Smoked Turkey

I don’t know about you, but a good melt-in-your-mouth Thanksgiving turkey just makes me want to dance. Stay tuned, ’cause I’m fixin’ to show you how to prepare a turkey that’s tender and juicy, with a crispy skin that’s just full of flavor. Y’all hang on, ’cause it’s gobble, gobble time in this cowboy’s camp.

Time For Brine

Now, if you’ve got the time, you need to brine. To make a brine, mix together water, chicken broth, salt, brown sugar, garlic, herbs and lemons. Cook together for about 45 minutes, then cool the brine before adding the turkey.

Tip: Brining is a fairly large time investment, but it will cut down on cooking time and enhance the tenderness and flavor of the turkey.

Let’s Talk Turkey

If your turkey is frozen, thaw it in the icebox. Remove the heart, giblets, neck, etc., from the turkey cavity.

Put your turkey into the cooled brine and make sure the liquid covers the turkey. If needed, you can add ice to the container to ensure your bird is fully immersed.

After the turkey soaks in the brine overnight, remove it from the container, shake the excess water from the cavity.

Tip: With paper towels- pat the skin of the bird dry. This will help with seasoning and the skin crisping turkey cooking.

Keep The Flavor Coming

Today, I’m using our Red River Ranch Smoky Dip mix with some softened butter, to give this bird great flavor. You’ll want to spoon the mixture under the skin of the turkey and also a little bit in the cavity (see video below for the how-to).

Tip: For a little sweetness, add a quartered apple to the turkey cavity.

Massage the exterior of the turkey with oil. I use avocado oil, but you can use olive oil, if you prefer. Generously sprinkle the entire outside of the turkey with Red River Ranch Original Seasoning.

Taking It To The Smoke

I hung my turkey in our Pit Barrel Smoker at a temperature of 260-265 degrees. The temp will need to be checked every hour, and wood chips should be added, if needed, to maintain a steady heat.

I like to use a blend of mesquite and alder woods, but feel free to use your wood of choice.

Cook the turkey 20-25 minutes per pound; it will need to be at 150 degrees when done. I like to place the temperature probe in the thickest part of the turkey thigh to get a good reading.

Tip: Once the turkey is removed from the smoker, please don’t tent it with foil. That will ruin the good crispy skin that makes this gobbler so special.

This smoked turkey will be the centerpiece of your holiday meal. A blessed Thanksgiving to one and all!

Smoked Turkey - Cowboy Kent Rollins

Prep Time 12 hours 20 minutes
Total Time 17 hours 20 minutes
Servings 8 to 12 servings


  • 2 gallons water
  • 1 ½ cup kosher salt
  • ½ cup light brown sugar
  • 2 lemons quartered
  • 6 garlic cloves mashed
  • 5 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 3 sprigs fresh sage
  • 2 tablespoons black peppercorns
  • 3 teaspoons allspice berries
  • 1 tablespoon dried mustard seed
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 cartons chicken broth
  • 12 - 16 lb. turkey thawed
  • 1 stick butter softened
  • 1 package Red RIver Ranch Smokey Dip substitution below
  • Avocado oil or olive oil
  • Red River Ranch Original Seasoning or seasoning of your suiting
  • 1 apple halved


  • In a large stockpot, add the 2 gallons of water. Let warm over medium heat. Stir in the salt, brown sugar, lemons, cloves, rosemary, sage, peppercorns, allspice, mustard seed, bay leaves and chicken broth.
  • Bring to a simmer stirring occasionally for about 5 minutes, or until the sugar and salt have dissolved.
  • Let the solution cool completely.
  • Be sure to remove all the insides from the turkey. Cut the excess neck skin off.
  • Add the turkey to the pot and add 1 to 2 sacks of ice, until the turkey is completely submerged. Place in the icebox or ice chest for 12 hours.
  • Preheat the smoker to 275 degrees F.
  • Remove turkey from the brine. With paper towels, pat the skin of the turkey dry.
  • In a small bowl, blend the butter and the Red River Ranch Smokey dip together. Or substitute: ½ tablespoon minced garlic, ½ tablespoon dried minced onion, 1 teaspoon smoked paprika and 1 teaspoon crushed rosemary.
  • With the backside of a spoon raise the skin of the turkey and spread the mixture under the skin and mash to spread out evenly.
  • Rub the turkey generously with the avocado or olive oil. Place the apple in the cavity.
  • Place the turkey on the smoker or hang. Add 4 chunks of alder wood and 4 chunks of mesquite wood, along with a few soaked of each to create more smoke.
  • Place the lid on and cook for about 4 ½ to 5 ½ hours or until the internal temperature is 160 degrees F (about 20 to 25 minutes per pound).
  • Check the heat about every hour and add more soaked wood chunks for smoke, as needed.
  • Let the turkey rest for about 20 to 30 minutes, don’t tent the turkey with foil, as the steam will cause the skin to not be as crispy.
  • Tip: The last 30 minutes crack the lid slightly to crisp up the skin.


You can roughly estimate 1 1/2 lbs per serving
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!