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The Godfather’s Smoked Turkey Recipe

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The Godfather’s Smoked Turkey recipe is the only smoked turkey recipe you’ll need! In fact, the turkey brine is so good, this is still the best turkey you’ll ever try even if you roast it in the oven.

I’m not quite sure how to introduce this recipe. Maybe I can start with the story of how, years ago the Godfather – well before he was the Godfather – set out to create a smoked turkey. He wanted an amazing turkey without a deep fryer or running our not-so-awesome-at-the-time base housing oven.

Or maybe I could talk about how my father-in-law (a former butcher) fell in love with this recipe so much it that he created his own variation. This is how he now makes turkey.

I could take you to our kitchen in California one year where we had a Thanksgiving party with friends. After a HUGE meal, we find two of our guests grabbing turkey leftovers, jostling each other for space to squeeze in one more bite over the kitchen sink.

golden brown smoked thanksgiving turkey on a white platter surrounded by a fresh herb garnish

My mother “doesn’t eat breast meat” because it’s too dry. She told my husband she thought the breast meat from this turkey was dark meat. It was so juicy and flavorful.

Or I could simply post a picture of Dolce, prancing around with excitement “guarding” the grill while the turkey cooks. Later waiting in excited anticipation by the table for the soft-hearted to give her treats.

I really can’t pick a story though. They all sort of jumble together like snapshots in a slideshow over the years he’s been making this recipe. And maybe that’s what really makes it such a great recipe.

When I think about this turkey, it’s so much more than just food on a plate. It’s a memory, an experience, something beautiful that brings family and friendstogether at the holidays.

thanksgiving turkey ready to carve. Golden skin still on the turkey breast

The secret is in the brine, prepared a day before smoking the turkey. It’s so incredibly flavorful, we haven’t used gravy or any additional seasonings. I hope you’ll give this brine recipe a try, and smoke the bird if you can. I promise it will be one of the most incredible turkeys you’ve ever had.

side view of a whole thanksgiving turkey on a white platter sitting on a grey pinstripe napkin with a glass of pinot noir in the background

The Godfather wrote up the recipe below for you. We both hope you’ll enjoy this easy smoked turkey recipe this holiday season. <3

thanksgiving turkey being sliced to highlight the juiciness of the breast meat using this turkey brine recipe
juicy smoked thanksgiving turkey ready to serve on a white platter with a glass of wine in the background

The Godfather's Turkey Recipe

Yield: 12 servings
Prep Time: 1 day
Cook Time: 2 hours
Resting Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 day 2 hours 30 minutes

The Godfather's Smoked Turkey - Perfected over more than a decade, the brine recipe and smoking process for our Thanksgiving turkey results in a juicy, flavorful bird everyone loves. You may also use the brine for a roasted bird if you don't have a grill to smoke.


  • 3/4 cups kosher salt
  • 1 cup Kentucky bourbon
  • 1 cup orange juice, no pulp
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup garlic powder
  • 2 tbsp ground black pepper
  • 2 tbsp paprika
  • 1 tbsp ground ginger
  • 1 lbs turkey, 10 to 14

Equipment for smoking...

  • 1 quart of wood chips, preferably mesquite
  • 2 disposable aluminum trays
  • 1 box of aluminum foil
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 charcoal grill, large enough to hold the turkey and aluminum tray side-by-side


  1. In a small pot with water, add the kosher salt. Heat and stir the water in the pot until the salt dissolves. Allow the water in the pot to cool.
  2. Using a 12-quart (three-gallon) bucket, place all ingredients except for the turkey.
  3. Pour the salt and water mixture from the pot, and add enough water so that you are able to stir and mix the placed ingredients. Not all ingredients will dissolve in the water throughout the brine process.
  4. Ensure the turkey is thawed and all gizzards are removed. Place the turkey in the bucket breast-side down.
  5. Continue filling the bucket with water. The turkey does not have to be completely submerged, but the brine must be able to flow through the turkey's cavity.
  6. Place the bucket in the refrigerator and let it rest for 24 hours.
  7. Set up the grill by placing the wood chips in the aluminum tray. If you don't have mesquite wood chips, pour 1 shot of bourbon over the wood chips. Fill enough water in the aluminum tray so that most if not all the wood chips float.
  8. Select the side the charcoal will lie directly under the side the turkey will be sitting on. To force the convection, the side where the aluminum tray will sit must not have any charcoal under it. Ensure the distance between the charcoal sits as low as possible to have the greatest distance possible below the grill. Ensure all vents are no more than half-closed.
  9. Place the aluminum tray on the grill and light the charcoal.
  10. Once lit, lift the turkey out of the bucket and place it breast-side up on the grill. Immediately brush the turkey skin with the olive oil to get the crisp brown color.
  11. Close the lid on the grill. Check on the turkey after one hour. Add more charcoal as needed. Add more water to the aluminum tray if needed.
  12. After two hours, check with a meat thermometer to see if the turkey's temperature is at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Once it is at least that temperature, remove the turkey from the grill.
  13. Immediately place the turkey in the second aluminum tray and cover with foil. Let it rest for 30 minutes.
  14. Remove the foil cover and enjoy.

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Tuesday 26th of November 2019

Does this work with an offset smoker

Mary (The Goodie Godmother)

Tuesday 26th of November 2019

I asked the Godfather and he says it will. You just won't need the pan with the water to infuse the smoke flavor because your pellets or the wood in the smoker box will do that.


Friday 25th of November 2016

We made this turkey this year and it was amazing! So many compliments all around. It was definitely the most tender white meat we have had. The local grocery store was kind enough to give me an icing bucket from their bakery for the brine. We used 3/4 cup fine salt and 3/4 cup course sea salt because I ran out of salt in my baking this year!?! Used Elijah Craig bourbon and it is delicious as well. This is definitely a keeper for family. Happy Thanksgiving!!

Meaghan | Cook. Craft. Love.

Saturday 12th of November 2016

This recipe makes me a little sad that we aren't doing a traditional Thanksgiving dinner this year. I wonder how easy it'll be to convince everyone to have turkey instead of am for Christmas? :P


Wednesday 2nd of November 2016

Ooooh, I'm so excited! We're going to try this for Thanksgiving.

Mary (The Goodie Godmother)

Thursday 3rd of November 2016

YAY! I hope you love it. It's seriously one of our favorite things ever. We make 2 - one for Thanksgiving and one for Christmas. Best leftovers ever.

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