Before smoking any turkey, why not consider creating a great brine for your turkey? One of the ideal ways of getting the most flavor from your turkey (or any poultry for that matter) is to start with a great brine.
Brining your turkey adds both flavor and moisture to your turkey; and helps keep your turkey from drying out during the smoking process.
There are a multitude of ways to make a great brine for your turkey, but I like the recipe below. By using this recipe for your turkey, you will end up with a better, more flavorful, and delicious turkey once the smoking process is complete.
Here’s what we do…
Before thinking about brining your turkey, you want to check to make sure that your turkey has not already been brined.
A good portion of turkeys you pick up at the grocery store have already been injected with a brine solution to retain moisture during the cooking process (these include kosher turkeys as well).
What you want to find while turkey shopping is a natural turkey; just a regular, plain old turkey with no other added ingredients. Most often, these are labeled by your store as “natural” turkeys; and may even cost a little more (for not adding anything to your turkey).
The reason you are looking for a “natural” bird is because if you try to brine a turkey with these injected solutions in them, you are going to wind up with a bird that is way too salty after smoking.
You also need to prepare your supplies before brining your bird; and it is best to start the process the night before you plan on smoking your turkey. You will need…
- A container large enough to hold the entire turkey WITH ROOM TO SPARE
- Enough prepared brine to cover the turkey completely
- Salt, water, seasonings, sugar; and enough room in the refrigerator to fit in your container (or a large bag of ice)
I’ve had the best results using one of those big, stainless steel stock pots; though any plastic 5 gallon container would work just as effectively as well.
Whatever container you use, just make sure that it is “non-reactive”; in other words, metal (like steel) pots will have a chemical reaction with the brine and leave your turkey with a distinct metallic taste; while stainless steel, plastic, or glass containers will not.
Your next step is to determine the amount of water you will need. You do this by placing the turkey in the container and then filling the container with water.
Add in a couple of extra cups of water in this step to take into account the empty cavities in your bird.
Remove the turkey, and make a note of how much water you have in your container. This is going to be the amount of brine we are going to need to use to completely cover our bird.
For example, your turkey will take three gallons of water to cover. Therefore, the recipe for the best brine for smoked turkey will have to be tripled; since the recipe below is the correct ingredients for one gallon of brine at a time.
Making the Brine for Your Smoked Turkey
This spectacular brine for smoked turkey will get some of its flavor and salt from vegetable stock; and the resultant bird comes out with just the right combination of herbs and flavor that complement the turkey perfectly.
For very gallon of brine, you will need…
- 2 quarts of vegetable stock
- 1/2 cup of salt (I prefer sea salt myself)
- 1/2 cup of white sugar
- 1 tablespoon dried rosemary
- 1 tablespoon dried sage
- 1 tablespoon dried thyme
- 2 quarts cold water
In a big pot, you want to combine the 2 quarts of vegetable stock along with the salt, sugar and herbs and cook over a medium heat. Simmer for around 15 to 20 minutes until the salt and sugar have dissolved completely.
Then, remove the pot from heat and allow it to cool for about 10 minutes. Once cool, add the remaining 2 quarts of cold water, and you have one complete gallon of the best brine for smoked turkey.
Once you have enough brine for your turkey (usually one to two gallons, depending on the size), place the turkey in your container, and pour the brine on top of the turkey, making sure to cover the turkey completely.
Pop your container into the refrigerator (or cover it up with ice if your fridge isn’t large enough), and plan on about one hour per pound for the brine to completely soak into your turkey. I usually soak my bird for about 12 to 15 hours, but just leaving it in the brine “overnight” is a good rule of thumb.
Once ready for smoking, remove your turkey from the brine container, and thoroughly rinse it off.
Pop your brined turkey onto your smoker, and you’re good to go. Using this recipe will create the best brine for smoked turkey you’ll find anywhere.