Honey-Brined and Smoked Turkey Recipe

I thought I had the ultimate turkey the year my family took it to the fryer, but I was mistaken. I have come to realize that true turkey perfection is reached when the bird is brined and smoked, which creates an unbelievably juicy and savory piece of poultry.

I view turkey as a blank slate, and the combination of a brine—this year I'm opting for a sweet honey variation—and smoke combine to add tremendous flavor to the otherwise dull bird. I've found the trick to this method is striking the perfect balance between the two main flavors, and the best way to do this is by being careful not to over smoke the turkey; cooking it between 350 to 400°F and using only a couple chunks of a light smoke wood, like apple or cherry.

What comes out of the smoker is a beautiful mahogany piece of art--a result of smoke on the skin--that bursts with the flavors of the brine paired with the sweet kiss of smoke.


Recipe Details

Honey-Brined and Smoked Turkey Recipe

Prep 20 mins
Cook 2 hrs 45 mins
Brining Time 12 hrs
Total 15 hrs 5 mins
Serves 12 to 14 servings


  • 1 turkey (12 to 14 pounds), washed

  • 7 quarts very cold water

  • 2 quarts vegetable stock

  • 1 pound honey

  • 1 cup kosher salt

  • 1 bunch fresh thyme

  • 2 tablespoons whole peppercorns

  • Vegetable oil


  1. Place 1 quart of water, the honey and salt in a medium sauce pan over medium heat. Stir until salt is completely dissolved and immediately remove from heat. Pour mixture into your brining container and add 6 quarts of cold water, vegetable stock, thyme, and peppercorns and stir to combine. Place the turkey in the brine, adding a weight to keep it completely submerged if necessary, place in the refrigerator and brine for 12 to 18 hours.

  2. Remove the turkey from the brine and pat dry with paper towels. Place turkey on a rack over a rimmed baking sheet and allow to air-dry overnight in the refrigerator. (This step is optional, but will result in a crisper skin.)

  3. Remove the turkey from the refrigerator, fold the wings under the body and tie the legs together. Brush turkey lightly with with vegetable oil and allow to come to room temperature while you prepare the smoker.

  4. Fire up your smoker between 350 to 400°F. Add 2 to 3 small chunks of light smoke wood, like apple or cherry. When the wood is burning and producing smoke, place the turkey in the smoker. Smoke until an instant read thermometer reads 165°F in the thickest part of the breast, about 2 to 3 hours.

  5. Remove the turkey from the smoker and allow to cool, uncovered, for 20 to 30 minutes. Carve and serve.

Nutrition Facts (per serving)
451 Calories
18g Fat
5g Carbs
63g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 12 to 14
Amount per serving
Calories 451
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 18g 23%
Saturated Fat 5g 25%
Cholesterol 239mg 80%
Sodium 1307mg 57%
Total Carbohydrate 5g 2%
Dietary Fiber 0g 0%
Total Sugars 4g
Protein 63g
Vitamin C 0mg 1%
Calcium 47mg 4%
Iron 2mg 14%
Potassium 548mg 12%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)