My Smoked Turkey Recipe and Schedule: A Thanksgiving Masterpiece

A Thanksgiving dinner table scene in a wide format, filling the entire image without color bars on the sides. The table features a large, steaming, moist smoked turkey as the centerpiece, looking succulent and flavorful. It is placed on a colorful orange and fall-themed tablecloth. Surrounding the turkey are classic Thanksgiving fixings: mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, green beans, stuffing, and pumpkin pie. The table setting reflects fall colors, embodying the spirit of a festive and bountiful Thanksgiving feast in a warm and inviting atmosphere.

By Larry Billinger

As the leaves turn and the air grows crisp, Thanksgiving approaches, bringing with it a time for gratitude and, of course, the much-anticipated feast. This year, I’m sharing my special smoked turkey recipe, a blend of traditional cooking and a unique twist that guarantees a moist, flavorful bird. The stars of my Thanksgiving table are two turkeys, a robust 22-pounder and its 12-pound counterpart, both infused with a half-Coke, half-water brine and packed with a juicy mix of fruits and veggies. Here’s how I ensure these birds are the highlight of our Thanksgiving meal at 2 PM on November 23rd.

The Ultimate Smoked Turkey Recipe

Key to Moisture: Stuffing the Birds

A crucial step in my recipe is stuffing the turkeys with a blend of quartered apples, oranges, onions, and sliced garlic. This infuses the meat with additional flavors and ensures that every bite is as moist as it is delicious.

Picture of a past smoked turkey. This is the one that got me hooked on smoked turkey back in 2012.


  • 1 large turkey (22 lbs)
  • 1 smaller turkey (12 lbs)
  • 2 gallons Coca-Cola
  • 2 gallons ice
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 2 cups salt
  • Aromatics: garlic, peppercorns, thyme, bay leaves, onion, optional orange slices
  • Stuffing mix: apples, oranges, onions, garlic

Special Equipment:

  • Smoker
  • Large coolers for brining
  • Meat thermometer

Preparation and Smoking Schedule

Tuesday Night (Two days before Thanksgiving)

  • 8:00 PM: Start the brine. Mix Coca-Cola, brown sugar, salt, and aromatics. Heat to dissolve, then cool with ice.
  • 9:00 PM: Pour cold brine into a non-scented trash bag and place in cooler. Submerge turkeys in the brine, ensuring complete coverage. Fill the cooler with ice and close. Keep outside on nice cool days to keep nice and cool.

Wednesday Night (The night before Thanksgiving)

  • 8:00 PM: Preheat smoker to 225°F.
  • 9:00 PM: Remove turkeys from brine. Rinse, pat dry, and refrigerate uncovered for skin drying and stuff with quartered fruits and veggies.
  • 10:00 PM: Place 22-pound turkey in the smoker.

Thanksgiving Day

  • 4:00 AM: Add 12-pound turkey to the smoker.
  • 10:00 AM: Check the temp of turkeys and adjust smoker temp to ensure turkeys are finished by 1:00 PM
  • 1:00 PM (Noon): Remove both turkeys (22-pound turkey after about 14 hours, 12-pound after about 8 hours). Let them rest.
  • 1:30 PM: Begin carving the turkeys.
  • 2:00 PM: Serve the meal with your perfectly smoked turkeys.

Final Thoughts

This recipe and schedule are more than just a guide to cooking; they’re a promise of a Thanksgiving meal where the turkey is not just a dish but a memorable experience. Here’s to a Thanksgiving filled with the joy of sharing, the warmth of family, and the unparalleled taste of perfectly smoked turkey.

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