Smoke, spice, and acid team up to deliver the best smoked turkey you’ve ever tasted. This bird starts its flavor-building journey in a fragrant brine infused with ginger, cardamom, star anise, garlic, and lemon which penetrates and tenderizes the meat. After brining, an herb butter stuffed under the skin sets the turkey up for some beautiful self-basting action, introducing some much-needed fat to the typically lean meat. Finally, the heat and pressure from the smoker push all of these flavors deeper into the turkey, yielding a stunningly burnished bird that will be the talk of your table. Not in the mood for a whole bird? Use this same recipe for two turkey breasts to yield a week or two of amazing sandwiches. Be sure to keep an eye on the temperature inside your smoker and adjust the vents as needed to ensure even cooking.


Credit: Greg Dupree

Recipe Summary

18 hrs 20 mins
1 hr 5 mins


Ingredient Checklist


Instructions Checklist
  • Bring 4 cups apple juice, salt, brown sugar, ginger, garlic, lemon, cardamom, star anise, and bay leaves to a boil in a large saucepanover high, whisking occasionally. Boil, without whisking, until very fragrant, about 1 minute. Pour apple juice mixture into an 18-quart stockpot; whisk in 2 gallons cold water and remaining 4 cups apple juice. Let brine cool to room temperature, 45 minutes to 1 hour.

  • Place turkey in cooled brine. Place a plate upside down on top of turkey to submerge completely. Chill 12 to 14 hours.

  • Remove turkey from brine; discard brine. Pat turkey dry with paper towels, including cavity. Stir together butter, rosemary, and thyme. Loosen skin from turkey breast without totally detaching skin; rub butter mixture under loosened skin and over breasts and drumsticks. Tie ends of legs together with kitchen twine, and tuck wing tips under.

  • Open vent of smoker completely. Prepare a charcoal fire in smoker according to manufacturer’s instructions, and push coals to one side. Bring internal temperature to 220°F to 230°F; maintain temperature 15 to 20 minutes. Place 4 cups apple wood chips on coals. Position smoker grate over coals, and place turkey, breast side up, over side without coals. (Thighs should be facing coals.) Smoke turkey, covered with smoker lid, until a thermometer inserted in thickest portion of turkey breast registers 155°F, about 4 hours. 

  • Remove turkey from smoker, cover thighs loosely with aluminum foil, and let rest 20 minutes before carving.