Every year I try to come up with a new and amazing Thanksgiving turkey recipe and based on emails I receive, I think I have produced some real crowd pleasers over the last few years.

Well, this year, in an effort to “hit it out of the ballpark” again, I have developed a smoked maple barbecue turkey that, quite frankly, may just be the best I've done yet if I can say that with a certain amount of modesty;-)

I think you will love this recipe and I recommend that you go ahead and splurge for my original rub recipe (purchase recipes here) and do it exactly the way that I did in order to get the same effect and, after all, the family and in-laws are depending on you!

As a side note, that maple barbecue mop sauce (simple recipe below) was so good I caught myself eating it with a spoon and, well, it did something pretty magical to the turkey too.

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recipe-ad-rubI used my original rub in the brine, on the turkey and in the maple barbecue mop sauce and I am telling you that the rub made a huge difference in the overall flavor and look of this turkey.

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Helpful Information
  • Prep Time: 25 minutes
  • Brine Time: 12 hours
  • Cook Time: 6 hours (depends on size of turkey)
  • Smoker Temp: 240°F
  • Meat Finish Temp: 165°F
  • Recommended Wood: Pecan
What You'll Need
  • 11-12 lb turkey (minimally processed with 8% or less solution added)
  • Maple turkey brine (recipe below)
  • Brining container or zip top bag
  • Maple Syrup
  • Jeff's original rub (purchase recipes here)
  • Maple barbecue mop sauce
  • Shallow foil pan (optional)
Brine the Turkey

Without going into a lot of science about why you should ALWAYS brine poultry and especially the Thanksgiving turkey, let me just say that if you ever try it one time, you will probably never skip this step again.

Meat tends to dry out some as it is being cooked. Brining adds extra water into the meat causing the end result to be less dry/more juicy than it  would be if you decided to skip this step.

What is brining?

Brining is simply soaking the meat (turkey, chicken, etc.) in a salty solution for a certain amount of time. Some sort of chemical reaction happens and the water is drawn into the meat where it gets trapped within the protein strands. This process results in a product that is a lot more juicy and if you happen to add other things into the water such as maple syrup, juices, wines, flavorings, herbs, etc, the essence of each ingredient gets pulled into the meat with the water affecting the flavor in a very good way.

How to Brine the Turkey

First, make the brine

Maple Turkey Brine Recipe

Note: you may need to double or triple this recipe depending on the size of your brining container. As long as your turkey fits, the smaller the better in my opinion.

Place a quart of the water in a pot over medium heat and add the maple syrup and rub to the water to help it melt and mix together better. Stir for about 3-4 minutes then remove from the heat and let it cool to room temperature.

Tip: do this step ahead of time so you're not stuck waiting on it.

Put the 3 quarts of cool, unheated water into a gallon sized pitcher and mix in the salt. Stir until the salt has completely dissolved.

Add the heated mixture to the salted water

You need a food safe plastic/glass or other non-reactive container large enough to hold the turkey and enough brine to cover.

Remove the turkey from it's packaging and remove any “gifts” that are stuffed down inside of the cavity.

2014-IMG_6010

Place the turkey in the brining container

I used an insulated cooler

2014-IMG_6012

Pour enough brine over the turkey to cover it. If the turkey tries to float, put a heavy plate on top of it to hold it under the water.

2014-IMG_6017

I recommend using a smaller container if possible and placing the container in the fridge for optimum cooling. For a cooler such as I used, add a bag or two of ice to help keep the water at less than 40°F.

Some of the ice will melt over time but I usually do not add extra salt to make up for this. For one thing, the ice melts over time and causes the dilution to constantly change. I simply choose to leave it alone and it always turns out great that way.

Leave the turkey in the brine for 10-12 hours or overnight.

When the turkey is finished brining, rinse it well under cold water to remove any residual salt on the surface of the meat.

Season the Turkey

Since we are going with a maple theme this year, it only seems fitting to use maple syrup as our base to help the rub to stick.

I placed the turkey in a baking pan to catch the mess.. yep, I don't like cleanup!

Pour the maple syrup all over the turkey.

2014-IMG_6022

Use a silicon brush or your hands to get it all over.

2014-IMG_6023

Sprinkle Jeff's original rub (purchase recipes here) all over the turkey

2014-IMG_6027

For a little extra flavor, work your hands down under the skin of the turkey and try to get some maple syrup and rub in there.

My rub is not salty at all and it goes amazingly well with the maple syrup.

At this point the turkey is ready to go in the smoker.

Get the Smoker Ready

I just happened to cook the turkey on my Big Green Egg this year using the Flame Boss to control the temperature while I did other things.

I love my BGE and the way that it works but I would never set it up and leave for more than a few hours or go to bed without a temperature controller on it.

I'm a control freak like that. Unless I have someone I trust watching the smoker for me, I'm going out to check on it every hour or two.

Enter Flame Boss!

You can use practically any smoker (even the grill) to cook the Thanksgiving turkey this year as long as you can maintain a range between about 220 and 250°F using indirect heat.

Preheat the smoker/grill and once it is maintaining about 240°F , you are ready to smoke!

Smoke the Thanksgiving Turkey

Place the turkey directly on the grate breast side up, or if you want to keep the smoker a little cleaner, you can leave the turkey on the baking sheet.

If you are using a smoker that has multiple levels, you can place the turkey on a Bradley rack or Weber grill pan to make it easy to transport it to the smoker and then back into the house once it's finished. Multiple levels allow you to place a pan on a lower rack to catch the syrup and turkey juices.

I used pecan wood for this turkey but almost any fruit wood or a mix of pecan and fruit wood such as apple, plum, or cherry, would be great.

Let the turkey smoke for about 2 hours without touching it.

At the 3 hour mark begin mopping the bird with the maple barbecue mop sauce every hour

Maple Barbecue Mop Sauce

Heat the maple syrup in the microwave then add the rub. Mix well then continuously mix while using.

Simple yet so amazing!

2014-IMG_6030

Use a silicon brush or basting mop to apply the mop sauce to the top, sides, legs and wings of the turkey.

When is the Turkey Done?

I highly recommend using a good digital probe meat thermometer to monitor the temperature of the turkey while it cooks.

Some of my favorite leave-in digital probe food thermometers (in no specific order) are:

Another one of my favorite thermometers is the thermapen which is a digital pocket thermometer that reads in about 2 seconds.

I have a thermapen in my pocket any time I am cooking and it is one of the many tools, I don’t cook without. Solid construction, comes in a variety of colors, works fast, the most accurate thermometer you will ever own and I highly recommend it!

Another great tool is the improved ThermoPop digital pocket thermometer which reads in 3-4 seconds (that's fast), is splash-proof and is being offered now for only $29. One of my favorite toys.. er, tools;-)

ThermoPop_generic-01

I monitor the thickest part of the turkey breast but I usually check the turkey legs with my Thermapen or ThermoPop before bringing the turkey in the house.

Turkey breast which is white meat cooks a little differently than the darker meat found in the legs and wings and it is important to find the happy medium between getting the two meats perfectly done.

I usually go with the breast temperature and as long as both the white breast meat and the legs are at least 165°F , I call the turkey done.

I have been known to let the breast go to 167°F in years past to give the legs more time to tenderize but since I usually let the turkey rest for 20-30 minutes, I know that the temperature is going to increase some anyway regardless of whether it's 162 or 167°F.

I recommend 165°F simply because I believe that's the optimum temperature based on my experience.

Rest the Turkey

I recommend allowing the turkey to rest after it is done cooking. During this time, the juices settle back down in the meat and are less prone to spurt out when you cut into it.

When I go out to get the finished turkey, I usually take a large roasting pan lined with foil and a lid. The turkey goes from the smoker into the roasting pan and the lid is quickly placed on top to preserve the heat.

When I get it into the house, I allow it to sit on the cabinet for about 20-30 minutes before removing/carving the meat.

Carving the Smoked Turkey

Every family does this differently.. we usually carve the turkey ahead of time so everyone can dig in quickly once dinner is called but others like to place the whole turkey on the table for presentation purposes and that is a wonderful tradition as well and makes for great memories.

I cannot teach you how to carve the turkey since that's not my forte but I do a halfway decent job of it in my opinion.

I start by removing the legs and wings.

This gives me good access to cut slices of the breast meat.

I recommend placing the dark meat and white meat in separate piles so folks can get what they want without having to dig around for it.

Questions

Why breast side up?

I sometimes cook the turkey breast side down for a short time then flip it over for the rest of the time, breast side up. This is not as important in smokers where the heat is really even and the heat is not moving from the bottom of the smoker to the top. In my experience, breast side up keeps the delicate breast meat the furthest from the heat and helps it to get done without any unintended blasts of heat.

This also gives me the best access to mop and baste the meat with the maple barbecue mop sauce.

All in all, I don't think either way is a deal breaker. If you've had success with breast side down the entire time, then go for it.

Can I stuff the turkey before smoking it?

No. Smoking turkey at low temperatures makes it unsafe to block heat flow into the cavity of the turkey. Wait until the turkey is done then stuff it with the already cooked stuffing for table presentation.

It is ok to place a few pieces of onion, apple, carrot, etc into the cavity as long as heat can travel freely into the cavity.

How do I reheat the turkey if I cook it ahead of time?

It just so happened that I had to reheat the turkey used in this newsletter. It was finished about 4 hours before we were ready to eat so I placed it in a roasting pan with a good fitting lid and put the entire pan in the fridge.

About one hour before dinner time, I put the lidded roasting pan with the turkey into the oven preheated to 350°F.

Just before closing the oven door, I basted it once again with some leftover maple barbecue mop sauce.

After about 45 minutes the turkey was up to 120°F internal temperature so I turned it down to 250°F where it stayed for another 30 minutes  until we were ready to carve it.

It was a good eating temperature and was just as juicy as it ever was.

Can I make the turkey ahead of time?

Obviously, the best smoked turkey is going to be right out of the smoker the same day but if you have scheduling issues and must cook it ahead of time, you can certainly do that and it will still be the best turkey most folks have ever had.

Ideally, you can make it less than 2-3 days before you need it and you can leave it in the fridge and simply reheat it the way that I did in the previous question. If it will be more than 3 days, it must be placed in the freezer.

Thawing in the fridge is the best option and will take about 1 day for every 5 pounds of turkey.

Once the turkey is thawed, place it in a pan with a lid. Add about 1 cup of water to the bottom of the pan.

Make extra maple barbecue mop sauce and baste the turkey liberally just before heating it.

Preheat the oven to 350°F and place the pan of turkey, lid intact, into the oven for about 45 minutes to 1 hour or until it reaches a good eating temperature.

How much turkey do I need to smoke?

For the bone to meat ratio in smoking size turkeys around 12 lb, you should figure about 2 uncooked lbs per person which will give you a good size helping per person with a few leftovers.

For a 12 person thanksgiving dinner, I would make (2) 12 lb turkeys.

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Read these recent testimonies:

"Love the sauce and rub recipes. So far I have used them on beef ribs, pork ribs, and different chicken parts. Can't wait to do a beef brisket. Texas rub is great as well!" ~Peter S.
"I tried the rub on a beef brisket and some beef ribs the other day and our entire family enjoyed it tremendously. I also made a batch of the barbeque sauce that we used on the brisket as well as some chicken. We all agreed it was the best sauce we have had in a while." ~Darwyn B.
"Love the original rib rub and sauce! We have an annual rib fest competition at the lake every 4th of July. I will say we have won a great percent of the time over the past 15 years so we are not novices by any means. However, we didn't win last year and had to step up our game! We used Jeff's rub and sauce (sauce on the side) and it was a landslide win for us this year! Thanks Jeff for the great recipes. I'm looking forward to trying the Texas style rub in the near future!" ~Michelle M.

You see the raving testimonies and you wonder, "Can the recipes really be that good?"

No worries! Make up a batch and if it's not as good as you've heard.. simply ask for a refund. Now that's a bargain and you know it. Let's review:

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Printable Recipe

Print

Smoked Maple Barbecue Turkey

5 from 9 reviews

This year's smoked maple barbecue turkey for Thanksgiving may just be the best smoked turkey I've done yet and the recipe and complete instructions are yours.

  • Author:
  • Prep Time: 20 mins
  • Cook Time: 6 hours
  • Total Time: 6 hours 20 mins
  • Yield: 6
  • Category: Entree
  • Cuisine: Hot Smoking

Ingredients

  • 11-12 lb turkey (minimally processed with 8% or less solution added)
  • Maple turkey brine (recipe below)
  • Brining container or zip top bag
  • Maple Syrup
  • Jeff’s rub
  • Maple barbecue mop sauce (recipe below)
  • Shallow foil pan (optional)

Instructions

Brine the Turkey

  1. First, make the brine
  2. Maple Turkey Brine Recipe: 1 gallons water, 1 cup of kosher salt (coarse), 12 oz of real maple syrup, 2 TBS of Jeff’s Rub
  3. Place a quart of the water in a pot over medium heat and add the maple syrup and rub to the water to help it melt and mix together better.
  4. Stir for about 3-4 minutes then remove from the heat and let it cool to room temperature..
  5. Put the 3 quarts of cool, unheated water into a gallon sized pitcher and mix in the salt. Stir until the salt has completely dissolved.
  6. Add the heated mixture to the salted water
  7. You need a food safe plastic/glass or other non-reactive container large enough to hold the turkey and enough brine to cover.
  8. Remove the turkey from it’s packaging and remove any “gifts” that are stuffed down inside of the cavity.
  9. Place the turkey in the brining container
  10. Pour enough brine over the turkey to cover it. If the turkey tries to float, put a heavy plate on top of it to hold it under the water.
  11. I recommend using a smaller container if possible and placing the container in the fridge for optimum cooling. Add a bag or two of ice to help keep the water at less than 40°F if it will not fit in the fridge.
  12. Leave the turkey in the brine for 10-12 hours or overnight.
  13. When the turkey is finished brining, rinse it well under cold water to remove any residual salt on the surface of the meat.

Season the Turkey

  1. Since we are going with a maple theme this year, it only seems fitting to use maple syrup as our base to help the rub to stick.
  2. I placed the turkey in a baking pan to catch the mess.. yep, I don’t like cleanup!
  3. Pour the maple syrup all over the turkey.
  4. Use a silicon brush or your hands to get it all over.
  5. Sprinkle Jeff’s rub all over the turkey
  6. For a little extra flavor, work your hands down under the skin of the turkey and try to get some maple syrup and rub in there.
  7. At this point the turkey is ready to go in the smoker.

Get the Smoker Ready

  1. You can use practically any smoker (even the grill) to cook the Thanksgiving turkey this year as long as you can maintain a range between about 220 and 250°F using indirect heat.
  2. Preheat the smoker/grill and once it is maintaining about 240°F , you are ready to smoke!

Smoke the Thanksgiving Turkey

  1. Place the turkey directly on the grate breast side up, or if you want to keep the smoker a little cleaner, you can leave the turkey on the baking sheet.
  2. If you are using a smoker that has multiple levels, you can place the turkey on a Bradley rack to make it easy to transport it to the smoker and then back into the house once it’s finished. Multiple levels allow you to place a pan on a lower rack to catch the syrup and turkey juices.
  3. I used pecan wood for this turkey but almost any fruit wood or a mix of pecan and fruit wood such as apple, plum, or cherry, would be great.
  4. Let the turkey smoke for about 2 hours without touching it.
  5. At the 3 hour mark begin mopping the bird with the maple barbecue mop sauce every hour
  6. Maple Barbecue Mop Sauce: 6 oz maple syrup, 2 heaping TBS of Jeff’s original rub
  7. Heat the maple syrup in the microwave then add the rub. Mix well then continuously mix while using.
  8. Use a silicon brush or basting mop to apply the mop sauce to the top, sides, legs and wings of the turkey.

When is the Turkey Done?

  1. I highly recommend using a good digital probe meat thermometer to monitor the temperature of the turkey while it cooks.
  2. Turkey breast which is white meat cooks a little differently than the darker meat found in the legs and wings and it is important to find the happy medium between getting the two meats perfectly done.
  3. I usually go with the breast temperature and as long as both the white breast meat and the legs are at least 165°F , I call the turkey done.
  4. I recommend 165°F simply because I believe that’s the optimum temperature based on my experience.

Rest the Turkey

  1. I recommend allowing the turkey to rest after it is done cooking. During this time, the juices settle back down in the meat and are less prone to spurt out when you cut into it.
  2. When I go out to get the finished turkey, I usually take a large roasting pan lined with foil and a lid. The turkey goes from the smoker into the roasting pan and the lid is quickly placed on top to preserve the heat.
  3. When I get it into the house, I allow it to sit on the cabinet for about 20-30 minutes before removing/carving the meat.

Carving the Smoked Turkey

  1. I start by removing the legs and wings.This gives me good access to cut slices of the breast meat.
  2. I recommend placing the dark meat and white meat in separate piles so folks can get what they want without having to dig around for it.

Questions

  1. Why breast side up? I sometimes cook the turkey breast side down for a short time then flip it over for the rest of the time, breast side up. This is not as important in smokers where the heat is really even and the heat is not moving from the bottom of the smoker to the top. In my experience, breast side up keeps the delicate breast meat the furthest from the heat and helps it to get done without any unintended blasts of heat. This also gives me the best access to mop and baste the meat with the maple barbecue mop sauce. All in all, I don’t think either way is a deal breaker. If you’ve had success with breast side down the entire time, then go for it.
  2. Can I stuff the turkey before smoking it? No. Smoking turkey at low temperatures makes it unsafe to block heat flow into the cavity of the turkey. Wait until the turkey is done then stuff it with the already cooked stuffing for table presentation. It is ok to place a few pieces of onion, apple, carrot, etc into the cavity as long as heat can travel freely into the cavity.
  3. How do I reheat the turkey if I cook it ahead of time? It just so happened that I had to reheat the turkey used in this newsletter. It was finished about 4 hours before we were ready to eat so I placed it in a roasting pan with a good fitting lid and put the entire pan in the fridge. About one hour before dinner time, I put the lidded roasting pan with the turkey into the oven preheated to 350°F. Just before closing the oven door, I basted it once again with some leftover maple barbecue mop sauce. After about 45 minutes the turkey was up to 120 °F internal temperature so I turned it down to 250 °F where it stayed for another 30 minutes until we were ready to carve it. It was a good eating temperature and was just as juicy as it ever was.
  4. Can I make the turkey ahead of time? Obviously, the best smoked turkey is going to be right out of the smoker the same day but if you have scheduling issues and must cook it ahead of time, you can certainly do that and it will still be the best turkey most folks have ever had. Ideally, you can make it less than 2-3 days before you need it and you can leave it in the fridge and simply reheat it the way that I did in the previous question. If it will be more than 3 days, it must be placed in the freezer. Thawing in the fridge is the best option and will take about 1 day for every 5 pounds of turkey. Once the turkey is thawed, place it in a pan with a lid. Add about 1 cup of water to the bottom of the pan. Make extra maple barbecue mop sauce and baste the turkey liberally just before heating it. Preheat the oven to 350 °F and place the pan of turkey, lid intact, into the oven for about 45 minutes to 1 hour or until it reaches a good eating temperature.
  5. How much turkey do I need to smoke? For the bone to meat ratio in smoking size turkeys around 12 lb, you should figure about 2 uncooked lbs per person which will give you a good size helping per person with a few leftovers. For a 12 person thanksgiving dinner, I would make (2) 12 lb turkeys.

 

About the Author

Long time Industrial Engineer turned self-proclaimed fire poker, pitmaster and smoke whisperer and loving every minute of it!

59 Comments on this article. Feel free to join this conversation.

  1. Moe Galis November 20, 2017 at 12:02 pm - Reply

    Jeff,
    I would like to try the Maple Turkey on the pellet smoker with Rotisserie this year, are you aware of any issues with doing a whole Turkey on Rotisserie in pellet smoker?

    • Jeff Phillips November 21, 2017 at 2:25 pm - Reply

      Moe, I am not aware of any issues at all. Rotisserie should do a great job on the turkey with the pellet smoker providing the heat and smoke.

  2. John F November 17, 2017 at 4:49 pm - Reply

    Any suggestions for smoking the 1st few hours and then transferring to oven – time, temps, cover?

  3. Gabriel November 8, 2017 at 10:51 pm - Reply

    I want to try this for Thanksgiving and I wanted to use one of my coolers to brine a 12lb turkey. I want to use ice to keep it cool but don’t want to dilute the brine. Cant i just keep the ice in bags and lay it on top of the turkey?

    • Jeff Phillips November 8, 2017 at 11:52 pm - Reply

      You can definitely use the ice in bags. The true test is the temperature of the water.. in order for it to be safely brined, the temperature of the water must remain at or below 39°F throughout the entire process. Multiple large zipper bags of ice would probably work fine.

  4. Ron May 7, 2017 at 9:49 pm - Reply

    Tried the recipe and it was moist and delish. I grew up in Vermont with pure maple syrup and nothing else will do.

    For those paying top dollar at the grocery store you can get pure maple syrup from the source. The Vermont Country Store and Amazon have the goods, and Amazon will ship free for orders over $25. My personal preference is half gallon size of Grade A medium amber. Order a smaller size if you don’t have room in the refrigerator.

    I just ordered a 12 qt. Rubbermaid Commercial food container for brining turkey breasts in the refrigerator.

  5. Bk November 29, 2016 at 11:01 am - Reply

    Maple turkey was fantastic! Cooked a 19 lb bird for 7 hrs. The moisture, flavor and maple baste was spectacular.

  6. James Hartley November 27, 2016 at 11:40 am - Reply

    I got told by everyone at Thanksgiving dinner that this was the best turkey they have ever had. Thank you for doing what you do!

  7. Tim November 19, 2016 at 3:33 pm - Reply

    Jeff,
    I’m a new smoker and have already tried out several of your recipes. Trying the maple turkey this week but my wife went and bought a 20-lb turkey. I plan to follow your recipe to the “T” and am using a Masterbuilt digital smoker. Would you modify the temp or do you have any other suggestions since I ended up with such a big bird? Love this site!

    • Jeff Phillips November 19, 2016 at 8:39 pm - Reply

      You can definitely up the temperature but I don’t recommend exceeding about 250°F to make sure the rub does not burn.

      A good option is to butterfly (spatchcock) the turkey by cutting along both sides of the backbone, removing the backbone and laying it open like a book. This helps it to cook a lot quicker and more evenly.

  8. Nate November 14, 2016 at 11:46 am - Reply

    I’m giving this one a try now. I put the turkey in the brine overnight 12 hours and let it thaw there. It seemed in good shape when I rinsed it to finish the prep. It is in the smoker now.
    I did a slight modification of the rub, using a pepper blend that included cayenne instead of the cayenne. I’m excited to see how it comes out this evening!

  9. Bruce November 8, 2016 at 12:41 am - Reply

    Great recipe Jeff! This was the first turkey I’ve cooked by any method. You knocked it out of the park. My smoker doesn’t get quite hot enough, so I finished the bird in the oven at 250 degrees for 3 hours after smoking it for about 16 hours. The only down-side: the skin did not crisp at all. Great taste, and the maple syrup mop sauce was killer. The family loved it!

  10. Kyle G. July 12, 2016 at 10:24 am - Reply

    Hi Jeff,

    Thank you for this recipe! Sorry if this has already been stated, but do you continue to add smoke for the entire cooking process, or only until you start mopping at about the 3 hour mark?

    Thanks,
    Kyle

    • Jeff Phillips July 12, 2016 at 1:58 pm - Reply

      I usually keep adding smoke for the entire time but it is ok to stop at about the halfway mark if you need to.

  11. michael m moring May 9, 2016 at 1:48 pm - Reply

    hi jeff ..when brining the turkey in a cooler with bagged ice, did u leave the ice in the bag and stick it in the cooler or did u dump the ice in the cooler? thanks for all the great recipes.

    • Jeff Phillips May 10, 2016 at 1:12 pm - Reply

      I dumped the ice directly into the cooler.. and discarded the bag. This does dilute the brine a little as it melts so if you want to be more precise you can use a little more salt or less water to compensate. For the record, an 8 lb bag of ice is about 1 gallon of water.

  12. Ed Crouch November 28, 2015 at 4:03 pm - Reply

    Been smoking Turkeys at Thanksgiving for many years. I typically smoke two birds at the time. A plain brine and the cranberry brined bird. The family’s preferred bird was the Cranberry brined turkey. This year we were all blown away by the Maple brined turkey. I just wanted to thank Jeff for the great recipes.

  13. John November 24, 2015 at 6:55 pm - Reply

    Jeff, Ok, I ordered the recipes and am getting ready to do it up for Thanksgiving. There is one caveat I need a few answers to though. My wife is going to cook the main turkey the traditional oven way to my resistance. I on the other hand will be smoking an 8.25 LB. bone in breast with the smoked maple recipe. My questions are; any adjustment to brine time given this is a small breast, can you give me an approximate cook time (realizing we are cooking to temp), do you recommend lifting the skin and applying the syrup and rub against the meat?
    Thanks, I’m looking forward to giving this a shot, BTW: I was planning on using some Jack Daniels keg chips for the smoke wood, what do you think about that?

  14. Jim Pratt November 24, 2015 at 5:06 pm - Reply

    Hi Jeff, I love the maple smoked turkey!!….did it last year for the first time and it came out AWESOME!!.
    Going to do it again this year but one question. Is it ok to brine the turkey for over 24hours?…..will this affect anything?
    Thanks, Jim.

  15. Rob November 24, 2015 at 11:43 am - Reply

    Can this recipe be used without a smoker and the same results? I unfortunately am going out of town and the only available cooking appliance will be an oven. Wondering if it has been tried. Thanks!

    • Jeff Phillips November 24, 2015 at 6:06 pm - Reply

      Absolutely.. the only thing you won’t have is the smoke flavor but it will still be better than most other oven cooked birds. Keep the temp at around the same as it would be in the smoker to prevent the rub from burning and be sure to watch the internal temperature of the meat as well. You can use a drip pan under the bird to keep things clean.

  16. John Limberg November 11, 2015 at 3:57 pm - Reply

    Jeff, I love your page. It is extremely beneficial. Some poultry questions: I smoke with a Primo XL. It is excellent for moisture and heat retention. I do, however, sometimes have issues with poultry developing a tough, leathery, and inedible skin. I’m guessing this is from smoking at too low of a temp. I like your suggestion to store the bird in the fridge uncovered to dry the skin. This certainly will help, but won’t the syrup cover then be counter productive? I made this recipe just as written, but smoked at 280-300 degrees to help the skin out. It was fine, but the skin was a bit dark for me. Turkey was not dry. (I’m not sure you can get dry meat from a Primo.) What advantage do I have smoking at the lower temp? Does the greater smoke duration aid in flavor? Isn’t 3 hours of smoke plenty anyway? My goal would be to carve this bird so that every slice gets a little crispy skin with it. Your thoughts are appreciated.

    • Jeff Phillips November 11, 2015 at 6:18 pm - Reply

      The only reasons for cooking poultry low and slow is to give it more time in the smoke = more flavor and so the rub will not burn. A couple hours of smoke is probably plenty just depending on your own preferences for smoke flavor.

      You can smoke poultry at 300°F+ and get excellent results and even crispy skin. The downside is that sugary rubs, glazes and marinades will burn much easier and quicker. If you want to do this, you’ll probably want to forego the seasoning on the outside at the beginning of the cook and just mop on the maple barbecue seasoning a couple of times during the last 15-20 minutes or so.

  17. Will Shattuck November 10, 2015 at 11:27 am - Reply

    Hi, thanks for this recipe. I know you said to smoke until the breast is at 165, but how long does that actually take? I see smoke for 2 hours, start mopping at 3 hours, but how much long does it go?

    Thanks.

    • Jeff Phillips November 11, 2015 at 9:57 am - Reply

      I always smoke turkeys that are at about 12 lbs for safety reasons.. these take about 6 hours at 225-240°F. If you need more turkey, I recommend smoking multiple turkeys rather than one large one. The larger turkeys stay in the temperature zone where bacteria grow and thrive for too long (40 to 140).

  18. Shawn November 10, 2015 at 9:44 am - Reply

    First, I always brine my birds – even though I generally buy frozen turkeys.
    Second, I Brine a 12-14 pound bird for 12 hours and then drain and rest for 12 hours.
    Third I smoke it for about 4 hours and then finish it in the oven in a covered roasting pan. It usually finishes in about 1/2 an hour.
    As Jeff points out. smoked birds tend to dry out. 6-7 hours on the grill can definitely have an impact. finishing in the oven ensures A. a cooked bird, B. a moist bird, and C. a bird that is done on time – not dependent on the vagaries of the smoker temperature that can easily vary 10-20 degrees depending on the outside temp, and wind.
    Good luck – there is nothing better than a nice smoked turkey.

  19. Ted September 11, 2015 at 11:01 pm - Reply

    Decided to do a test smoke this weekend in anticipation of cooking it for the family Thanksgiving. After briefly reviewing the ingredients, I went to the store and purchased 12 oz. of real maple syrup. Just finished preparing the brine, then realized that the recipe also calls for rubbing the turkey with more maple syrup, but doesn’t mention the amount. Guess I will get up early in the morning and purchase another 12 oz. of real maple syrup — but this is getting expensive, How much total maple syrup should be on had for this recipe, and how much should be used in the brine, how much should be used in the rub?

    An earlier comment mentioned that the gallon of brine was insufficient to cover his turkey. I put my turkey in a Playmate cooler. The 12-pound turkey fit almost perfectly — a little space at each end and on the top of the bird. But the one gallon of brine did not cover the turkey. So I filled the remainder of the cooler with ice, Within a short time a sufficient amount of the ice had melted for the solution to cover the bird, Not sure what the effect of diluting the brine will be, however.

    • Jeff Carter September 15, 2015 at 9:16 am - Reply

      Ted, sounds like you used the entire 12oz of maple syrup for the brine. Usually you can reserve just enough to put on the bird to make the rub stick to the turkey. Instead of going to the store for more real mample syrup, use a simple syrup (sugar fully dissolved in water and cooked down on the stove top), or Karo syrup (which is what I used), or even pancake syrup. The point is really to help the rub stick, not to make it sweet, although it does create a bit of carmelization on the skin of the bird.

  20. Trent April 2, 2015 at 9:29 am - Reply

    I am new to smoking and cooking for that matter and loved your walk through the bge. I would like to know if you could stand the turkey up like you would for beer can chicken?

  21. Bob December 23, 2014 at 2:15 pm - Reply

    I am going to try the Maple brine recipe for our Christmas Turkey. Should I use pure maple syrup or is pancake maple syrup suggested?

    • Jeff Phillips December 24, 2014 at 5:02 pm - Reply

      Use 100% pure maple syrup if possible.

    • Sean December 24, 2014 at 5:04 pm - Reply

      Definitely don’t use something like “Log Cabin”. Has to be pure maple syrup – which it will say on the bottle. Just finishing up this recipe for the 2nd time. Thanksgiving was an ultimate hit and had multiple requests for Christmas!!

  22. Scott Mccoy December 22, 2014 at 10:43 am - Reply

    Jeff
    This is a great recipe. We tried it out on a breast using a Masterbuilt smoker. We used a mix of Apple and hickory and it came out juicy with tons of flavor. Now have to make it for the whole family for Christmas. One thing I did was place frozen plastic drink bottles to keep from diluting that great brine and keep the meat cold. Works great hand holds the bird under. Any thoughts on using Aspen? Thanks and Merry Christmas to All….

  23. Tabasco Jack December 14, 2014 at 7:42 pm - Reply

    Jeff
    I used your maple barbecue turkey recipe on a 10 pound pastured chicken I raised. It was awesome! Thanks for all the great ideas.

  24. Bruce Claassen December 1, 2014 at 10:57 am - Reply

    Just a comment on my earlier question. I brined the 13+ lbs bird for 24 hours in Jeff’s brine, and then left open in the fridge overnight, before applying the syrup and rub and popping in the smoker at 4:30am. Bird was out at 11:30am, and after resting until noon, was juicy and “the best smoked turkey, yet” – per my family (none of whom are really big turkey fans). My wife ordered me to keep the recipe handy, and bought another bird on sale on Friday.
    Thanks for sharing your experiments, Jeff!

  25. Charles December 1, 2014 at 10:40 am - Reply

    Jeff I did the smoked maple BBQ turkey and it was amazing my family and friends loved it it was the juciest meat we ever had. I want to do a prime rib roast and crab legs for Christmas if you have done this I would really like to know. Thanks

  26. Colin Marto November 28, 2014 at 11:23 pm - Reply

    2 things:
    1. I’m assuming you meant 2 gallons of water and 2 cups of salt for the brine? There’s no way 1 gallon covered my bird, and all your other recipes call for 2 gallons for the brine. So 2 gallons it was.
    And 2. Would using maple wood chips be overdoing it on the maple flavor for this? After making you’re maple salmon a few weeks ago, I HAD to try a maple turkey, and then coincidentally you released this recipe! It’s like you read my mind!!!

  27. Mike Tann November 28, 2014 at 7:55 pm - Reply

    Made the Maple Brine Turkey on my BGE for our annual Thanksgiving gathering. Everyone thought it tasted great, eventhough my wife made me leave out the cyanne. My question is: What liquid, and how much,do you put in the drip pan, do you use/reccomend?
    Thanks,
    Mike

  28. Jeff Carter November 27, 2014 at 12:54 pm - Reply

    Three hours into the smoke… pulled the turkey out to put the first mop of sauce on… the bird looks incredible and my wife thinks I’m genius! But really, Jeff’s rub, sauce, and recipe is genius. I’m just following his process. For once in my culinary hobby I haven’t changed a thing because there’s no reason to. Can’t wait to tear into the meat with my two favorite sides… my scratch apple sausage dressing and my homemade holiday spiced cranberry sauce. ☺

  29. James Cable November 26, 2014 at 8:16 pm - Reply

    I have a rec tec smoker can you include recipes for pellet smokers

  30. Brett November 26, 2014 at 6:33 pm - Reply

    If you mentioned whether or not to use a water pan, I missed it. Thoughts on whether or not that is needed? thank you.

  31. Jeff November 26, 2014 at 10:10 am - Reply

    OK, so I’m still working out the nuances of my Oklahoma Joe’s Smoker and after smoking a bird last weekend, the skin was significantly darker than yours. I did have some ribs and a ham in there for part of the time, but am I placing the turkey (or other meats) too close to the fire box opening? Thanks for the help, great site!

    • Jeff Phillips November 26, 2014 at 6:00 pm - Reply

      It is very possible that it is getting too close to the firebox opening. That type of smoker tends to be much hotter close to the firebox and cooler as you move away from the firebox.

      I usually try to keep the meat on the cool side so it will cook more evenly and not burn from radiant heat.

  32. James Cable November 26, 2014 at 9:45 am - Reply

    I have your rub and sauce recipe and also your book but I do not have your texas version do I have to purchase this recipe

  33. Sean November 25, 2014 at 3:28 pm - Reply

    I know you have mentioned in the past that you prefer to add wood for about half the smoking time. In your opinion, does it matter if you smoke at the beginning or end of the cook time?

  34. Bruce November 24, 2014 at 5:01 pm - Reply

    I’ve read a lot of different opinions on how long is okay to Brine, and how long is okay to let the turkey sit dry in the fridge (for crisper skin). The range seems to be 12 – 24 hours for both. Your recipe recommends 10 – 12 hours brining. Would it okay to Brine for 24 hours, or is this brine better suited to a shorted period?
    Could the Brined bird then be left in open in fridge overnight the night before smoking? My main issue is my j.o.b.
    Thanks!

  35. steve November 23, 2014 at 7:09 pm - Reply

    Excellent recipe. Made it today and it was the best looking and tasting turkey we’ve had in a long time. Thanks, Jeff.

  36. Bruce November 23, 2014 at 3:20 pm - Reply

    My wife likes the smoked flavor but misses the crispy skin of a roasted bird. Is it possible to crisp up the skin by placing in a hot oven after the bird has finished smoking and rested. Thanks in advance for any suggestions. Bruce

    • Jeff Phillips November 24, 2014 at 9:23 am - Reply

      You can definitely try that as long as you watch it very closely to make sure it does not burn. Another great method to try along with this is to dry the skin of the bird in the fridge for a couple of hours after brining it and before you apply the rub.

      In my experience, a turkey smoked in the smoker for 6+ hours usually ends up with skin that has pretty good bite thru but it can be improved a little with drying and some high heat at the end.

  37. Tim Hudson November 22, 2014 at 4:55 pm - Reply

    How long would you suggest smoking for a 23 pound bird?

    • Jeff Phillips November 24, 2014 at 10:04 am - Reply

      I don’t recommend smoking a turkey that size in it’s whole state due to the safety risks involved with it being in the danger zone (40-140°F) for much too long.

      You do have a couple of options:
      -you can cut along both sides of the backbone to butterfly (spatchcock) the turkey which will speed up the cooking time. I don’t cook birds that size so I can’t tell you exactly how long it will take but I can tell you that it will take significantly less time than it would otherwise. I am guessing about 5 hours at 240°F.
      -You can smoke it for a couple of hours in the smoker then move it to the oven and finish it off at 325°F . (about 3 additional hours probably).

  38. Gerry November 18, 2014 at 12:34 pm - Reply

    I asked a question earlier in the week, but it never showed on the site. It said awaiting moderator…. Anyway… I see you mention brining your turket. Are you brining a store-bought frozen turkey (as they are usually pre treated)? I have always wanted to brine, but I have heard you shouldnt if its frozen & pre-treated.

    IF YOU WONT POST MY QUESTION, AT LEAST ANSWER IT…..not sure what the big deal is abput not posting a simple question….

    • Gerry November 18, 2014 at 12:35 pm - Reply

      Nevermind, my question wasnt showing until I added this second question….sorry.

    • Jeff Phillips November 18, 2014 at 12:44 pm - Reply

      Just so everyone understands how the commenting works:

      The question was approved and answered yesterday at 1:06 PM. It sounds like the cache refreshed when you added a 2nd question but everyone was able to view your question and it’s answer a day ago.

      We do moderate every single comment and we do that as we have time so it’s not immediate and can take a day or two if we are really swamped.

  39. Gerry November 15, 2014 at 10:27 pm - Reply

    I heard you shouldnt brine a store bought turkey. Are you brining a store boght turkey or are you using a fresh turkey?

    • Jeff Phillips November 17, 2014 at 1:06 pm - Reply

      Gerry,

      It is better, in my opinion, to find a fresh turkey but if you have a store bought turkey with 8% or less of solution added, you can still brine it following my directions with great results. The one I did for this recipe was marked as minimally processed and had 8% solution of water and salt added. Yet after brining it overnight, it was just slightly salty and had tremendous flavor. As always, if you are using the dripping for gravy, I suggest you make the gravy with the drippings as usual but wait until last to salt the gravy and only if it needs it.

  40. Harry November 13, 2014 at 11:39 pm - Reply

    This looks like a great recipe! Is there a way to adapt it to smoking just turkey breasts?

    • Jeff Phillips November 17, 2014 at 1:11 pm - Reply

      You won’t need to change much.. make sure it is bone-in (better in my opinion).

      Brine it overnight and apply the maple syrup and rub as before. It may cook a little faster simply because the heat is able to get to all part of the breast unrestricted so you’ll want to monitor it with a digital probe meat thermometer to make sure you take it off when it reaches it’s optimum temperature.

      If you plan to rest it as instructed in the recipe above, you can remove it at about 160 degrees since it will rise 5-7 degrees during the rest period.

      Breast meat is perfectly done at 165 degrees.

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