How Smoked Turkey Can Make You Popular This Thanksgiving

Most of us have the desire to make the best Thanksgiving meal ever. On top of that, we want our family and guests to come back to our home for the same tasty traditions year after year.

Texas Pepper Jelly has what you need to make that happen.

First, you need to start by brining a turkey. (We suggest brining if you want a moist turkey.)

We don’t sell a typical bird brine like other BBQ companies. Brining is simple and you don’t really need a package of brine mix unless you like to just open a package and pour, which is perfectly fine.

What is Brine?

Brine really is just kosher salt and water. But you always have the option to add flavoring with ingredients such as our fantastic Bird Bath™ or Rib Candy™ along with onions, garlic cloves, full peppercorns, dried herbs, orange or lemon slices, white wine, sugar, etc. Just add any of these items to your salt/water and bam — extra flavor.

If you choose to add our glaze to your brine, we suggest you use half the bottle in your brine and the other half at the end of the cooking process as the actual poultry glaze. We have both sweet and habanero flavors to give you options. Our favorite for turkey is Pomegranate Cranberry Habanero Rib Candy.

Tip from Craig Sharry: Plan ahead! Brining adds salt to the turkey! If you are adding a seasoning (like my chicken seasoning) to your bird before you cook it, be sure to adjust the salt in your brine. You don’t want it to be over-salty. 

After you brine your turkey (about an hour per lb.), you’ll need to prepare it for the smoker.

This is a good time to start your smoker unless it is a pellet cooker because you are going to want to put the prepared turkey on right away.

How to Prepare a Turkey to Smoke?

Rinse and dry your turkey. You’ll need to dry the inside as well because you’ll season it inside and out.

If you put extra ingredients in your brine like garlic or orange slices, and you want to add some for the smoking process of the turkey, use the same kinds (not the same ones). Always use a fresh batch of ingredients. Place the prepared ingredients inside the dried cavity. You can use a turkey stuffing bag to make them easier to remove.

On the outside, rub a light coat of olive oil and your seasoning choice – we suggest our Chicken Seasoning! It will ramp up flavor and help form that crispy skin everyone loves. And the coloring will be that perfect mahogany color we all want to serve at the Thanksgiving dinner table.

You can always keep it simple and season the bird with a blend of salt and pepper, or some dried herbs such as sage and thyme.

Time to Smoke the Turkey!

Once you’ve seasoned and got the bird just the way you want it, this is when your BBQ skills come into play.

Hopefully, you know your smoker well enough to know how long it takes to heat up. Once it reaches the temp, you want to smoke your turkey (we suggest 275°F, but smoke at your favorite poultry temp). Put that bird on! Here’s a great article on smoke temps and times for a turkey.

Another tip: Set a timer!

Turkey meat really soaks up smoke flavor so be sure to use a complementary wood flavor like hickory or apple. Because they soak up smoke, be careful not to over smoke it. Replenish your wood chips or wood chunks as necessary to get the desired smoke flavor.

Just as any good pitmaster would do, monitor the temperature of the smoker and the turkey regularly. Add more coals as needed and probe the turkey in the thickest part of the breast when you believe it is getting close.

At a pit temp of 350°F and a 12-14 lb bird, it could take as little as 3 hours to cook your Thanksgiving turkey.

When the internal temperature of the turkey reaches 165°F in the thickest part of the breast or about 175°F at the thigh, it’s done. Overcooking will dry it out so stay watchful when it’s getting close to temp (a wireless smart thermometer like a Meater is a great option for a turkey).

If you used Bird Bath or Rib Candy in your brine, we suggest you glaze your turkey with the same flavor about 10 minutes before you remove it from the smoker to give it the perfect shine.

How to Serve My Thanksgiving Turkey?

This is when your patience is necessary. We know everyone is hungry, but waiting for the juices to redistribute into the turkey is an important part of having a moist bird.

Wait about 20-30 minutes before you carve your smoked turkey. During this time, everyone can take their obligatory food pictures to post on Facebook and Instagram! 

After you have let it rest, slice both sides of the turkey breast off and put them on a cutting tray. Not only does it make it easier to slice the breast meat, but it also makes a nice presentation. Just like slicing a brisket, cut against the grain of the breast meat to make it easier to chew.

You can remove the legs and give one to the two guests who claim to only eat dark meat. Then slice off other pieces of the turkey as needed. And don’t forget the most important part, enjoy!

For safe meat preparation, reference the USDA website.