Texas Smoked Turkey

Texas Smoked Turkey

Turkey made in the Texas BBQ tradition with lots of TLC and no butter or oil! This is anything but a dry bird. Low-FODMAP, soy-free, gluten-free, dairy-free, onion- and garlic-free.

By DeliberateFare.com, variation of Aaron Franklin's "BBQ with Franklin: Thanksgiving Part 1" with notes from Leonard Botello, IV.

True confessions, turkey has never been something I crave, Thanksgiving or not. Little did I know until sampling Truth BBQ's amazingly moist, smoked turkey that I love turkey if it is prepared smoked. Yes, I am from Texas. Want to read more about the BBQ I love?

My Mr. Wonderful has created a great variation of BBQ great Aaron Franklin's smoked turkey for our Thanksgivings, and boy, is it flavorful and moist. He eliminated the butter rub and replaced it with spritzes of water. He also added some aromatic veg and herbs to make it have that special holiday flavor that wows our family and friends.

Leonard Botello of Truth BBQ shares this trick, "You want to start temping it when it gets a nice golden color. I prefer to pull at 165 degrees. A lot of BBQ places like to wrap in foil around 145 - 150 degrees and put a big chunk of butter in the foil. But that will keep it from getting a real nice golden color." Folks, as with most meats, slow and low is the key, and then look for color like Leonard says. Who doesn't love a golden bird?

If you're offended by dry turkey, and you're fearful of frying a turkey, then give this smoked turkey a try this Thanksgiving. The hardest part is not drinking too many beers while the bird smokes several hours!


For the Day Before
  • 2 cups raw granulated sugar
  • 2 cups kosher salt
  • Filtered water
  • Fresh turkey, refrigerated (not frozen)
  • Several quarts of filtered, cold water and ice
For the Day of
  • ½ cup kosher salt
  • ½ cup coarse black pepper
  • 2 - 3 parsnips (unpeeled and whole)
  • 2 - 3 carrots (unpeeled and whole)
  • 1 - 2 lemons (quartered)
  • Several sprigs fresh rosemary, thyme, or oregano
  • Filtered water in spray bottle


    For the Day Before
  1. Clean out your refrigerator. Move out shelves in order to fit large, 5-gallon bucket (we like to use the orange cooler drink dispensers, like the kind that football players pour over their coaches during a win!). Set bucket aside.
  2. In medium saucepan, add sugar and salt; cover with filtered water. Heat on medium-high heat until sugar and salt are dissolved, making a brine.
  3. Remove brine mixture from stove; turn off stove. Pour brine mixture into a 2-quart pitcher; fill pitcher with ice and cold water. Pour that entire mixture into a 5-gallon bucket. Fill 2-quart pitcher three more times with cold water; pour all of that water into the 5-gallon bucket.
  4. Add to bucket trimmed turkey. Gently lower the bird so as to avoid cross-contamination and splash-zoning your family. You may have a floater there, and if so, stick a plate on top of it to keep it submerged in brine.
  5. Cover container, place into refrigerator, and leave 24-48 hours to completely saturate turkey.
  6. For the Day of
  7. The next day, start smoker and allow temperature to reach 325 degrees.
  8. Carefully remove bucket from refrigerator and then remove turkey from brine; again, be careful of cross-contamination. Place turkey onto a 9 X 13 inch rimmed baking sheet. Discard brine down sink; do yourself a favor, and immediately bleach that sink.
  9. Combine in small bowl salt and pepper; this is the rub. Generously cover turkey across all surface area and cavity with the rub. Do not be afraid to pat the bird all over (give it a rub).
  10. Because this is Thanksgiving, you can fill the cavity with your favorite aromatics such as parsnips, carrots, lemons, and a bundle of fresh herbs (tied with kitchen twine). Just know that filling the cavity will slow down the cooking process and make for a longer smoke.
  11. Place bird into smoker with head of turkey facing away from the fire box, legs pointing toward the fire box, leave the wings untressed so that smoke may easily penetrate the bird. Close smoker lid. Allow to smoke for 3 - 5 hours, depending on the size of the bird, until all sections of bird reach 165 degrees and turkey is nice and golden. Dark meat (thighs) cooks slower than white (breast), so be certain to check all pieces.
  12. Occasionally, as in once an hour, quickly open lid, spray bird with water, and close lid.
  13. Set aside two, clean white kitchen towels, two large pieces of foil, and one clean 9 X 13 inch baking sheet.
  14. Once bird has reached proper temperature all over, using the two white kitchen towels, gently lift bird from smoker. Place bird onto pieces of foil atop sheet pan. Spritz generously with water. Wrap completely with foil.
  15. Allow bird to rest on baking sheet at room temperature for 20 - 30 minutes in order to allow juices to return to meat before carving. Remove and discard any veg and herbs from cavity before serving.


  • Plan ahead for this recipe: get a 5-gallon bucket and prepare the brine 24-48 hours before you are ready to smoke.
  • We use a large smoker pit for our BBQ's, but any smoker will work. Weber has a great little smoker that works like a charm. Leonard says an oven with these same methods will work well, too.
  • Place leftover turkey meat in refrigerator storage containers in refrigerator for 3 - 5 days.
  • Migraine Warning: Citrus (lemons) - please feel free to eliminate if these cause headaches for you or yours.