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This Bourbon Brined Smoked Turkey has become the traditional holiday meal for our family. Moist, tender, and delicious, it's well worth the time involved.
Prep Time1 d
Cook Time11 hrs
Total Time1 d 11 hrs
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Keyword: holiday recipes, smoked turkey, turkey
Author: Debbie


  • smoker


  • 8 quarts water
  • 1 cup sea salt or kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup bourbon
  • 4 oranges, quartered divided
  • 2 lemons, quartered divided
  • 1/3 cup peppercorns
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 12 whole cloves
  • 14-16 pound turkey
  • 1 medium onion quartered
  • 5 cloves garlic crushed
  • rosemary branches
  • thyme sprigs
  • dry rub of your choice


  • Mix the water, salt, brown sugar, and bourbon in a large pot. Heat over medium-high heat until the sugar and salt dissolve. When cooled to room temperature, add 2 oranges (juice squeezed into the pot), 1 lemon (juice squeezed into the pot), peppercorns, bay leaves, and cloves. Stir well. Let cool to room temperature.
  • Add the turkey and the brine to a large container. I used a 5-gallon food grade bucket. Refrigerate for 24 hours.
  • Remove the turkey from the brine, rinse, and pat dry.

  • Prepare an herb butter using softened butter and your herbs of choice. I used fresh rosemary, thyme, and sage. Rub the butter under the skin of the breast portion being careful not to tear the skin.

  • Into the cavity of the turkey, place 2 oranges quartered, 1 lemon quartered, 1 medium onion quartered, 5 cloves of garlic, several twigs of fresh rosemary and thyme.

  • Rub the outside of the turkey well with olive oil. Coat with your favorite dry rub, as much or as little as you like. My favorite is a sweet and spicy rub. Tuck the wings under the bird and tie the legs together.

  • Begin smoking at 180 degrees using applewood chips and apple juice in the pan. After 4 hours, increase the heat to 225 and finished smoking the turkey until it reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees. Your time will vary depending on the size of the bird.