Rosemary Beer Brined Smoked Turkey

Brining a turkey in this Rosemary Beer Smoked Turkey Brine will tenderize the meat and infuse it with a TON of flavor for Thanksgiving!

smoked turkey on plate piled high with other Thanksgiving sides

Save this recipe for Rosemary Beer Brined Turkey to Pinterest.

The Best Turkey Brine for Smoking

I mentioned in my Browned Butter Parmesan Mashed Potato recipe the other day that Kevin and I will be traveling to Alaska for Thanksgiving. I’m so excited for the opportunity to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday with some of the soldiers (and their families) that are under his command.

I’ve still got lots of great, new Thanksgiving recipes to share with you to help you prep for your holiday celebrations! One of those recipes is this Rosemary Beer Brined Smoked Turkey.

Don’t worry, if you don’t have a smoker you can make a Roasted Rosemary Beer Brined Turkey instead. Either way will taste great, the main point is how delicious this Rosemary Beer Brine will make your turkey.

Also? It makes AMAZING gravy! (Check out my tips for How to Make Gravy with No Lumps).

I first made this smoked turkey recipe a few years ago when I was hosting Thanksgiving in my old house with a group of neighbors. We made it again last year for Thanksgiving and we used the smoked turkey brine recipe this summer for our anniversary party. We used turkey breasts for that and served the meat (along with smoked brisket) with pretzel slider buns and lots of yummy sides.

The point is, this Rosemary Beer Brined Smoked Turkey has been on a pretty solid rotation in our house and everyone loves it. For our party this summer, the meat was gone in what seemed like about 10 seconds because everyone was going crazy for it. To go with this recipe, I have lots of tips for you below if you’ve never brined a turkey before.

Do you want to get a FREE TURKEY? Sign up for Butcher Box and get a free turkey with your first order! New members receive a 10-14 lb all-natural turkey for free in their first ButcherBox. Butcher Box turkeys are animal welfare certified, and they’ve never been given antibiotics ever. No basting ingredients, no artificial ingredients, minimally processed. Use THIS LINK for your FREE TURKEY.

smoked turkey brine on juicy turkey with mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, and more

Save this recipe for Rosemary Beer Brined Turkey to Pinterest.

Smoked Turkey Brine Ingredients

This really is the best turkey brine for smoking! Here’s what you’ll need to make this turkey brine recipe for smoking:

  • Morton’s kosher salt
  • Brown sugar
  • Whole peppercorns
  • Whole allspice berries
  • Bay leaves
  • Fresh rosemary
  • Garlic
  • Yellow onion
  • Water
  • Chilled beer
  • Ice cubes

How Long to Brine a Turkey

How long you will brine your meat for largely depends on how big the piece of meat is. A simple boneless, skinless chicken breast or a couple of pork chops don’t need more than an hour. In contrast, a large 18+ pound turkey will need several hours or up to a full day to soak in the brine to fully benefit from the process.

Turkey Brining Time Guide

  • Whole Turkey: 12-24 hours
  • Turkey Breast: 4-8 hours
  • Large Whole Chicken: 3-5 hours
  • Cornish Game Hens: 1-2 hours

What do you do if due to your schedule you need to brine the turkey earlier than 24 hours before roasting? I suggest brining it for the 12-24 hours you need. Then, remove it from the brine and rinse it inside and out.

Pat it dry with a paper towel and then store it in the fridge for up to an additional 24 hours until you are ready to roast. After that, you can proceed to roast as you normally would without the worry of an over brined, and potentially overly salted, turkey.

Tips for Making Smoked Turkey Brine

Brining might sound complicated and lengthy, but once you get the hang of it the process is really not difficult. There are a few rules you should know about before you attempt brining a turkey.

Use a Fresh, Unsalted Turkey

Many frozen turkeys that are available in today’s markets come pre-brined in a plain salt water solution. Additionally, a turkey labeled as “kosher” will already be salted as they’ve been farmed, slaughtered and prepared according to Jewish customs.

Brining a turkey with this smoked turkey brine in these situations would result in an incredibly salty turkey, which is not ideal. You’ll want to look at the label before purchasing your turkey. I usually have the best luck at natural food grocery stores, or ordering a “fresh” turkey from my grocery store.

Keep the Proportions of the Recipe

If you need a larger or smaller amount of this turkey brine recipe for smoking, you will need adjust all of the ingredient amounts in the recipe. The amount of brine you need can vary depending on the size of your bird. Unfortunately, that means that basic algebra was not left behind in middle school.

For example, all of the ingredients in this Rosemary Beer Brined Turkey recipe would need to be cut in half if you needed half the amount – not just the liquid. You’ll want to cut the recipe in half like this if you’re brining something smaller, such as a turkey breast, a very small bird, or a couple of chickens.

Store Safely & at the Right Temperature

I prefer to place my turkey with the Rosemary Beer Brined Turkey in a large zip-top bag. I recommend the Ziploc Big Bags (size large or extra large) or one of those extra large hot/cold resealable grocery store bags.

If the turkey is small enough, place the bagged turkey inside something to contain any leaks. A roasting pan, 5 gallon bucket, or foil tray work well. Then, store in the refrigerator.

HOW TO STORE A BRINING TURKEY IN A COOLER INSTEAD OF REFRIGERATOR

If your turkey is too large to fit in your refrigerator after you have placed it in the container with the brine, your can store it in a cooler as long as you are able to maintain the temperature below 40 degrees while the turkey brines.

Place the bagged turkey in ziplock bag and then in a cooler or a 5 gallon bucket. Then, surround the zipped bag with ice or frozen gel packs. You absolutely do not add ice to the Rosemary Beer Brined Turkey as that would only dilute the ratios of salt to liquid.

Extra large ziplock bags work well because they are sturdy. Once the bag is sealed with the turkey and the brine, place it in a well insulated cooler. It is best if you have a high quality insulated cooler, the type that is meant to keep cold for several days.

Then, store the cooler wherever it is coolest – the garage, basement, or even on the back porch if temperatures are cold enough. If storing outside, keep it out of the sun and make sure it isn’t too cold out, otherwise you’ll end up with a frozen bird. You’ll also want to keep it away from any areas that animals might get into it.

smoked turkey on plate piled high with popular Thanksgiving sides

Save this recipe for Rosemary Beer Brined Turkey to Pinterest.

How to Smoke a Turkey

If you are wondering how to roast a turkey, check out my Turkey Roasting Tips to learn more about the method that I like to use to roast my turkey. There are tons of hints, tips, and tricks for roasting a moist, flavorful turkey.

For this particular smoked turkey breast brine, our favorite way to cook the turkey is to smoke it.

Tools Needed for a Smoked Turkey 

If you don’t have a smoker, or have access to one to borrow, then roasting the turkey is completely fine and it will still taste great! If you’re in the market for a smoker, we absolutely LOVE our Traeger Pellet Grill.

The first year I made this smoked turkey, I didn’t have a smoker, but some of my neighbor dinner guests did. I prepared the turkey and the brine and they were kind enough to allow me to outsource the cooking to them.

Smoking a Turkey

The method for a Rosemary Beer Brined Smoked Turkey is pretty similar to the method in my Easy Smoked Chicken recipe:

  1. Remove the rosemary beer brined turkey from the brine.
  2. Rinse and pat dry.
  3. Then place it on the smoker.
  4. Insert the probe of a digital meat thermometer that is safe for BBQing into the thickest part of the breast.
  5. Smoke on 150-160 degrees F according to manufacturer instructions at 160 degrees for about 4 – 5 hours
  6. Increase the temperature to 250 degrees F.
  7. Continue to cook until the the meat thermometer registered 165 degrees F.
  8. Remove the turkey from the smoker and let rest, loosely tented with foil, on a baking sheet for 20 minutes before slicing.

How Long to Smoke a Turkey

You’ll need to smoke your turkey low and slow for roughly 4 or 5 hours. Then, increase the temperature and continue to cook until the internal temperature is 165 degrees F. You’ll then need to let the turkey rest for 20 minutes on your counter before slicing it.

Check out all of my tips for smoked turkey here: How to Smoke a Turkey on a Traeger and 8 Pro Tips for the Best Smoked Turkey.

Can I Use Dried Herbs Instead of Fresh?

No, dried herbs won’t infuse the smoked turkey brine with as much flavor as fresh herbs.

What Type of Beer Should I Use?

I’ve found that brown or amber ales are what we like the best for this smoked turkey brine recipe. You could also use a lighter beer, light a lager. I would not recommend IPAs as they have a strong and somewhat bitter taste.

More Thanksgiving Recipes:

If you’re looking for additional turkey brining inspiration for your Thanksgiving Menu this year, here are a few other favorite recipes. Be sure to check out the whole Thanksgiving Recipes Archive right here if you need help building the rest of your menu.

Wondering what to make this year for Thanksgiving Dinner? Take all the guess work out of planning your Thanksgiving Menu! I’ve got you covered with over 90 Tried and True Thanksgiving Recipes and plenty of tutorials handpicked by me in this Thanksgiving Menu Planner!

Fresh Herb Citrus Brined Turkey combines lots of fresh herbs with a subtle hint of citrus.

Brining your turkey with this Apple Cider Sage Brined Turkey before roasting will not only infuses the meat with the delicious flavors of fresh apple cider and sage, but it will help keep the meat moist and tender.

This Garlic Herb Peppercorn Dry Turkey Brine is incredibly easy to make and works for smoked turkeys and roasted turkeys alike.

Not feeling a turkey this year? Make this Slow Cooker Spiral Ham with Honey Mustard Glaze instead. My family enjoys this at Christmas and Easter too.

It wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without my favorite Cranberry Orange Relish on the table. I pile this stuff atop my smoked turkey and look forward to making sandwiches with it the next day.

What are your turkey brining questions?

Love this recipe for Rosemary Beer Brined Turkey? Sign up for Good Life Eats email updates and never miss another recipe!

Rosemary Beer Brined Smoked Turkey

Rosemary Beer Brined Smoked Turkey

Yield: 2 gallons
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 6 hours
Additional Time: 1 days
Total Time: 1 days 6 hours 15 minutes

Brining a turkey in this Rosemary Beer Brine will tenderize the meat and infuse it with a TON of flavor for Turkey Day!

Ingredients

  • 2 2/3 cups Morton's Kosher Salt
  • 1 cup Brown Sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon Whole Peppercorn
  • 1 teaspoon Whole Allspice Berries
  • 4 Bay Leaves
  • 6 Stems Fresh Rosemary Leaves
  • 6 Whole Garlic Cloves, peeled and smashed
  • 1 Yellow Onion, peeled and quartered
  • 10 cups Water
  • 48 ounces Chilled Beer (Brown or Amber Ales work best)
  • 8 pounds Ice Cubes

Instructions

  1. Combine the salt, brown sugar, peppercorns, allspice berries, bay leaves, rosemary, garlic, and onion together in a large stock pot. Add 10 cups of water. Bring the mixture to a rolling boil, remove from heat.
  2. After removing from heat, steep the mixture for 45 minutes. After allowing the mixture to steep, add the 48 ounces (4 - 12 ounce bottles) of beer.
  3. Then, add in enough ice to bring the total brine amount up to 2 gallons (2 gallons = 32 cups). This is very important otherwise you will have an incredibly salty turkey.
  4. For smaller stock pots, you may have to allow the brine to cool and add the additional amount when pouring the brine into the bag in the following step.
  5. Place the turkey in a large zip-top bag. I recommend the Ziploc Big Bags (size large) or one of those extra large hot/cold bags you can buy at the grocery store.
  6. Put the bagged turkey in a clean cooler or 5 gallon bucket. Pour the brine over the turkey, in the bag, making sure the breasts are fully submerged. Zip the bag closed. Place the cooler in a cool place, such as your garage or, and allow the turkey to soak in the cold brine for 12-24 hours.
  7. Use gel ice packs or bagged ice around the zipped bag inside the cooler, if necessary, to keep the brine below 40°F. (Adding more ice directly to the brine would only dilute it.)
  8. Alternatively, if you have room in your refrigerator, you may place the bagged turkey in a large foil tray rather than a cooler and store it on the fridge shelf.
  9. After the brining process, transfer the turkey to a roasting pan and discard the brine. Cook according to your preferred method - we LOVE to smoke our Rosemary Beer Brined Turkeys, but roasting works well too!

Notes

For a smaller turkey you may make less brine; however, be careful to do so with the original proportions of ingredient still intact. Too much salt will leave you with an incredibly salty turkey. Also, birds less than 10 pounds will likely not need to soak for the full 24 hours to achieve the desired results.

Depending on the brand of kosher salt you use, you'll need different amounts of salt because the different brands available on the market have different densities. I use Morton's kosher salt in this recipe, however here are the conversions:


  • Diamond Crystal 2 cups salt per gallon of liquid.
  • Morton's kosher 1 1/3 cups salt per gallon of liquid.

Brining Time Guide


  • 16 lb. Whole Turkey: 12-24 hours
  • Turkey Breast: 4-8 hours
  • Large Whole Chicken: 3-5 hours

Recommended Products

As an Amazon Associate and member of other affiliate programs, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Be sure to follow Good Life Eats on Instagram. Tag @goodlifeeats and include the hashtag #goodlifeeatsrecipes so I can see what you’re cooking up in YOUR kitchen!

Did you make this recipe? I’d love to hear what you thought! Leave me a comment below.

Save this recipe for Rosemary Beer Brined Turkey to Pinterest.