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Smoked Turkey Brine

User Rating 4.5 Star Rating (8 Reviews)


The bird brines
evan p. cordes/Flickr
This turkey brine is simple and effective. The light flavor of the tarragon adds just the right enhancement to turkey and the brine make a moister, more tender bird.

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 25 minutes

Yield: Makes 1 gallon of brine


  • 1 gallon water
  • 1 cup salt (1 1/2 cups Kosher or coarse salt)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 6 fresh tarragon leaves or 1/4 cup dried tarragon
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper


The water you use should not be chlorinated. If you don't have easy access to good spring water. Boil it first, let the water cool and then add all other ingredients. Mix thoroughly. Place Turkey in large non-metallic dish and cover completely with brine. Let sit in refrigerator for 1 hour per pound. Remove Turkey from Brine, rinse thoroughly and pat dry. Coat with olive oil. Place in Smoker.
User Reviews

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 2 out of 5
From a Texas BBQ Perspective, Member BBQcook

Lot of good tips in this recipe, but as a former Head Cook for a team in the Houston Livestock Rodeo BBQ Cookoff, I have a different slant on some of the advice. The article's recommendation of brining the turkey overnight is ESSENTIAL. Best way is to use a frozen turkey, as it will keep the brine suitably cold throughout the overnight brining process, and evenly defrosting the turkey in the process. Brining is the best way to ensure that the breast/white meat won't dry out while the dark meat is finishing. You can't stuff the bird's cavity with stuffing, as it will be inedible from the smoking. However, stuffing the cavity with herbs, onions, garlic, citrus, etc. - whatever you have on hand - will not only help keep the turkey moist, it will add flavor. I differ from the article in two respects. First off, no way should a turkey take 30 minutes a pound to smoke to appropriate doneness (breast = 160 degrees). At the appropriate wood smoking temperatures as recommended in the article (& I would go even lower - ~190-225 degrees), it shouldn't take longer than 3-5 hours to finish a 14-pound bird, but given the vagaries of outdoor cooking, it is strongly recommended to use a remote temperature probe CAREFULLY PLACED IN THE BREAST AWAY FROM BONE and to pull the turkey off the smoker when it reaches 153-155 degrees internal breast temperature, then loosely 'tenting' it with foil, as it will continue to cook with rising internal temperatures anyway. Secondly, DO NOT smoke the turkey breast side up; in true Texas BBQ manner, the fat side of the meat should be placed up, allowing the fat as it cooks out from the back/thighs/other fatter dark meat to then gravity-self-baste the rest of the meat, particularly the breast. For comparative reference purposes, my smoker is a Pitts 'n Spitts, in which I generally use (for turkey) pecan wood and occasionally mesquite, both local woods which is what should be used, be them fruit tree wood or otherwise. I place water in the pit to enhance moistness, although generally do not add items like vinegar (which I do for more inherently-flavorful meats like beef brisket & pork ribs).

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