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There has been a Thanksgiving trend recently toward the deep-fried turkey, a dangerous method with questionable merit. But have you ever thought about smoking your bird? Picture it: you, not a bead of sweat on your brow, emerging to the gloriously set table through the swinging kitchen door, back first to the assembled adoring family and then gracefully, a half pirouette, to reveal the deeply caramel colored bird, flecked with a scented confetti of orange zest, the savory aroma silencing the room as you proudly settle the dish into its ceremonial spot.


  • 8 quarts warm water
  • 1 quart cranberry juice
  • 2 cups firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1 cup kosher salt
  • 1 heritage turkey (10 to 12 pounds)
  • Grated zest and juice of 1 orange
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 8 allspice berries, ground in a mortar

Mix water, cranberry juice, brown sugar and salt together and stir until the salt and sugar have dissolved.  Place the turkey in a very large bowl or pot and pour the brine in to cover it. Cover and refrigerate for 24 to 36 hours. Drain the brine. Place the turkey on a baking sheet, pat dry, and let sit, uncovered, in the refrigerator for 12 hours, or put it on the counter and turn a desk fan on it for an hour or two. This will help to make a tacky layer on the surface called a pellicle, which is what the smoke will adhere to. Build a medium fire in a smoker or large grill (see page 15) and let it burn to coals. Place a flameproof pan filled with water in the smoker, then the turkey on the rack above it. If using a grill, place the pan of water directly over the coals on the grill grate. Add a number of chunks of lightly aromatic wood such as alder or apple or another fruitwood. Close the smoker or grill and monitor the temperature using a built-in thermometer or an oven thermometer. It should be between 200 and 250 degrees F, but no higher. Continue to add wood chunks as necessary to maintain billowing smoke and a consistent temperature. After smoking for 2 hours, mix the orange juice and zest, olive oil, and ground allspice together in a small bowl. Baste the turkey with the mixture every half hour for the next 2 hours as the bird continues to smoke. After 4 hours of smoking, remove the bird from the smoker and test the internal temperature of the leg just against the bone with an instant-read thermometer. It should read between 135 and 150 degrees F. If it registers 150 degrees F, skip the next step and head straight to the broiler. Transfer the turkey to a roasting pan and place it in a preheated 300-degree F oven. Cook for another 20 minutes, until a thermometer inserted into the thigh registers just under 150 degrees F. Switch the oven to broil and cook for 10 minutes to super-crisp the skin. If your bird was already 150 degrees F or higher coming out of the grill, broil it for just a few minutes. Remove the turkey from the oven, let it rest for at least 25 minutes, then make your grand entrance!

Serves up to 10 people (given a good quantity of side dishes)