Episode 109: Thanksgiving Comes Early

Double Whiskey-Smoked Turkey

Double Whiskey-Smoked Turkey

tThanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays because we get to fire up a lot of smokers to prepare the Thanksgiving feast. We always smoke our turkey for Thanksgiving. I love the way the joint techniques of brining and smoking give you a bird with incredibly moist flesh. No more dry turkey!

Turkey presents cooks with a unique challenge: the breasts cook faster than the legs. By the time the legs are cooked to a safe internal temperature, the breast becomes too dry.

I have 3 solutions:

  1. Brine the turkey.
  2. Inject the breast with melted butter.
  3. Cook the turkey in a smoker.

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More Grilled and Smoked Thanksgiving Recipes:



Double Whiskey-Smoked Turkey

Recipe Notes

  • Yield: Serves 8 to 10
  • Method: Hot smoking
  • Equipment: Memphis Wood Fire Grill; wood pellets


  • 1 12- to 14-pound turkey

For the brine:

  • 4 bay leaves
  • 1 medium onion, quartered
  • 4 cloves
  • 1 1/2 cups kosher salt or sea salt
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 2 quarts hot water plus 6 quarts cold water (2 gallons in all)
  • 1 cup of your favorite whiskey
  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns

Recipe Steps

Step 1: Thaw the turkey if frozen. Remove the neck and giblets (liver, gizzard, heart) and set aside for another use. (Be sure to empty both the front and main cavities.) Rinse the turkey with cold running water inside and out. Fold the wing tips under the body.

Step 2: Make the brine: Pin the bay leaves to the onion quarters with cloves. Place the salt and maple syrup in a very large stockpot or other large food-safe container, like a Cambro. Add the hot water and whisk until the salt is dissolved. Whisk in the cold water, whiskey, and peppercorns. Let the brine cool completely. Add the turkey, leg end up, and the onion quarters. Jiggle the turkey as needed so the brine flows into the cavity and the whole bird is submerged. Cover with plastic wrap and brine the turkey in the refrigerator for 24 hours. Invert the turkey half way through so it brines evenly.

Step 3: The next day, light your smoker according to the manufacturer’s instructions and preheat to 250 degrees. Add the wood as specified by the manufacturer.

Step 4: Smoke the turkey until the skin is browned and the internal temperature in the thigh reaches 145 degrees. This will take 4 to 5 hours. After 3 hours, start basting the turkey all over with melted butter and baste again every hour.

Step 5: Increase the heat in your smoker to 400 degrees, if possible. (Some smokers don’t go that high.)

Step 6: Otherwise, set up a grill for indirect grilling and preheat to medium-high (400 degrees). Transfer the turkey to the grill (over the drip pan).

Step 7: Baste the bird with melted butter and continue roasting until the skin is browned and crisp and the internal temperature in the thigh reaches 165 degrees, 45 minutes to an hour. Baste once or twice with the butter.

Step 8: Transfer the turkey to a platter and drape a sheet of foil over it. (Don’t bunch the foil around the bird or the steam will make the skin soggy.) Let rest for 20 minutes, then carve.

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Steven Raichlen, a national barbecue treasure and author of The Barbecue! Bible, How to Grill, and other books in the …

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