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How To Cure And Smoke A Turkey

  1. This is how I do a turkey (or any poultry).


    Food Safe container or bucket. I use a 5 gallon bucket from Home Depot that has the

    image on it. That means that the plastic won't leach harmful chemicals into your curing brine.

    Curing Brine:
    I gallon of potable water (drinkable)
    ½ to 1 cup of salt
    ½ to 1 cup of sugar
    ½ to 1 cup of brown sugar
    *1 oz. (heaping tablespoon) of sodium nitrite curing salt
    Stir the brine approx. 50 stirs to dissolve the ingredients and the brine gets clear

    *1 oz. of curing salt - consists of 93.75% plain salt and 6.25% of sodium nitrite. A level tablespoon of curing salt is approximately .80 of an ounce. A heaping tablespoon is approx. 1 oz. Maximum allowed is 3.84 oz./gallon, almost 4 times of what I recommend. It will still get the job done but just takes longer in a lower concentration. Curing salt can be ordered at www.butcher-packer.com; a 16 oz. bag is usually $3.50. They do charge shipping. I usually order 4 bags at a time without exceeding the minimum shipping charges.

    Adequate refrigeration (enough room in your refrigerator at 38°, no higher).

    Turkey (thawed, can or cannot contain solutions or flavor brines, doesn't matter), eviscerated parts removed (neck, liver, heart, gizzard - save to boil up and eat). Usually takes about 5 days in a refrigerator to thaw the turkey enough to remove the parts.


    Make up 2 gallons of curing brine. You can use the bucket to do so.

    Dunk the turkey in the curing brine, breast down, legs up, until it is all covered with the curing brine. Use a heavy plate to keep it submerged. Anything that floats won't get cured. Just an inch in the curing brine works!

    Store in the refrigerator. You DO NOT have to stir or move it in any way, just let it sit and work it's magic!

    Check it twice a week, looking for frothy bubbles. That means it is starting to ferment. Just take it out and dump in the CLEAN kitchen sink, allowing the bad curing brine to go down the drain. Then rinse off the bird, inside and out, make up fresh curing brine and re-dunk and weigh down the top. Turn down the fridge a notch.

    You have up to 30 days to cure your bird. Most all will be cured in 2 - 3 weeks. Smaller birds (12-15 lbs), 2 weeks. Heavier birds, (16-20 lbs.), 3 weeks. Huge birds, (22-30 lbs.) 4 weeks. Chickens, ducks, roasting or stewing hens, under 6 lbs., 1 week.

    Then, smoke your turkey in your smoker or smokehouse to a minimum of 155º internal in the breast, 165° in the thigh. Use whatever fuel for your unit and to your liking. Because you have cured your bird first, it reduces the chance, greatly, of developing botulism, the 'safe zone' does not apply (40º to 140º within 4 hours). Smoke at over 220° continuously. Or, you can bake in the oven whether or not you got to apply smoke and still end up with a flavorful cured turkey (like ham).

    And that is how to cure and smoke your turkey!

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  1. Alan562
    Thanks for sharing Pops.
  3. sonofasmoker
    So this just opened up Pandora's box for me....I have never cured my turkeys, just brined them. That being said, I am always open to new adventures. Everywhere I have been researching says the main difference between a cured and brined turkey is the "Ham" consistency the meat gets. Can you dive deeper in to this for me? Why cure when I can brine? Also, I havent seen any other brines that last a week or more.

    Really interested in your response. This was a great write up and I cant wait to try it.
  4. dr k
    Menards has the recycle symbol with 5 in the middle that is a green square 4 gallon polypropylene bucket for a couple dollars that has food safe on the side. I guess 2, 4 and 5 are the most common for food. I followed your Wet curing brine thread that stated 2-3 days for chxn/turkey and left it in for 5 days and it cured throughout a 12lb. turkey. Did you increase durations for poultry since the the wet curing brine thread?
  5. biteme7951
    Love your tutorial Pops! (and your brine too!)

    Lately I have gone to slicing down the back and de-boning he bird except for the wing, leg, and thighbones. I inject the thighs and drumsticks and cure for about a week. Then into a mesh bag wrapping the skin around the breast meat so nothing is exposed. It is about the size of a rotisserie chicken when done but a solid hunk of meat. The carcass is thrown in a pot with veggies for a nice stock for future use.

    I have learned so much from you in all your posts and thank you and wish you well!