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The Best Turkey

My favorite and least favorite part of the Thanksgiving is always the turkey. It all depends on how it's cooked. Is it dry and tasteless or is it juicy and flavorful? This recipe will guarantee that your turkey will always be the best part of your feast!

This bird is brined, rubbed, and then smoked (or roasted). It is best smoked, but you can use the same recipe for roasting it in an oven as well. Just follow the same temperature recommendations with your oven.

Prep Time: 20 MINUTES

Cook Time: 4 HOURS


  • 1 (16-pound) fresh, whole, bone-in skin-on turkey, rinsed and patted dry
  • 1 cup salt
  • 1 medium onion, cut into wedges
  • 1 medium orange, cut into wedges
  • 1 medium lemon, cut into wedges
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 4 large bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon dried thyme
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns (or ground black pepper)
  • 1 ½ gallons of cold water
  • 1 cup of bourbon (optional)
  • ½ cup Traeger Pork & Poultry Rub, divided
  • ½ pound unsalted butter, softened


Step 1 - The day before cooking, brine the turkey according to the following instructions:

  • Place the salt into a large stockpot along with 2 quarts of water and bring to a boil.
  • Add onion, orange, and lemon wedges to the pot, along with garlic, bay leaves, thyme, Worcestershire sauce, and pepper.
  • Boil for 5 minutes.
  • Remove from heat, add 1 gallon of cold water and bourbon (optional.)
  • Refrigerate until completely cooled (about an hour.)
  • Place turkey in a large, sanitized 5-gallon bucket breast side down.
  • Pour the cool brine mixture over the turkey (adding more water if needed) until the turkey is submerged.
  • Refrigerate for at least 8 hours (up to 24 hours for maximum flavor.)

[Note: You can use a shortcut here by buying the Traeger Orange Brine and Turkey Rub Kit.]

Step 2 - Butter and season the turkey according to the following directions:

  • Remove the turkey and discard the brine.
  • Pat the turkey dry with paper towels and place it in a roasting pan.
  • Season the inside cavity with two tablespoons of the rub.
  • Use your hands to carefully separate the turkey skin from the meat over the breasts, creating a pocket.
  • Spread the softened butter under the skin and over the breasts in an even layer about 1/4 inch thick.
  • Season the outside of the turkey with the remaining rub.

Step 3 - Transfer the turkey to the refrigerator uncovered to rest for at least 1-2 hours.

Step 4 - Remove the turkey from the refrigerator. Truss the legs and tuck the wing tips underneath the bird.

Step 5 - Cook the turkey according to the following directions:

  • When ready to cook, preheat the grill (or oven) to 225℉. [Note: If smoking, use hickory or applewood (or a combination of both) for the best results.]
  • Insert a thermometer into the thickest part of the turkey breast, and place the roasting pan on the rack.
  • Close the lid and cook until the internal temperature reaches approximately 100-110℉ (about 2 hours.)
  • Increase the temperature to 350℉ and continue cooking until the internal temperature reaches 160℉, checking every 30 minutes after the grill temperature is increased (about 3-4 hours, depending on the size of the bird.)

Step 6 - Remove the bird from the grill and let it rest for at least 20-30 minutes before carving. (The internal temperature will continue to rise to reach a finished temperature of 165°F.)

Step 7 - Enjoy!


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