How to Brine a Turkey for Smoking

In order for your Thanksgiving Turkey to remain moist, juicy, and tender during the smoking process, it is important to brine it. This is because when cooking low and slow, your meat needs to have the right amount of fat in it otherwise it can dry out. A brine can help keep less fatty meats like turkey and chicken from drying out because it helps it retain moisture. Follow along to learn how to brine a turkey for smoking on a Pit Boss Pellet Grill.

How to Brine a Turkey

Most grocery store turkeys come pre-brined so be sure to check the label beforehand. You should see terms like “saline solution” or “self-basting.” If the turkey you bought is pre-brined just be sure it is fully defrosted and dry before you add in your seasonings or rub.

Making Your Own Turkey Brine

If you bought a turkey that hasn’t been pre-brined, then you should either use a wet brine or a dry brine.

Dry Brine

dry brine turkey

A dry brine usually consists of salt, sugar, and other optional seasonings or herbs. To dry brine your turkey, make sure it is defrosted and then simply cover the skin and the meat underneath with as much salt, sugar, and spices as you would use to normally season the turkey (try 3 tablespoons of kosher salt, 2 tablespoons brown sugar and 2 tablespoons of ground rosemary on a 15 pounder).

After applying the brine, allow your turkey to rest in the refrigerator for 24 to 48 hours. This is enough length of time to allow the salt to draw out moisture from the meat , dissolve the water-soluble ingredients of the brine, and then that liquid mix of seasonings and juice will seep back into the meat of the turkey. This brining process renders the meat tender, juicy, and flavorful down to the bone.

Wet Brine

wet brine turkey

The other option for brining a turkey is using a wet brine. Wet brining is simple, and you can even buy a kit that comes with seasonings and a bag to brine the turkey in. A wet brine is much like a marinade except the turkey sits in a salty liquid solution whereas a marinade is usually an acidic or fatty liquid solution. Over time, the meat draws in the liquid and the water-soluble seasonings.

To wet brine the turkey, start by making the brine:

  1. Add the brining mixture and 4 cups of water in a saucepan and bring to a boil.
  2. Carefully add this to 1 gallon of cold water and place into the bag with the turkey.
  3. Close the bag and refrigerate for at least 1 hour per pound of turkey.

You can replace some of the water with other liquids to add in more flavor if you like. Chicken stock, orange juice, pineapple, apple juice, beer, etc, are all good choices. This is one advantage that wet brining has over dry brining because you can infuse more flavors this way. Dry brining, on the other hand, is simpler and in some cases, less is more. This is a matter of personal preference and we recommend experimenting with both beforehand on a smaller turkey or chicken to see which one you prefer.

turkey brine ingredients

Dry Brine vs Wet Brine

The big difference between dry brining and wet brining is that dry brining doesn’t add additional moisture to the meat you are cooking, it just helps retain the moisture it already has. So, if you are going to use a dry brine, consider either of (or a combination of) these four methods to help add additional moisture during the smoking process.

  1. Place soft butter underneath the skin all over the turkey.
  2. Smoke the turkey on top of a grate in a pan with liquid in the bottom of the pan.
  3. Spray the turkey with liquid every half hour during the smoking process.
  4. Spatchcock the turkey before placing it on the grill for more even cooking from white to dark meat.

Check Out Our Turkey Brine Kit!

Make dry turkey a thing of the past with the Pit Boss Turkey Prep Kit. With turkey brine, a brine bag and poultry rub included, this kit has everything you’ll need to make a moist, tender and flavorful bird on your grill or smoker this Thanksgiving. With the Pit Boss Turkey Prep Kit, your wood fire smoked turkey is sure to be the star of your holiday feast.

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