 24 lb bird was done and crazy moist! Took a bit more than 12 min/lb even with ramping the temp up to 350 for the last hour. This recipe is a keeper – thanks!

  23. I am going to try two 12lb turkeys this year. Hoping that they fit. Hopefully I will get away with a shorting cooking time. Reading above comments, it sounds like brine is the way to go. Thanks everyone for your comments.

    1. I put chicken broth in the pan and smoke at 275 to 300. I do not use the conveggtor to smoke a turkey. It is not needed if you keep water or broth in the pan. Also I do use wood chips a couple of times during the smoking and do baste the bird with the drippings and added fluid in the pan approximately every 30 minutes or so .Stuffing with garlic cloves and onions should work and will also add taste to the gravy collected in the pan. It can also be removed and place in the drip pan for added flavor. Family seems to love the turkey. Green egg is an amazing and versatile smoker/grill and I love it.

  24. I have read that you should only brine a fresh turkey not a frozen/thawed bird due to solution already injected. What are your thoughts?

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