How to Smoke a Turkey in the Big Green Egg

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​In this guide, I will show you how to wet brine and smoke a ​holiday turkey​ worth remembering in a Big Green Egg.

​Whether you are new to smoking turkeys or wishing to improve your technique, ​this smoked turkey recipe will give you some ​proven tips and tricks ​for smoking a turkey that your guests will love!

So if you are ready to say goodbye to dry and boring turkey, let's dive in!

Do you need help cooking your holiday turkey? We believe amazing barbecue is not just for celebrities. Visit our store for everything you need to cook outdoors, including free and friendly advice from fellow barbecue enthusiasts. Call us at (717) 355-0779 or visit us at 140 W Main Street in New Holland, PA.

In this ​story, I am cooking a 16-pound heritage breed turkey from Fossil Farms. I am using my​ XL Big Green Egg fired with Rockwood lump charcoal. ​I wet brined and seasoned the turkey, then smoked it until it reached my target temperature.

I didn't make any gravy, but if you want to step things up a notch, you can collect the drippings in a pan during the cook, then strain the drippings and use what's left for a delicious gravy on mashed potatoes and turkey.

Buy the Turkey

Around Thanksgiving, some stores price turkey below their cost to get people into their stores. You can smoke an excellent turkey from Butterball or Honeysuckle, but there’s also a lot of value in going with a heritage breed or minimally-processed turkey. One of the advantages of cooking a turkey that hasn’t been injected with a solution is that you have more control over the level of saltiness in the meat. ​

Because many of our customers appreciate quality equipment and meats, we decided to bring in something special for you this year—we are taking orders for heritage breed turkeys from Fossil Farms!

These turkeys are exceptionally tender and 100% all-natural. The birds were raised humanely and free-roaming, only fed a vegetarian diet of farm-local corn, rye, oats, alfalfa, and soybean meal, and were never given antibiotics, hormones, or steroids. Because they have not been pre-brined, they are perfect for ​brining​ at home.

Call us at (717) 355-0779 or stop in at our store to place a turkey order.

What size turkey should I cook? I prefer turkeys in the 12-16 pound range for smoking. If you need more meat, cook multiple turkeys instead of getting a bigger one. Figure roughly ​1-1/4 pounds of raw weight per person unless you want leftovers or are feeding big eaters.

If you buy a frozen turkey, plan ahead so you won’t be stressed over thawing and prepping it in time. It takes approximately 24 hours for every 5 pounds to thaw a turkey in the fridge.

Here is the 16-pound heritage breed turkey I am cooking for this ​recipe.

Trim the Turkey

Remove any packaging, including a pop-up thermometer or tie on the legs, and the giblet bag. 

Cut off the wing tips. ​

Trim the neck skin back, being careful to leave enough there to cover the meat. Turn the breast side up for trimming because this posture pulls the skin back.

Trim the flaps of skin and fat by the rear cavity and remove the tail.

Brine the Turkey

Most turkeys from the grocery store have already been injected with a salt solution, so we don’t recommend brining those. A lot of our customers prefer brining their own so they have more control over the amount of salt in the meat.

If you are cooking one that is minimally processed, such as from Fossil Farms, a local butcher or a specialty grocery store (Whole Foods), brining ​makes a huge difference in how juicy and tender the meat is.

​For this recipe I am showing you how to wet brine a turkey. The challenge of wet brining is 1) keeping the meat submerged in the liquid and 2) finding a container big enough to hold a turkey without taking too much room in the fridge. The Briner Bucket is the perfect size for nearly any size turkey and keeps the turkey at the bottom of the bucket where it belongs.

​The first step is to mix the brine. For this we recommend Oakridge Game Changer Brine and Injection.

For ​my 16-pound turkey,​ a 1-pound package wasn't quite enough. I had to add 1/2 cup table salt to make ​enough brine to cover the turkey. The directions on the package make 4 quarts of brine and I needed 6 quarts.

​Here are the ratios I used for the 16-pound turkey:

  • 2 cups brine mix (1 package of Oakridge Game Changer)
  • 1/2 cup table salt
  • ​4.5 quarts water
  • 3 pounds of ice (each pound adds about 1 pint of water)

Mix the brine and salt with 1 quart of water in a small pot and heat it enough to dissolve the mix. Pour the brine, remaining water, and ice into the Briner Bucket and mix it thoroughly to cool the water​.

Here are the ratios recommended on the package to make 2 quarts of brine:

  • 1 cup brine mix
  • ​3 pints water
  • 1 pound ice

​Double this recipe (use one entire package) if you are brining a 12-pound turkey​. If you are doing a larger one, ​you will need to purchase two packages of Game Changer or add some salt.

Put the turkey into the brine and set the bucket into the fridge for one hour per pound of turkey.

Remove the turkey from the brine and set it in the fridge on a pan uncovered for 10–12 hours to dr​aw some of the moisture out of the skin ​to help it get more crispy.

Season the Turkey

I am using Dizzy Pig Mad Max Turkey Seasoning to season this turkey. ​If you haven't tried it yet, you should... it's delicious on turkey!

Season the entire bird with a moderate layer of the rub.

​Carefully loosen the skin between the edge of the rear cavity and the leg and ​shake a little bit of seasoning into the cavity you just opened. Be careful not to add too much and use your fingers to spread the seasoning around.

Carefully loosen some of the skin over the breast and uniformly work some of the seasoning directly onto the meat, being careful not to tear the skin.

This is what the turkey should look like at this point:

Cook the Turkey

Fire your smoker at 325 degrees F. Turkey doesn’t benefit from low and slow cooking, and the higher temperature will give you a more crispy skin and cook the turkey faster, which results in a juicier turkey.

In this cook I’m using my XL Big Green Egg and have it fired with Rockwood Lump Charcoal. I set up the grill with the convEGGtor for cooking with indirect heat.

This is what the charcoal looked like when I opened the bag. Notice ​the large pieces at the top of the bag!

To fire the Egg I dumped in enough charcoal to fill the Kick Ash Basket and lit two wax fire starter squares. The fire was ready to go in around 30 minutes​ without using a BBQ Dragon. Then I threw in 3 chunks of pecan wood for some flavor.

Next, I set in the convEGGtor and the cooking grate as shown here:

Start with both vents wide open. Use the screen vent in the bottom to keep embers from dropping out the bottom of the grill.

Once the temperature is within 50 degrees of your target temperature (275 degrees), s​lide both vents to 3/4" open and then adjust the top vent as needed to stabilize it at 325 degrees.

It will take some time to master temperature control, but it works on this ​principle: ​Give the grill more air to raise the temperature and give it less air to lower the temperature. This is done by adjusting both the top and bottom vents.

If you understand this principle, you can figure out how to make it work in any scenario. For example, ​depending on how you fired the grill​, you may need to ​​adjust the vents outside the range I ​suggested above. ​​Keep in mind a higher cooking temperature requires more air than a lower one. For most cooks, you'll be running with the vents between 1/4" (a pencil thickness) and 1-1/2".

Set the turkey on the grate breast side up.

Now we're cooking...

​He's gonna be tasty!

​How to Know When Turkey Is Done

The USDA minimum recommended temperature for turkey and chicken is 165 degrees F. You can safely cook the turkey breast until it reaches 160 degrees and let carryover cooking take it up the rest of the way. Breast meat is very lean, so if you take the breast meat higher than that, it will not become better, but start drying out instead.

We prefer cooking the dark meat (legs and thighs) to at least 180 degrees for a better texture and appearance. It’s okay to remove it from the smoker once the thickest part of the thigh reaches the recommended temperature, but you’ll find that, while the meat is safe to eat, it will usually still be clinging tightly to the bone.

One of the keys to cooking the ultimate turkey is to not overcook it. Yet, the white and dark meat are two different types of meat and they ​often don’t ​both reach our target temperature at the same time. So how can we hope to cook the perfect turkey?

Most articles on smoking a turkey don't address this issue, but here are some tips and tricks to help you overcome it:

  • The easiest way to predictably cook a perfect turkey is to separate the two meats and cook them independently to the ideal target temperature. (Not applicable to cooking a turkey whole.)
  • Brining widens the window of perfection, so the meat is more forgiving, whether you are cooking the turkey whole or in parts.
  • To give the legs a head-start during the cook, you can take the bird out of the fridge one hour before cooking and put a bag of ice over the breast. The thighs will start warming up a bit, and the breasts will stay cold. This sounds odd, but it works!

In this recipe we are cooking it all together, but we've brined the meat, so we're aiming to get the whole thing done without overcooking any part of it. If part of the bird gets a bit higher than we wish, the brine will help keep the turkey juicy.

How long does it take to smoke a turkey? Cooking at 325 degrees F, it will take around 10 minutes per pound. My 16-pound turkey took 2 hours and 45 minutes, almost exactly 10 minutes per pound. This time estimate should hold out for different size turkeys, but remember it could take longer, so try to keep the serving time a bit flexible.

I use my instant-read Thermapen MK4 for checking the internal temperature of the meat.

In this cook, the dark meat rose above the temperature I was looking for, but the brine helped to keep everything juicy. I could have watched it more closely and moved the upper part of the turkey toward the edge of the grill partway through the cook, but I just left it in one place and it was awesome, even though the dark meat got hotter than ​I was shooting for.

Serve the Turkey

​Once the turkey ​reache​d the right temperature, I transferred it to a platter​ for carving.

Now for the best part... the finished product. The meat was tender, juicy, and flavorful!

​The back (side toward the fire) looked incredibl​e.

Slice the breast lobes off the carcass:

​Slice the breast against the grain:

Carve and serve the legs and wings ​whole or pull the meat. If the skin is crispy enough to your liking, you can chop some of it and mix it with the pulled meat.

Are you looking forward to cooking a turkey that will get ​raving reviews from ​all around your holiday table? It’s not rocket science, and if you put some effort into planning your cook, it just could be the best turkey you've ever cooked!

Did you know we are much more than a BBQ store?

One reason we open our doors ​each morning is to help ordinary people discover how to cook amazing barbecue! Feel free to call us at (717) 355-0779 or visit our store at 140 W Main Street in New Holland, Pennsylvania to talk with one of our knowledgeable staff who will be happy to help you with your outdoor cooking questions.

Also, if you haven’t yet, make sure you check out our supplies and equipment guide for cooking a turkey here.

Turkey Tools

Here is a list of products we recommend for cooking your turkey:

  • Best Seller

    Meadow Creek Gourmet Barbecue Seasoning

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  • Meadow Creek SQ36 Barbeque Smoker

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  • Best Seller

    Royal Oak – Chef’s Select Charcoal Briquettes

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  • Best Seller

    Dizzy Pig Mad Max Turkey Rub

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  • Best Seller

    BBQer’s Delight – Pecan Pellet Grill Fuel

    Add to cart
  • Best Seller

    Oakridge Game Changer Brine and Injection

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  • Best Seller

    Oakridge Secret Weapon Pork and Chicken Rub

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  • Best Seller

    Turkey Tom – The Briner Bucket

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  • Best Seller

    Daniel Boone Prime Grill

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  • Best Seller

    Kosmos Q Dirty Bird Rub

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  • Best Seller

    Nature-Glo Lump Charcoal

    Add to cart
  • Flame Boss FB500 Wifi Kit

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  • Smoking Wood

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  • A-maze-n 12-18″ Expanding Tube Smoker

    Add to cart
  • Butcher BBQ Bird Booster Honey Injection

    Add to cart
  • Large Big Green Egg

    Add to cart
  • Fox Run – Gravy and Fat Separator

    Add to cart
  • Kamado Joe – JoeTisserie

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  • Backyard Pro – Stainless Steel Turkey Fryer Kit

    Add to cart
  • Big Green Egg – Genius

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  • Kamado Joe – Pecan Wood Chunks

    Add to cart
  • Big Green Egg – Stainless Steel Injector

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  • ThermoWorks Dot

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  • YS640s Pellet Grill

    Add to cart
  • A-maze-n 5×8 Maze Smoker

    Add to cart
  • Butcher BBQ Bird Booster Chipotle Injection

    Add to cart
  • Rockwood – Lump Charcoal

    Add to cart
  • ThermoWorks ThermoPop

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  • ThermoWorks Smoke

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  • ThermoWorks Classic Thermapen

    Read more
  • ThermoWorks Thermapen MK4

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Do you need help cooking your holiday turkey? We believe amazing barbecue is not just for celebrities. Visit our store for everything you need to cook outdoors, including free and friendly advice from fellow barbecue enthusiasts. Call us at (717) 355-0779 or visit us at 140 W Main Street in New Holland, PA.

​About the author: Lavern Gingerich is a writer and the digital marketing manager for Meadow Creek Barbecue Supply​.

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