Rockridge Orchard Apple Cider Smoked Turkey


Inspired by the blazing lard incident we decided to smoke the turkey this year. It turns out turkey was meant to be smoked. The combination of brine and low cooking temperature ensures that even the most horrifically overcooked turkey will come out succulent and moist and fragrantly seasoned with an enticing smoky aroma. The fact that we used local honey and apple cider in the brine probably had something to do with the sweetness of the meat as well.

Sage and thyme are both low fuss herbs that weather our maritime winters well as long as they are in a spot with good drainage. You can keep the plants for several years before they get too woody. At that point you can divide them or replace them with nursery starts. We used our own herbs for this recipe and honey from Tahuya Aviary.

This recipe is based on this one.

Rockridge Orchard Apple Cider Smoked Turkey

  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons rubbed sage
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped thyme
  • 1/2 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Mix all rub ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.


  • 1 gallon filtered water
  • 2 cups sea or kosher salt
  • 3 cups Rockridge Orchards apple cider
  • 1 cup bourbon
  • 1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
  • 2/3 cup local honey
  • 1 pastured turkey from Pastured Sensations
  • Olive oil
  • 4 cups hickory soaked wood chips, or enough to smoke for 4-6 hours depending on the size of your turkey.
  • Mix all the ingredients in a 5 gallon bucket or brew kettle lined with a large plastic bag until the sugar and salt are dissolved. We used the bathroom size one. This steps helps you conserve the amount of brine you need and ensures the turkey remains in the brine the whole time.

    Place the bucket or pot in the refrigerator overnight to brine. Turn the turkey after 3 hours to be sure both sides get brined. We actually just put the turkey breast side down and didn’t worry about brining the back or drumsticks.

    Smoke your turkey at 225 F according to the manufacturer’s directions until a probe thermometer reaches 160 F. Ours took about 5 hours for a 16 pound turkey.

    One important thing about the smoked turkey – if you want gravy you need to place a rack with a bowl under the turkey in order to catch the drippings. I was afraid the smoke would be too strong to make a pleasant gravy but boy was I wrong! It made the most pleasantly memorable turkey gravy I’ve ever had.

    9 Responses to Rockridge Orchard Apple Cider Smoked Turkey

    1. Pingback: Dark Days Thanksgiving Feast

    2. I love smoked turkey! It’s such a treat. That recipe sounds delish.

    3. Hi Laura, I wish you lived closer – I’d gladly give you some!

    4. I’ve been smoking turkeys in my Traeger smoker for over a decade and agree that smoked turkeys are great. It is perfectly safe to only cook them to 150 degrees, as long as your thermometer technique is good and you are sure you are measuring the coldest part of the bird. Alternatively, cook to 155 without being so fussy. You’ll notice a large difference in juiciness.

    5. Hi Daniel,

      How do you like your smoker? We have a Bradley which works great but it makes me mad we have to buy their proprietary pellets for it. Do you have any suggestions for a good thermometer so my husband can read the meat without opening the smoker door? That might have helped and Christmas is right around the corner…

    6. I give my Traeger a B+ because the firebox really should be outside the smoking chamber. Having the firebox inside causes uneven heating. I don’t use a permanent probe in the meat, instead using a digital instant read thermometer (bing “super fast thermopen”). A 16 to 18 pound turkey takes 6+ hours to smoke. Make sure it is at room temperature before smoking it — I brine mine overnight on the counter to make sure they are at the right temp. I start checking temps at about 5 hours. Opening the smoker every 15 miutes or so shouldn’t be an issue, use a lot of dense ceramic (not lava) bricks for good thermal mass if the smoker is cooling off too much when the door is opened. I buy pellets for the Traeger at my local grocery store at $15 for 20 pounds.

    7. Is the Bradley an indoor unit? If you want to avoid opening the door due to smoke, use only the heating element after the first few hours and not the smoke element. You probably already know this, but once the meat warms up a certain amount, the smoke can’t penetrate anymore. Smoke rings are formed in the first hours of smoking.

    8. It’s an outdoor smoker and in the winter like this it takes forever to reheat the box once you open it and let the warmth out. It’s for outdoors only. I didn’t know you could get them for indoors!

      I didn’t actually know that about the smoke not penetrating after a few hours. That probably explains why no matter how long you smoke something it never really gets oversmoked.

      Thanks for the tip on the thermometer!!! Just in time. :p

    9. Pingback: Dark Days Week 5

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