Learn how to cook a smoked Thanksgiving Turkey with brining and herb butter. This method will help you achieve the perfect smoked bird — moist and tender. I’m using a turkey breast for this recipe. This turkey is the perfect size for a small gathering or great for a larger group if you have another main dish to serve with it.
Brining The Turkey
I’m all for brining a turkey. If you can find a natural turkey that hasn’t been already injected with a salt solution great, but you can brine a turkey that has been injected, you just need to lower the salt in the brine. The only turkey breast I was able to find was one that was injected with a saline solution. So that is what I used for this recipe, and it turned out moist and delicious with no over-salted flavor. A brine is a great way to bring in the flavors you love. The water, salt, and sugar should remain the same, but the fresh herbs and citrus fruits can be changed to your liking. Here is what I use in my brine:
- kosher salt
The main concept with a brine is bringing all the ingredients to a boil and then adding some ice to let it cool before submerging your bird into the flavorful bath overnight to help it get all plump and juicy before you smoke it.
About an hour before you need to place the turkey in the smoker, you want to remove it from its brine bath and give it a good rinse. Then you want to leave it out to help it come to room temperature.
Creating The Herb Butter
When making herb butter for your turkey I recommend keeping with the theme of your brine. I used thyme and garlic in my brine so I wanted fresh herbs that complemented those flavors and that go well with a turkey.
Herb Butter Ingredients
You take softened butter and combine it with the chopped herbs and garlic. Then take some paper towels and pat the turkey dry so that the butter will stick better. I like to put the herb butter under the skin and inside the cavity of the turkey too.
Prep Your Smoker
I have an electric smoker that uses wood chips. Everyone’s smoker may have different directions, but this is how I like to prep mine. I start to preheat my smoker for about 30 minutes before I want to place the turkey on it. Mine comes with a water/drip pan on the bottom. I filled mine with water, but you could use apple juice or apple cider if it went with the spices and herbs you were using. The water pan’s liquid helps to keep the turkey moist while it’s cooking. I put my smoker temp at 225 degrees for the turkey breast. I don’t add my wood chips until 30 minutes after the turkey is in the smoker.
Use A Digital Meat Thermometer
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I love using a digital meat thermometer with my smoker. The one I use connects with the app on my phone where I can easily check the temp and gauge how long the turkey still has left. It also allows you to keep the door closed, so the heat can not escape. If you use a regular thermometer too. I place my thermometer in the thickest part of the turkey breast before I place it in the smoker.
Here is the meat grill thermometer that I use:
Smoking A Turkey Breast
The next step is getting the bird in the smoker. The rest is easy after this. You’ve done all the work to have a turkey with great flavor, now it’s time to let it cook and give it some great smoke flavor too. I like to place my turkey breast in about the center of my vertical electric smoker.
If you are wanting to make a gravy with your dippings, I would suggest placing a metal, disposable pan at the bottom of the smoker to collect the drippings to make your gravy.
About 30 minutes after I place the turkey in the smoker I add some Hickory wood chips to the smoker. My smoker has a side door where I can add the wood chips without the heat escaping. I add another handful at about 60 minutes into cooking.
How long do you smoke a turkey at 225 degrees?
How long does it take to smoke your turkey breast? Well, that depends on the size of your turkey breast. It takes about 35-40 minutes per pound at 225 degrees f. You are looking for the internal temperature to be 165 degrees before you remove it. My turkey breast was 7 pounds and took about 4 1/2 hours to cook.
Smoked Turkey Breast Recipe
- 7 lb turkey breast you can give whatever size you need and adjust the cook time
- 12 cups water
- ½ cup sugar
- ⅓ cup kosher salt
- 1 orange cut into slices
- 5 sprigs of thyme
- 2 tsp minced garlic
- 2 cups ice
- 1 stick butter softened
- 2 tsp thyme chopped
- 2 tsp rosemary chopped
- 2 tsp sage chopped
- 2 tsp garlic minced
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp pepper
- Pour water into a large pot. Turn on to high heat.
- Add the sugar, salt, minced garlic, and sprigs of thyme.
- Squeeze the oranges over the water before places the slices into the water.
- Bring to a boil. Remove from heat and allow to cool about 30 minutes before adding ice. Make sure liquid is room temperature before putting the turkey breast into the brining liquid.
- Put the lid on the pot and place in the refrigerator at least 8 hours or overnight.
- Remove turkey an hour before you need to put it on the smoker. Rinse the turkey off well, pat dry with paper towels, and let it sit at room temperature.
- In a small combined the softened butter, chopped herbs, minced garlic, salt, and pepper.
- Spread half the herb butter under the turkey's skin. You may need to grab to loosen the skin. I like to use toothpicks to hold the skin in place so that it doesn't shrink back while cooking.
- Spread the other half of the herb butter on top of the turkey.
- Start preheating your smoker about 30 minutes before you need to use it. Preheat to 225°F.
- If you have a meat thermometer that can be used in the smoker insert the probe into the thickest part of the turkey breast.
- Once the smoker is preheated place the turkey onto a middle rack. Follow your smokers direction as what liquid to place in drip pan and when to add wood chips, etc.
- I use water in my drip pan and add the first handful of wood chips after 30 minutes of cooking. I add a second handful of wood chips after 60 minutes of cooking.
- When turkey breast gets to 165°F remove from the smoker, cover loosely with foil and let it rest for 20-30 minutes before cutting.
Here are some of my favorite dishes to go along with this turkey recipe.