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A whole smoked turkey made with a Bourbon brine on a red platter

Smoked Turkey Recipe with Bourbon Brine

This smoked turkey is packed with flavor, from a bourbon citrus brine, to an herbed butter, to a dry rub. Rated as the best turkey brine for smoking, this is the juiciest and most flavorful turkey that will have your guests going back for seconds... and maybe even thirds.
Course Entree
Cuisine American, BBQ, Barbecue
Keyword best smoked turkey recipe, best turkey brine for smoking, bourbon turkey brine, brine and smoke a turkey, Grilled Turkey, how to brine a turkey for smoking, Smoked Thanksgiving Turkey, Smoked Turkey, smoked turkey breast brine, smoked turkey brine, smoked turkey brine recipe, turkey brine for smoked turkey, turkey brine recipe, turkey brine recipe for smoked turkey, turkey marinade for smoking
Prep Time 1 day
Cook Time 4 hours
Resting Time 30 minutes
Total Time 1 day 4 hours 30 minutes
Servings 8 people
Calories 316kcal
Cost $65.00


For the Brine

  • 8 quarts water
  • 1 ½ cups kosher salt (we use Diamond Crystal kosher salt)
  • cup brown sugar (we use dark brown but light works also)
  • 1 cup bourbon
  • 2 oranges, cut into quarters
  • 1 lemon, cut into quarters
  • cup whole peppercorns
  • 10 whole cloves
  • 2 dried bay leaves

For the Herbed Butter

  • 1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • ½ tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped
  • ½ tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
  • ½ tablespoon fresh sage, chopped

Dry Rub

Cavity Stuffing

  • 2 oranges, quartered (we use navel)
  • 1 lemon, quartered
  • 1 red or yellow onion, quartered
  • 6 garlic cloves
  • 10 sprigs thyme
  • 2 large sprigs of rosemary


For Brine

  • Prepare turkey for brine by fully defrosting, and removing giblets, neck, and trimming off excess fat.
  • In a large stock pot over medium-high heat, combine water, salt, sugar, and bourbon. Bring heat up and dissolve the salt and sugar into the liquid, then turn off heat.
  • Let cool and then add remaining brine ingredients. Add turkey to brine and cover. Brine for 24 hours, avoid going beyond 30 hours. At a minimum brine for four.

For Herb Butter

  • Add herbs to room temperature butter and combine. Be sure when you are using for the turkey, it is still room temperature.

Smoking Turkey

  • Remove turkey from brine and rinse. Pat dry with a towel, especially the cavity. Season liberally with dry rub and place into the refrigerator for four hours.
  • After four hours, preheat Smoker to 275 degrees using fruit wood.
  • Stuff cavity of the bird with oranges, lemons, onion, garlic, thyme, and rosemary. Then stuff butter between the skin and breasts, spreading it out with your hands all along the breast.
  • Tie up legs and wings with kitchen string, or tuck them to keep tight against the turkey. 
  • Place turkey on the smoker, and insert your digital meat probe into the breast and thigh or leg. Smoke until the internal temperature of both reads 165 degrees (F). Use an instant read to check temp in various part of the turkey, even if the digital probes read 165 to confirm all parts of the turkey are cooked through.
  • Remove from smoker (will likely take 3 - 4 hours with a 12 - 14 pound bird) and cover with foil. Let cool for about 20 minutes. Then slice and serve.



Thawing: If the turkey is frozen, remove from freezer 3 days prior to brining the turkey in order to let it defrost safely and with enough time to brine. The general rule is that it takes 24 hours for every 5 pounds of turkey in a refrigerator to thaw.
Rapid thawing is possible using water and ice. The important safety measures are to keep the turkey and water cold to prevent bacterial growth. Plan 30 minutes per pound to thaw using the water and ice technique. Thermoworks, one of our favorite brands for instant read thermometers, has a great step by step guide on using water to rapidly thaw a turkey.
Fresh turkey can last up to 3 days in the fridge prior to cooking.
Portions: Plan 1.25 pounds of turkey per person.
If Done Early: If the turkey is done cooking early, wrap in foil and place into a clean cooler with no ice. It will stay warm for up to four hours.
Spatchcocking: You can modify the recipe by spatchcocking the turkey. This will speed up the cooking process. Plan 10 - 12 minutes per pound versus 15.


Calories: 316kcal | Carbohydrates: 38g | Protein: 3g | Fat: 12g | Saturated Fat: 8g | Cholesterol: 30mg | Sodium: 21281mg | Potassium: 390mg | Fiber: 6g | Sugar: 24g | Vitamin A: 762IU | Vitamin C: 51mg | Calcium: 196mg | Iron: 3mg