Dry Brine Smoked Turkey

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Step up your Thanksgiving feast with this Dry Brine Smoked Turkey, a recipe that perfectly balances ease and elegance. Infused with an irresistible blend of garlic and herbs, this turkey promises a burst of flavor in every bite. The magic lies in the simplicity of the dry brine method, which locks in moisture and imparts a depth of flavor that will have your guests raving.

Dry brine smoked turkey on the Traeger grill, smoking in a roasting pan on the grill.

Plus, cooking this culinary masterpiece on a pellet grill smoker is a breeze, ensuring a stress-free experience that lets you enjoy more time with family and friends. Whether you’re a grill enthusiast or a first-timer, this recipe is your ticket to a memorable and mouth-watering holiday centerpiece.

This is the ultimate Thanksgiving turkey and perfect for anybody who doesn’t want to do a wet brine smoked turkey. If you prefer spatchcock turkey, you can also spatchcock your turkey and do a dry brine.

💪 Why Dry Brining is Awesome!

  • Exceptional flavor depth: The combination of garlic, rosemary, thyme, and sage in the dry brine doesn’t just season the surface; it permeates deep into the turkey, creating layers of rich flavor that you can’t achieve with a simple surface seasoning.
  • Super juicy meat: Dry brining ensures that every bite of the turkey is exceptionally moist. The salt in the brine breaks down proteins, allowing the meat to retain more of its natural juices.
  • Crispy skin: The dry brine technique, followed by smoking, yields skin that’s beautifully crisp and golden.
  • Simple smoking process: Unlike wet brining, dry brining doesn’t require a large container or the hassle of dealing with gallons of liquid. It’s a space-saving and straightforward method that reduces prep time and kitchen mess.
  • Versatile: You can spatchcock the turkey or smoke it whole, both yielding awesome results! The recipe gives detailed instructions for making this recipe whether you are a beginner smoker or experienced on the grill.

🗒️ Ingredients for This Dry Brine Smoked Turkey

These ingredients create a symphony of flavors that harmonize beautifully with each other. From the aromatic herbs in the dry brine to the freshness of the oranges, every item plays a pivotal role in transforming your turkey into a show-stopping centerpiece. Here’s what you’ll need to get started on this flavorful journey

🧂 For the Dry Brine

  • Garlic cloves: Add a robust, aromatic flavor that’s key to the brine’s overall taste.
  • Rosemary: Gives a woody, citrus-like aroma, enhancing the savory aspects of the turkey.
  • Thyme: Offers a subtle, earthy flavor, complementing the other herbs and adding depth.
  • Sage: Provides a slightly peppery taste, contributing to the rich flavor profile of the brine.
  • Oregano: Brings in a hint of sweetness and an earthy zest, balancing the other herbs.
  • Celery seed: Delivers a concentrated celery flavor, adding complexity to the brine.
  • Black peppercorn: Adds a sharp, pungent flavor, elevating the brine’s overall taste.
  • Bay leaves: Contribute a floral and slightly herbal aroma, enhancing the depth of the brine.
  • Orange zest: Offers a bright, citrusy note, providing a fresh contrast to the other flavors.
  • Kosher salt: Essential for the brining process, helping to tenderize and moisten the turkey.
  • Brown sugar: Balances the salt, adding a subtle sweetness and aiding in browning the turkey.

🦃 For the Turkey

  • Turkey: The centerpiece of the dish. You can’t have a smoked turkey with the turkey!
  • Onion: Adds a savory depth and subtle sweetness to the turkey when cooked inside.
  • Orange: Infuses a light citrus note, complementing the orange zest in the brine.
  • Butter: Brings richness to the turkey and helps with browning and crispy skin.
  • Brine seasoning: Added to the melted butter and brushed onto the turkey to give it a wonderful color and burst of flavor.
Ingredients used to make herbed dry brine for a turkey.

👨‍🍳 How to Smoke a Dry Brine Turkey

  1. Make the dry brine. Add the garlic, herbs, and orange zest to a processor and pulse it.
  2. Process until the herbs are finely ground.
  3. Add the salt and sugar and pulse until blended well.
  4. Use your hands or a large spoon to peel the skin up under the breast of the turkey.
  5. Smear the dry brine all over the turkey and under the skin of the turkey breast.
  6. Smoke the turkey and brush it every 30 minutes with the melted butter mixture.
Showing how to make a dry brine smoked turkey, first making the dry brine, then smearing the brine on the turkey, and finally basting it while it smokes.

⏲️ How Long to Smoke on the Pellet Grill

Take the guessing game away from smoking your bird. This timetable will give you the cooking time so you know approximately how long to smoke your turkey to get perfect results. This timetable assumes that you cook your turkey at the suggested temperature described in the recipe. For the absolute best results, use a thermometer so you know exactly when your turkey is smoked to perfection.

I remove the turkey when the breast reaches 160°F. The carryover cooking usually brings the temperature up to or over 165°F after it has been covered and rested for several minutes.

Turkey SizeSmoking Time
8 to 10 pounds2½ – 3¼ hours
10 to 12 pounds3 – 4 hours
12 to 14 pounds3½ – 4½ hours
14 to 16 pounds4¼ – 5⅓ hours
16 to 18 pounds5 – 6 hours
18 to 20 pounds5½ – 6¾ hours
Basting the smoked turkey while it is on the pellet smoker grill.

👨‍🍳 Pro Tips for Dry Brining and Smoking

  • Optimal brining time: Aim for a brining period of 48 to 72 hours. Brining for a long time allows the salt and herbs to penetrate deeply, ensuring every bite is flavorful and moist.
  • Room temperature turkey: Before smoking, let the turkey sit at room temperature for about an hour. This helps in cooking the turkey more evenly, preventing the outer layers from drying out while the inside is still cooking.
  • Uniform brine: When applying the brine, be thorough. Use your hands to ensure the mixture is evenly distributed under the skin and inside the cavity for consistent flavoring.
  • Keep it moist: Placing a pan of water in the smoker helps maintain moisture levels, ensuring your turkey doesn’t dry out during the long smoking process.
  • Use a thermometer: Get a ThermoWorks thermometer. There is nothing better! Monitoring internal temperature is crucial for perfectly cooked turkey. Remove the turkey from the smoker when it reaches an internal temperature of 160°F, allowing for carry-over cooking to bring it to 165°F.
  • Let it rest: Allow the turkey to rest for at least 20 minutes after removing it from the smoker. This resting period lets the juices redistribute, resulting in juicier and more flavorful meat.
  • Use the right pellets: Choose a mild wood like apple or cherry for smoking. These woods complement the turkey and the herb blend without overpowering them.

🤔Recipe Variations and Substitutions

  • Garlic powder for fresh garlic: If fresh garlic isn’t available, you can use garlic powder. Use ⅓ teaspoon of garlic powder for each clove of garlic.
  • Dried herbs for fresh: In case fresh herbs are hard to come by, dried herbs are a great alternative. Remember, dried herbs are more potent, so use a third of the amount specified for fresh herbs.
  • Table salt for Kosher salt: If you don’t have kosher salt, you can use regular table salt. However, table salt is denser than Kosher salt, so use half the amount.
  • Orange juice for orange zest: If zesting an orange is inconvenient, orange juice can be a substitute. Use about a tablespoon of orange juice to replace the zest of one orange for a similar citrus note.
  • Lemon-herb brine: For a different citrus twist, replace orange zest with lemon zest. This will give the turkey a fresher, tangier flavor profile.
  • Spicy kick: Add a bit of heat by including crushed red pepper flakes or cayenne pepper to the brine mix. I like to add some of this smoky honey habanero rub.
  • Maple-bourbon glaze: Instead of a herb butter baste, try a maple-bourbon glaze for a sweet and slightly boozy finish. Mix maple syrup and bourbon with some of the brine spices and brush it over the turkey in the last hour of cooking.

🔪 Must Have Equipment for This Turkey Recipe

Smoked turkey on a platter served with citrus and herbs for garnish.

🥡 Storing Leftover Turkey

Store your leftover turkey in an airtight container. Be sure that the turkey is cooled completely before putting it in the fridge or freezer. It is best to carve the turkey completely before storing it so that you can easily grab some leftovers from the fridge or freezer.

You can keep the leftover turkey in the fridge for about 4 days.

If you want to freeze the turkey, use a vacuum bag or try to remove as much air from your container as possible. This will keep ice crystals from forming on the meat and ensure that it stays as fresh as possible. It will keep in the freezer for about 4 months.

🔥 Reheating Dry Brined Turkey Leftovers

  • Avoid overheating: To prevent the turkey from drying out, avoid overheating. It just needs to be warmed through.
  • Add moisture: Regardless of the method, adding a bit of broth, water, or even gravy can help keep the turkey moist.
  • Check temperature: Ideally, reheated turkey should reach an internal temperature of 165°F for food safety.
  • Thaw safely: For frozen turkey, always thaw in the refrigerator if not reheating directly from frozen in sous vide.

Sous Vide Reheating

Set the sous vide to 165°F and submerge the turkey in a vacuum bag under the water. 30 minutes will be enough for refrigerated turkey and 1 hour for frozen turkey. There is no need to thaw your turkey before reheating in sous vide.

Air Fryer Reheating

Best for thawed or refrigerated turkey. Set the air fryer to 360°F and arrange the turkey in a single layer in the air fryer basket. Spray with oil or brush with butter and air fryer for 3 to 4 minutes until warm.

Microwave Reheating

Also best for thawed or refrigerated turkey. Place the turkey slices on a microwave-safe dish. Cover them with a damp paper towel to help retain moisture. Use the microwave’s reheat setting or heat on high for 1-2 minutes, checking periodically to avoid overheating.

Whole dry brine smoked turkey on a platter arranged with citrus, pomegranate, and herbs as garnish.

❓ Questions and Answers

Should you dry brine a turkey before smoking?

Dry brining a turkey before smoking is beneficial as it enhances flavor and retains moisture. The salt in the brine penetrates the meat, bringing herbs and seasonings deeper into the turkey, which results in a more flavorful and juicier smoked turkey.
Making a dry brine is relatively easy and doesn’t take up a lot of space like a wet brine does. Both brining methods produce wonderful results.

How many hours should you dry brine a turkey?

Dry brine a turkey for at least 24 hours and up to 72 hours. This duration allows the salt and seasonings enough time to penetrate the meat, ensuring a flavorful and moist turkey after smoking.

Do you rinse a turkey after dry brining?

There is no need to rinse the turkey after dry brining. The brine will have already done it’s job of infusing flavors into he meat and the skin of the turkey will be ready for smoking. Removing the dry brine from the skin of the turkey will remove those wonderful flavors and it will make it harder to achieve that crispy skin on the smoker.

How do you get crispy skin on a smoked turkey?

To achieve crispy skin on a smoked turkey, ensure the skin is dry before smoking and cook at a higher temperature towards the end of the cook. Pat the turkey dry before smoking and consider finishing the smoking process at a temperature around 325°F to 350°F, which helps crisp up the skin.

🦃 More Turkey Recipes

😍 Favorite Thanksgiving Recipes

Sliced turkey served on a platter with garnish.


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A turkey in a Traeger grill with herbed dry brine.

Dry Brined Smoked Turkey

Yield: 10 to 20 servings
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 4 hours 30 minutes
Additional Time: 3 days
Total Time: 3 days 5 hours

This dry brine smoked turkey is perfectly seasoned with a blend of garlic, rosemary, thyme, sage, and a hint of orange zest. The dry brine ensures a moist, flavorful bird with crispy, golden skin. By adding salt and herbs to the bird, moisture and intense flavors are drawn into the bird, giving you the juiciest turkey meat you have ever had! Part of the brine mixture will get blended with butter to make a flavorful baste butter that goes on the bird as it cooks, giving it a beautiful gold and crispy skin.

This turkey is the perfect centerpiece for your Thanksgiving and holiday celebrations.


For the dry Brine

  • 8 to 10 garlic cloves
  • 3 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary (1 tablespoon dried)
  • 3 tablespoons fresh thyme leave (1 tablespoon dried)
  • 3 tablespoons minced fresh sage (1 tablespoon dried)
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh oregano (1 teaspoon dried)
  • 1 tablespoon dried celery seed
  • 1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
  • 3 fresh or dry bay leaves, chopped or crumbled
  • zest of 2 oranges
  • 1/3 cup Kosher salt
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar

For the Turkey

  • 1 (16 to 18 pounds) turkey, thawed
  • 1 onion, quartered
  • 1 orange, quartered
  • 6 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons of the brine mixture from above


Prep the Turkey

  1. Remove the giblet and gravy package (if there is one) inside the cavity of the turkey. Remove any plastic or metal cages or pop-up thermometers. 
  2. Set a rack in a roasting pan or on a rimmed baking sheet. Place the turkey on the rack (the rack will allow air to circulate under the turkey). 
  3. Use paper towels to pat the turkey dry, inside and out. 

Make the Dry Brine

  1. Combine the first eight ingredients (the garlic and all the herbs) in a food processor with a blade attachment. Pulse until the herbs are finely minced. Add the salt, sugar, and orange zest. Pulse to combine.
  2. Remove 3 to 4 tablespoons of the herbed brine mixture and place in a covered dish in the fridge. You will save this smaller portion of the mixture for a few days and use it to make a herbed butter baste when you cook the turkey. 

Dry Brine the Turkey

  1. Loosen the skin on the turkey breast by sliding a spoon (turned upside down) under the skin. The spoon will slide under the skin without piercing it. Alternatively, if your hands are small enough, just slide your hands under the skin. 
  2. Spread about a third of the herbed brine mixture under the skin. Spread the rest of the brine mixture on the outside and in the cavity of the turkey. 
  3. Refrigerate the turkey for 48 to 72 hours. 

Smoke the Turkey on the Traeger

  1. Remove the turkey from the fridge. Do not rinse the brine off of the turkey. Preheat the Traeger to 225°F.  
  2. While the pellet grill heats up, stuff the cavity of the turkey with the onion and orange wedges.  Tuck the wings behind the back of the turkey and tie the ankles together with baker's twine (this step is optional, but it makes the turkey look nicer and helps it cook more evenly). 
  3. Stick a leave-in thermometer into the thickest part of the turkey breast. 
  4. Place the turkey on the grill and close the lid (keep the turkey in the roasting pan). 
  5. Place 6 tablespoons of butter in a microwavable bowl. Add the reserved herb/brine mixture and melt it in the microwave. 
  6. After the turkey cooks for 1 hour, increase the heat on the Traeger to 350°F. Baste the turkey with the melted butter mixture and close the lid. 
  7. Continue basting the turkey every 30 to 40 minutes until the temperature on the meat thermometer reaches 160°F to 165°F. This usually takes 2-1/2 to 3-1/2 hours for a 14 to 16-pound turkey. The time will vary, so make sure you cook the bird until the internal temperature reaches 160°F to 165°F. 
  8. Remove the turkey from the Traeger smoker, cover with foil, and let rest for 20 minutes.


  • You don’t need to rinse the herbed dry brine off the turkey prior to cooking. 
  • Use a reliable meat thermometer so you can monitor the cook and ensure the best results. 
  • The FDA recommends cooking turkey to an internal temperature of 165°F. I usually remove the turkey when it reaches 160°F. The carry-over heat typically brings the temperature up to 165°F. 
  • Cook the turkey based on temperature and not time. You can use the time chart in the post as a general guideline to help you plan an average cooking time. 

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Nutrition Information:
Yield: 20 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 60Total Fat: 4gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 1gCholesterol: 9mgSodium: 1027mgCarbohydrates: 7gFiber: 1gSugar: 5gProtein: 1g

Nutrition information is a guideline only, is calculated automatically by third party software, and absolute accuracy is not guaranteed.

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About Joshua Boquist

Josh is an outdoor enthusiast and food fanatic. A License To Grill is his passion project where the outdoors intersects food - grilling, smoking, and all things tasty!

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