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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

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This recipe was originally published November 13, 2017. It has been updated from the archives.

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 have made it again each year for Thanksgiving and we used the smoked turkey brine recipe for our first anniversary party a few years ago. 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 a few years ago, 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.

Ever wonder if a free turkey tastes better? Find out this holiday with a FREE TURKEY (all-natural, zero antibiotic) with your first order from ButcherBox.

fresh rosemary on a white background

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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:

For the complete ingredient list and detailed instructions, scroll to the bottom of this post for the FREE printable recipe card.

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.

The above is simply a quick summary of this recipe. Check out the full recipe in the free printable recipe card at the bottom of this post for all the detailed instructions.

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

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.


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

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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.

What is the best wood to smoke turkey with:

It really depends on your personal preferences, so it is important to experiment to find out what you like best.

We have tried all different types of wood pellets for our Traeger Smoked Turkey. Our favorite wood pellet flavors are: apple, pecan, oak, and hickory.

  • Apple – mild and sweet flavor
  • Pecan – rich, sweet, nutty flavor.
  • Oak – medium flavor, not overpowering, quintessential smoking wood
  • Hickory – mellow smoky flavor, not over powering, savory, hearty, one of the most versatile

Don’t be afraid to mix different wood pellet flavors together. Using blends of different type of wood pellets can give the turkey extra flavor depth. We often use a combination of apple and hickory blended together.

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?

I don’t recommend it because dried herbs won’t infuse the smoked turkey brine with as much flavor as fresh herbs, but if you have to substitute them it won’t harm the recipe.

Typically you would use 1/3 of the amount the recipe calls for when substituting dried herbs for fresh.

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.

Specific varieties I like to use are: Fat Tire Amber Ale or Avery Ellie’s Brown Ale, but sometimes it just depends what we have on hand if I’m not making a special purchase.

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?

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Brining a turkey in this Rosemary Beer Brine will tenderize the meat and infuse it with a TON of flavor for Turkey Day! Check out this recipe for lots of tips on how to brine and roast a turkey.

Rosemary Beer Brined Smoked Turkey

Yield: 2 gallons
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 6 hours 4 seconds
Additional Time: 1 day 12 seconds
Total Time: 1 day 6 hours 15 minutes 16 seconds

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


  • 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


  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!


Salt Injected Turkey

*The salt amount listed in this recipe is for a fresh, non-salt injected turkey and explained in the post. If you plan to use a salt injected turkey, then use 1 1/2-2 cups of Morton Kosher Salt. Rinse the bird inside and out before and after brining. Do not add any extra salt to season the bird and use unsalted butter if you plan to butter it.

Kosher Salt

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

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Nutrition Information
Yield 12 Serving Size 1
Amount Per Serving Calories 123Total Fat 0gSaturated Fat 0gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 0gCholesterol 0mgCarbohydrates 22gFiber 1gSugar 16gProtein 1g offers recipe nutritional information as a courtesy and is an estimate only. This information comes from online calculators. Although makes every effort to provide accurate information, these figures are only estimates.

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For the step-by-step version of this recipe, check out the Learn How to Smoke a Turkey on a Traeger Story.

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Monday 22nd of November 2021

Does the skin get crispy with this recipe or should I still add softened butter under the skin?


Monday 22nd of November 2021

Hi! This is what I like to do to make sure that the skin gets crispy on a smoked turkey:

How to Get a Crispy Skin on a Smoked Turkey

When the turkey reaches 150 degrees F, preheat your oven to 425 degrees F. At the turkey temperature of 155 degrees F, remove it from the smoker. Transfer to a roasting pan and roast in the 425 degree F oven until the temperature probe reads 165 degrees F in the breast meat

You can find more info and tips for smoking turkeys at this link:

Mackenzie A Stahn

Tuesday 24th of November 2020

If I am putting the turkey in my refrigerator instead of a cooler, do I need to add the ice or can I just add water instead?


Wednesday 25th of November 2020

As long as the total volume of of brine liquid reaches 2 gallons you are fine to use cold water instead of ice. Just make sure that you add enough water otherwise the brine will be too salty and result in too salty of a turkey.


Monday 25th of November 2019

Hi there! I will be using this brine on a 15lb turkey. I was unable to find an unsalted turkey though. How much salt would you recommend using? If it helps, I have a Butterball turkey.  Thank you for sharing this recipe! I’m excited to taste it!!


Monday 25th of November 2019

I wouldn’t change the salt ratio if it were me. I would fully rinse the turkey inside and out with water before brining and then brine for the shorter amount of time for the range recommended for the weight. Then, rinse the turkey again after brining before roasting. That’s what I’ve done if I’ve done when I’ve used frozen turkeys. Hope that makes sense!

Tiffany Scott

Monday 13th of November 2017

Is this for a 16lb turkey?


Tuesday 14th of November 2017

yes, that size will work perfectly.

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