Best Brine Recipe For Smoked Turkey

Smoked Turkey Best Brine Recipe

Thanksgiving is one of the best holidays when it comes to food, but what good is it without a perfectly cooked turkey? You might as well not even celebrate if you can't get the bird right.

The secret to a great turkey is a brine. While it might take some time, it's more than worth it once you take your first bite of that fabulous fowl. How do you do it, though?

Brining a turkey is much simpler than it sounds. Let's go over a simple but effective brine recipe that's sure to jazz up your next Thanksgiving, Christmas, or other celebration.

Supplies

In order to follow this recipe, you'll need to collect a few important things first. These include:

  • 3 quarts fresh water.
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    2 quarts apple juice.
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    1/2 cup salt.
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    12 whole cloves.
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    6 bay leaves.
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    6 cloves garlic, crushed.
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    4 oranges, quartered.
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    1 cinnamon stick, broken into pieces.
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    1 lb dark brown sugar.
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    4 oz fresh ginger, sliced thin.
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    Large plastic bucket (5 gallon minimum).
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    Long spoon or other stirring implement.

For the turkey itself, you'll also need:

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    Trimmed turkey (14 lbs).
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    1/4 cup olive oil.
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    Paper towels.
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    Large aluminum roasting tray.
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    Metal baking rack.
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    Digital thermometer.
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    Aluminum foil.
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    Charcoal smoker.
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    Chunk charcoal.
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    Wood chunks or chips.

As far as choosing the wood for this smoke, it would likely be a good idea to stick with sweeter flavors like apple or peach as opposed to heavy hickory or mesquite. Poultry can't stand up to those richly flavored woods as well as red meat, so you risk overpowering the meat and turning it bitter if it's not heavily balanced in favor of the lighter woods.

Recipe

With all your supplies gathered, you can begin work on the recipe itself. For best results, make sure to start cooking at least two days out from when you plan to eat, since trying to do all of this the day of your turkey dinner will only end in disaster.

Step 1: Brine

Combine your liquid ingredients, salt, and sugar together in a large plastic container and stir well until everything is dissolved and well-combined. For easier mixing, boil the liquids ahead of time and dissolve in the salt and sugar while still hot with an extra tablespoon or so of water to account for evaporation.

Squeeze each quarter of your orange into the brine before adding the remains as well as the rest of the ingredients, stirring together and submerging the turkey fully into the liquid. If you boiled the brine earlier, it must be completely cooled by the time you do this to avoid boiling parts of the meat.

 Place the container in a cool place and allow it to sit overnight and up to a full day.
Brine In Advance Dry The Turkey

Step 2: Dry

Once brined, remove the turkey from the liquid and place on a wire rack, discarding remaining brine. Pat the turkey dry both inside and out with paper towels before transferring the rack into a roasting tray and placing it in the refrigerator. Allow the outside of the meat to dry out like this for an additional day to maximize flavor.

Step 3: Prep

An hour before you're ready to cook, take the turkey out of the fridge to warm up. Blot the outside of the meat with paper towels to dry it and dry the rack and tray it was stored in to remove any excess condensation that may have dripped into them. Rub the outside of the turkey with olive oil and sprinkle with an extra tablespoon or two of salt if desired.

As the turkey warms, fill your smoker halfway with charcoal and light it, closing the lid to let heat build up inside. If using a thermometer, try to reach a temperature of around 250 degrees Fahrenheit.

After the coals have burnt down and a consistent temperature is reached, fill with more coals and add your wood, placing the grill grate on top and closing the lid. Fill your water tank, as well. Once around half an hour has passed and ample smoke has built up inside the smoker, you can place on your turkey.

Step 4: Smoke

Cook your turkey inside the rack and tray setup that you dried it on, as this helps the meat cook evenly on all sides and catches the juices as they fall for making gravy later on. Your turkey will need to smoke for around 30 minutes for each pound of meat or until a thermometer in the thickest part of the breast reads 160 degrees Fahrenheit.

During the cooking process, make sure to monitor the levels of charcoal, wood, and water, adding more as needed. Additionally, adjust the air vents on your smoker to keep the heat inside consistent. If the top looks to be getting too cooked, you can tent it with aluminum foil for the duration of the cook.

Step 5: Rest

When your turkey has finished cooking, remove tray from the heat and transfer the turkey to a serving platter. Allow the meat to rest for at least an hour if not several more tented with aluminum foil. This lets the protein relax, making the finished product juicier and more tender. While you wait, use the collected juices at the bottom of the roasting tray to make some gravy.

Step 6: Serve

 When your turkey has had a chance to rest properly, it's time to eat. Carve and plate it next to some seasonal vegetables, macaroni and cheese, and mashed potatoes for the ultimate Thanksgiving feast. Don't forget the gravy, either.
Serve & Plate It Thanksgiving Feast

Conclusion

Now you know exactly what you need to do to make the best brined and smoked turkey for your next holiday celebration. While it may be a bit time intensive, it's more than worth it once you pop a piece of the succulent meat into your mouth.

Did you enjoy this guide? Any tips on brining a turkey you'd like to share? Leave a comment about it and tell us what you thought, and remember to share this recipe with a friend to help them take their turkey game to the next level.

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