Smoke-Brined Turkey

Your guests will thank you for smoking
30 Ratings
100% would make again
Smoke-Brined Turkey
Photo: Rachel Vanni/Tasting Table

Every year, we try and outdo our turkey from Thanksgivings past. The problem is, techniques like deep-frying and smoking on a grill are not always easy to execute at home.

Enter John Lewis, the barbecue expert behind Lewis Barbecue in Charleston, South Carolina, who has developed a liquid smoke turkey brine exclusively for TT. Instead of smoking the turkey itself, liquid smoke is added to the brine, diffusing smoky flavor into the bird before getting roasted as usual. The resulting dish takes on flavor as if it had been slowly smoking for hours, while maintaining its juiciness and seasoning from the brine.

As with any turkey brine, the key is to dry the turkey completely with paper towels first. Then let the bird air-dry for an hour. In addition to being thoroughly dried and ready to go, the bird should also return to room temperature before roasting. The resulting turkey will be juicy and beautifully golden.

To learn more, read “Up in Smoke.”

Smoke-Brined Turkey

Recipe from John Lewis, Lewis Barbecue, Charleston, SC

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Prep Time: 15 minutes, plus overnight brining, drying and resting time

Cook Time: 1 hour and 45 minutes

Total Time: 2 hours, plus overnight brining, drying and resting time


4 cups boiling water

1½ cups kosher salt

1½ cups granulated sugar

16 cups ice water

½ cup (one 3½-ounce bottle) liquid smoke

One 8-to-10-pound turkey

2 tablespoons olive oil


1. To a large pot of boiling water,  add the salt and sugar, and stir until dissolved. Add the ice water and liquid smoke, and continue stirring to incorporate. The brine needs to be cold.

2. Place the turkey into the liquid, making sure it is completely submerged, and brine in the refrigerator overnight.

3. The next day, preheat the oven to 350º. Remove the turkey from the brine and dry well with paper towels. Place in a roasting pan fitted with a rack and truss the legs. Air-dry at room temperature for 1 hour, then rub the turkey with the oil, making sure to coat the entire surface.

4. Roast until the turkey is golden brown and reads 155º when an instant-read thermometer is inserted into the thigh, 1 hour and 45 minutes to 2 hours.

5. Remove the turkey from the oven and tent with foil. Let rest 45 minutes to 1 hour before carving and serving.

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