Making Big Green Egg smoked turkey is easier than you would think and a delicious take on the roast turkey. Cooking a turkey on the Big Green Egg takes minimal prep work but the reward is a delicious meal fit for a crowd.
I'm always amazed how people get stressed out when making a festive turkey.
I have never completely understood this, but the best I can think is that there's a lot at stake when cooking for a crowd.
One of the great things about getting together for a special event or holiday is often sharing fun times and good laughs over a meal.
Looking back on such events over the years, it’s fun to get excited about when your aunt brings her signature casserole or who makes the best pecan pie. But if you make this smoked turkey for guests, your culinary reputation will get an instant promotion to legendary status.
The first time I cooked a bird, it was in college.
I was basically kidnapped by some friends who begged to help them with what was otherwise sure to be a complete disaster. I was put in charge because I had worked in a few restaurants to earn gas money in high school. Back then there was no Uber Eats so my choices were to make the turkey or become a turkey in the eyes of my friends.
Much to my surprise, the bird had directions written on the packaging. How much easier could this be? The directions were like, “Take turkey, wash turkey, season turkey, bake turkey, eat turkey.”
To my surprise, it did not take much more effort than that.
It was actually more challenging to carve the bird than it was to cook it.
Unfortunately, after that, I got the call every time a bird got thrown in an oven in off-campus housing.
I've since cooked many a bird and plenty of turkeys. I'll stand behind the fact that turkeys aren't as hard to make as people make them out to be. But if you have some apprehension, here are some of the most common questions I get about doing a Big Green Egg smoked turkey.
How long should you smoke a turkey?
It takes about four hours to smoke a turkey, depending on the size of the bird. One of the benefits of doing a smoked turkey on the Big Green Egg is that you already get a delicious smoke flavor from the hardwood lump charcoal.
For extra flavor, I do like to mix a couple of small handfuls of cherry wood chips in with the charcoal. Mixing the wood chips in with the charcoal gives little bursts of additional smoke flavor during the cook.
Should you brine the turkey before smoking it?
Unless you harvested the turkey yourself, or are certain it's 100% natural, chances are you do not need to brine a turkey before cooking it.
Turkeys we find at the grocery store typically contain additional liquids that sometimes read as an 8% sodium solution. These turkeys are from huge farms that supply birds nationally and the manufacturers want you to make an amazing bird so you purchase from them again next time. So the additional liquids or sodium solutions are included to keep the bird juicy and flavorful.
When I see a turkey that contains additional liquids or a sodium solution, it's one less step I have to take to get dinner on the table.
Tips to keep your turkey moist while smoking
There are two key ways to keep your turkey moist while smoking. The first is to keep your temperature consistent. If the temperature of your grill is constantly fluctuating by the lid being opened or fuel that is far too hot, the meat will cook unevenly. Fortunately, the Big Green Egg is a heavy, ceramic cooker that has loads of insulation and will keep the temperature quite stable provided the lid is closed.
The second way to keep your turkey moist while smoking is to monitor the internal temp with a digital probe thermometer you can leave in the bird. Most turkeys take about 15 minutes per pound to cook. But that's just a guide.
The digital probe thermometer is the only true way to monitor what's going on inside the bird. If you cook to the proper doneness and allow the meat to rest, you have a better chance of retaining all of those delicious juices.
Do you have to baste while smoking?
I'm not a huge advocate of basting the turkey while smoking it. Some people rub olive oil all over the skin of a turkey to keep it moist but I think the turkey's skin does a fine job of locking in the juices without basting.
However, there are worse chores than basting (like peeling potatoes) so if you enjoy doing it, there's probably little harm in the process.
If you're completely new to cooking a turkey, don't forget to take out the giblets and rinse the turkey before seasoning.
Depending on how big the bird is, and how it fits inside my Big Green Egg, I will sometimes cover it with aluminum foil for two-thirds of the cook to prevent the skin from browning too quickly.
I've found that my roasting pan for an oven-roasted turkey is too large to fit on the Big Green Egg. You can see a photo of my modified cooking setup below.
Typically, before I even consider cooking the bird, I take it to the grill still in the packaging to make sure it fits with the exact roasting pan or cooking rack I plan to use.
A quick, dry run before the big day to make sure the dome of your Big Green Egg will close and the dome thermometer isn't poking into your bird will save you loads of aggravation later. #trustme
Smoked Turkey Recipe
- 1 turkey 10-12 pounds
- ½ cup loosely packed chopped fresh parsley
- ½ cup loosely packed chopped fresh sage
- ½ cup loosely packed fresh rosemary (stems removed)
- ½ cup loosely packed fresh thyme (stems removed)
- 2 tablespoons salt
- 2 tablespoons cracked black pepper
- 1 cup butter softened
- 4 cups chicken stock low sodium
- 2 cups diced celery
- 2 cups diced onions
- 2 cups diced carrots
- 4 bay leaves
- Finely crush the minced parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme with salt and pepper, using a mortar and pestle or food processor. Mix with the softened butter.
- Coat the bird liberally inside and out with the herb-butter mixture. Carefully push some under the skin as well.
- Preheat and stabilize your Big Green Egg's temperature at 350F
- Fill a Dutch oven about two-thirds full with the chicken stock, celery, carrots, onions, and bay leaves.
- Cook to an internal temperature of 165°F for the breast meat and 180°F for the dark meat, with juices running clear, about 15 minutes per pound.
- Remove the Dutch oven drip pan from beneath the turkey rack for the final 30 to 45 minutes of cooking to expose the darker meat to more heat.
- Loosely tent the cooked turkey with foil at room temperature for 30 to 45 minutes to allow its juices to reabsorb into the meat prior to slicing. If desired, strain the liquids collected in the Dutch oven and use them to make an amazing gravy with a rich smoky flavor.