If you’re looking for a juicy, tender and perfectly cooked turkey that is full of flavor to serve for your Thanksgiving meal, this is the post for you!
The Best Thanksgiving Turkey
The focal point of any great Thanksgiving meal is the turkey. It is the feature presentation, after all! But the task of cooking the perfect turkey can feel overwhelming, even to the best of cooks. When it comes to the preparation and cooking method, there are so many options out there. But which one is best?
We can help! Here at Backyard Texas Grill, we have mastered the art of cooking a perfectly smoked turkey on the grill. Not only does this method result in the best cooked turkey, it allows you more available oven space for your side dishes, and that’s always a plus!
If you follow this simple method, we promise you will end up with a juicy turkey that is tender and full of smokey flavor… every time!
Before you scroll any further, we highly recommend reading this entire post. Don’t skip ahead! We offer a lot of helpful information on choosing, thawing and brining your turkey as well as some great tips on preparing your smoker or grill. You will want to be fully prepared before you start!
Ingredients for The Perfect Smoked Turkey
You will find a full printable recipe card at the bottom of this post, but here’s a quick look at what you’ll need to cook the perfect smoked turkey:
- Whole turkey (fresh or frozen)
- Brine (we used Bird Baptism Poultry Brine from Meat Church)
- Seasoning (we used Honey Hog BBQ Rub from Meat Church)
- 5 gallon bucket with lid (a food safe bucket is best but any clean bucket will do)
- Oven bag
- Heavy duty aluminum pan
Choosing Your Turkey
Choosing the right size turkey for your gathering is very important. A good rule of thumb is to prepare 1 to 1 1/2 pounds of turkey per person. This will ensure that every guest gets plenty and that there is enough for leftovers.
Keep in mind, if you are starting with a frozen turkey, you will need to thaw it in the refrigerator first. The standard thawing time needed is 24 hours of defrosting time for every 4 to 5 pounds of turkey. So a large 20-25 pound turkey will need to spend around 5-6 days thawing in the refrigerator.
Here are some general rules to follow when thawing a frozen turkey:
- Up to 12 pounds: 1-3 days in the refrigerator
- 12-16 pounds: 3-4 days in the refrigerator
- 16-20 pounds: 4-5 days in the refrigerator
- 20-24 pounds: 5-6 days in the refrigerator
Starting with a fully thawed turkey will give you the best results, so be sure to thaw it thoroughly.
Once the turkey is thawed, take it out of the refrigerator, unwrap it and remove anything from inside the turkey that doesn’t belong (the neck, gizzards, innards bag, etc.). Set the turkey aside while you prepare the brine.
It’s All in the Brine
A perfectly juicy turkey starts off with a great brine. We love to use Meat Church’s Bird Baptism Poultry Brine kit. It’s simple and effective! We have used this wet brining method twice now, and both times, our turkey came out absolutely perfect. It creates the most tender, juicy and flavorful bird and it’s such an easy process. There is some prep time involved, but most of it is hands off as the turkey brines overnight in the refrigerator.
First, let’s prepare the brining bucket. You will need a 5 gallon food safe bucket (or a regular 5 gallon bucket lined with a large oven bag will do just fine). Either way, make sure it’s a clean bucket!
Now let’s get to the brining!
Heat one gallon of water in a large pot until warm, then add the entire package of Bird Baptism Poultry Brine. Continue to heat on medium and stir to dissolve all the brine. Once dissolved, remove from heat. Allow the brine to cool completely (tip: you can add some ice to help it cool faster).
Place turkey head down into your food safe (or lined) bucket. Pour the brine over the turkey in the bucket until the turkey is covered. You can add more water if needed until the brine solution covers the whole bird. Be sure to open the cavity of the turkey so some of the brine gets inside.
Put a lid on the bucket and place it in the refrigerator overnight (or for a minimum of 10 hours) so the turkey has plenty of time to soak up that brine!
Once the turkey is done bringing, it’s just about time to cook it! But first, you will need to prep your grill.
Prepping the Grill
Preheat the grill temperature to 350 degrees. For this process, a pellet smoker works best (we love using our Traeger PRO 780). However, if you don’t have a pellet smoker, don’t stress! You can use any kind of grill you have.
The most important element to creating the perfect smoked turkey is to use indirect heat and maintain a consistent temperature. Once you get your grill to the perfect temperature (350 degrees), the goal is to maintain that temperature for the duration of the cook.
If you are using a gas grill, we recommend turning on half of the burners to medium-low heat and leaving the other half off. Place turkey on the grill grate that does not have direct heat under it as you need indirect heat to cook the turkey properly.
If you are cooking on a charcoal grill, you will preheat the charcoal briquettes until they are just ashy, then move them to one side of your grill. Place your turkey on the other side of your grill and set your grill vents to around 25% open.
You can create smoke in a gas or charcoal grill by putting pellets or wood chips in a smoke box – like this smoke wedgie – and setting it on the far side of the gas or charcoal grill grates while cooking. The smoke will waft through the grill during the cooing process and will give your turkey the perfect, smokey flavor!
Now let’s get the turkey on the grill!
Smoking the Perfect Turkey
Remove the turkey from the brine bath and give it a quick rinse with cold water over a clean sink. Place the turkey into a large roasting pan (we recommend using a heavy duty disposable pan with handles) and pat the turkey dry with paper towels.
Lightly coat the outside of the turkey with olive oil as a binder and sprinkle the seasoning onto the turkey until all exposed skin is covered, including the wings, legs, and breasts (you can also add some
seasoning or fresh herbs into the cavity).
Place the basting pan with the turkey inside into the smoker, then slide the meat probe into the thickest
part of the turkey breast meat and set your internal temperature alarm to 165 (*if you do not have an automated thermometer, we recommend checking the temperature in both the thickest part of the thigh and breast every 30 minutes with a digital meat thermometer).
The recommended cooking time for a turkey at 350 degrees Fahrenheit is approximately 13 minutes for every pound. But not all grills are alike, so you will want to keep an eye on your meat thermometer and make sure the temperature reaches 165 degrees to ensure your turkey is perfectly cooked!
Once the turkey is on the grill, it’s time to prepare the baste! In a small cast iron skillet, add a stick of butter and a tablespoon of your seasoning. Place skillet on the grill to allow the butter to melt (it can remain on the grill as you will use it throughout the cooking process).
Use a turkey baster to apply the melted butter mixture over the turkey liberally every 20-30 minutes during the cook time. This will keep the skin hydrated and enhance the flavor of the turkey, while also giving it a beautiful caramelized skin.
*NOTE: You can use a regular skillet and your stovetop to melt the butter and seasoning blend for basting. You can also use the turkey drippings in the bottom of the pan to baste the bird with.
Once the turkey reaches an internal temperature of 160 to 165 degrees f, carefully remove the pan from the grill and let rest for 30 minutes.
Now it’s time to slice and serve your delicious bird!
What to Expect from this Delicious Turkey Recipe
Following these simple steps will produce the most delicious, tender turkey you can imagine. The brine creates the perfect amount of moisture, making every bite juicy and full of flavor, whether it’s the turkey breast or the dark meat. The buttery, seasoned baste gives the turkey a beautiful golden color and a caramelized and crispy skin that has just the right amount of smokiness!
Both times we used this method to cook a turkey, our family absolutely raved over the final outcome. We heard over and over that this was by far the BEST turkey they had ever eaten, and I’d say that’s a great way to make this Thanksgiving extra special!
Whether you’re working with a smaller turkey or a larger bird fit for a crowd, this recipe will work perfectly every time. Just be sure to check the internal temperature of the turkey and you will be thrilled with the outcome!
This perfect smoked turkey recipe from Backyard Texas Grill will give your guests something to be extra thankful for this holiday season. So, gather up your family and friends, give this recipe a try and let us know how it turns out!
What Goes Great with Smoked Turkey?
Looking for some great side dishes to go with your juicy turkey? We’ve got you covered.
Cheesy Potatoes with Bacon: Does it get any better than cheesy potatoes? Nope! And we think ours are delicious! They’re great as a side dish with any meat, but especially good with turkey.
Sweet and Savory Southwest Beans: This is a delicious hearty side dish, perfect with your smoked turkey. Talk about rounding out your meal!
Southern Style Crock Pot Mac & Cheese: This looks like a delicious recipe from South Your Mouth, one of our favorite cooking sites.
Check out this Homemade Canned Cranberry Sauce from Back to my Southern Roots. It’s the best of both worlds–it starts with canned sauce but adds a whole new twist!
Traditional Southern Cornbread Dressing: This is truly the best southern cornbread dressing out there and it’s perfect with the best smoked turkey recipe!
Sweet Potato Casserole: Our luscious sweet potato casserole offers two options for toppings! Stay tuned for the recipe, coming soon.
Cast-Iron Peach Dump Cake on the Grill: This is one of our favorite desserts! (Delicious!) You’ll love the simplicity and the rich flavors. It’s perfect with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
Fudgy Pecan Pie: If you’re serving your turkey on Thanksgiving with traditional sides you’ll want to choose this Fudgy Pecan Pie from Out of the Box Baking to wrap up the meal. It’s everything a southern pecan pie should be. . .and then some!
Thanks for Stopping By!
That’s it for this post, friends! We hope you enjoy this perfect smoked turkey recipe from Backyard Texas Grill. We happen to love it!
Why not pin a few pictures while you’re here?
See this recipe at:
About the Man Behind the Grill
Zach Morrow was born and raised in Texas and has always had a passion for great barbecue. He’s at home behind the grill and loves to feed his friends and family home-cooked favorites as often as he can. He especially loves trying new things and is excited to produce recipes like this one for Backyard Texas Grill.
- Whole turkey (approx. 15 pounds fresh or frozen)
- 1 bag Bird Baptism Poultry Brine (or brine of your choice)
- 1 gallon water
- 8 tbsp. (one stick) of butter
- 3 tbsp. Honey Hog seasoning (or seasoning of your choice)
- Brining Instructions: Heat one gallon of water in a large pot, add package of brine solution and heat on medium until dissolved.
- Remove from heat and set pot aside to cool completely while you prep the turkey (tip: add a little ice to the brine to help it cool faster).
- Remove thawed turkey from the refrigerator (see post for details on how to thaw a frozen turkey), unwrap it and remove anything inside the turkey, including the neck, gizzards, etc.
- Place the turkey head down into a food safe bucket (or regular 5-gallon bucket lined with a large oven bag).
- Pour brine solution over the turkey in the bucket until the turkey is covered (be sure to open the cavity of the turkey so some of the brine gets inside - add more water if needed until bird is covered).
- Put a lid on the bucket and place in the refrigerator overnight (or for a minimum of 10 hours).
- Preheat grill to 350 degrees.
- Remove turkey from the brine solution and give it a quick rinse in a clean sink.
- Place turkey into a basting pan and pat dry with a paper towel.
- Lightly coat outside of the turkey with olive oil as a binder and sprinkle seasoning onto the turkey until all exposed skin is covered, including the wings, legs, and breasts (you can also add some seasoning into the cavity).
- Place the basting pan with the turkey inside onto the grill, then slide the meat probe into the thickest part of the turkey breast and set your internal temperature alarm to 165.
- In a small cast iron skillet, add a stick of butter and a tablespoon of seasoning. Leave skillet on the grill and allow butter to melt. Use the melted butter mixture to baste the turkey every 20-30 minutes.
- Once the turkey reaches an internal temperature of 160 to 165 degrees, carefully remove the pan from the grill and let set for 30 minutes.
Carve and serve!
The prep time includes brining, most of which will take place overnight in the refrigerator.
For the brining process, you will need a 5 gallon food safe bucket or a regular 5 gallon bucket lined with a large oven bag and a lid.
You will also need a heavy duty aluminum roasting pan to cook the turkey in.
*This cooking time is based on a 15 pound turkey and will need to be adjusted for heavier birds.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 81Total Fat: 7gSaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 25mgSodium: 92mgCarbohydrates: 3gFiber: 0gSugar: 3gProtein: 2g