If you get asked to smoke the turkey for Thanksgiving (or any time of year), this is the recipe to try. It’s easy, quick and delicious.
There’s no need to brine as we’re going to inject it with butter, chicken stock, and spices right before we cook to keep it juicy. With a liberal coating of our homemade Cajun rub and a butter baste while cooking, this turkey has a ton of flavor and a crispy, buttery skin.
No bland dried-out turkey meat on this Thanksgiving platter!
Smoked Cajun Turkey
Ingredients you’ll need
- Turkey – fresh or thawed. Allow 24 hours in the fridge for every 4 pounds, so a 14-pound turkey will take 3.5 days to thaw properly.
- Butter – pick up a high-quality butter for this recipe. Spending the extra $ will make a difference in the taste. I recommend Kerrygold salted butter, which you can find in your local grocery store or order online.
Equipment you’ll need
- Smoker – I like to cook it on my pellet grill for the extra smoke flavor but you can do it in your oven as well
- Meat Injector – I got mine from Amazon, but you also may be able to find it in your local grocery store.
- Sharp knife – this will make carving your turkey so much easier.
- Thermometer – I used my Meater but any leave-in or instasnt read meat thermometer will do just don’t rely on the cheap one you get in the packet with some turkeys.
How much turkey per person?
When it comes to how big of a turkey to cook, remember the golden rule of 1 lb of turkey per person. An 8-14 lb turkey seems to be the sweet spot. Don’t be afraid to cook two turkeys instead of one 20 lb turkey to feed a large crowd.
How long will it take to cook?
I cooked a 14 lb turkey on my pellet grill, and it took 3.40hrs. Depending on the grill or temperatures outside, that may vary, which is why it’s always good to monitor the temps with a meat thermometer.
For this cook, I use my Meater thermometer to monitor the temps throughout the cook. You can also use an instant read thermometer, like this Thermapen One, but I prefer the probe thermometer for this cook.
How to make Smoked Cajun Style Turkey
1. Fire up the smoker
Fire up the smoker to 300°F. This should take about 10-15 minutes to preheat, which is the perfect amount of time for prepping the turkey.
I used my pellet grill for this cook. A charcoal grill or an offset smoker would just as well. However, you’ll need to keep an eye on your turkey’s internal temperature as they might cook differently vs the pellet grill.
2. Prep the turkey
First things first, make sure your turkey is properly thawed. It’s a crucial first step. A fresh turkey is a great alternative, although can be hard to source.
Remove the turkey from its packaging, making sure to pat it dry and remove the giblets from the cavity.
Your turkey should come with a ‘hock lock’ that holds the legs together. Be sure to leave that on. If not, use butcher twine to tie the legs together.
You spatchcock the turkey by cutting the backbone out with some kitchen shears. Spatchcocking helps the turkey cook a little faster and more evenly, but I decided to keep this one whole.
3. The rub
In a jar with a lid or a small bowl, combine paprika, salt, garlic powder, black pepper, white pepper, onion powder, dried oregano, cayenne pepper, and dried thyme and make sure everything is mixed well.
4. The injection
Melt the butter, and then add chicken broth, hot sauce, and cajun rub and combine well.
Using your meat syringe injector, inject the turkey liberally. I like to start with the breasts, then the thighs, and anything else that will hold it.
Use olive oil as a binder and rub it all over your turkey.
Season the turkey liberally with the rub. It’s a big piece of meat; it can handle it.
Once the skin is seasoned well, I add about a tablespoon worth of the cajun rub under the skin right on top of the breasts to help maximize flavor.
6. The baste
To make the turkey baste, mix together melted butter and remaining cajun rub.
I recommend drizzling rather than brushing this on the turkey so you don’t wipe off any of the seasoning.
7. The cook
Place the turkey in the preheated smoker and let it cook for 1.5 hours before checking it.
After 1.5 hours, start basting (drizzle) the turkey every 30 minutes.
Your turkey is done when it hits an internal temperature of 165°F, but I like to pull my turkey off at 160°F and let it carry over to 165°F while it rests. After all, a dry turkey is our worst enemy on Thanksgiving.
Let the turkey rest for 30 minutes before slicing to help keep it juicy.
Make sure to slice your turkey correctly to maximize flavor and presentation.
First, remove the legs and place them on a large platter.
Remove the breasts individually by slicing down the breastbone till you hit the ribcage, and then finish slicing to the edges to remove each breast.
Slice each breast into ½” sections (thinner if desired) and place on the platter along with the legs.
Lastly, remove both wings, leaving them whole, and add them to the platter.
You can find a more detailed guide here on how to slice your turkey.
Now it’s time to load up your plates with Cajun turkey and your favorite sides.
Great turkey sides
- Smoked Green Bean Casserole
- Smoked Sweet Potatoe Casserole
- Bacon Wrapped Brussels Sprouts
- Southern Style Coleslaw
- Loaded Potato Salad
Smoked Cajun Turkey
- 14 lb turkey thawed
- 2 tbsp Olive oil
- 6 tbsp Cajun rub
- 2 tbsp paprika
- 1 tbsp salt
- 1 tbsp garlic powder
- ½ tbsp black pepper
- ½ tbsp white pepper
- ½ tbsp onion powder
- ½ tbsp dried oregano
- ¾ tbsp cayenne pepper
- ½ tbsp dried thyme
- 1 stick butter melted
- 1 cup chicken broth
- 2 tbsp hot sauce
- 1 tbsp Cajun rub
- 1 stick butter
- remaining Cajun rub
- Preheat the smoker to 300°F.
- Make sure your turkey is properly thawed. You can find a more detailed guide here. It’s a crucial first step.
- Remove the turkey from its packaging, making sure to pat it dry and remove the giblets from the cavity.
- Your turkey should come with a ‘hock lock’ that holds the legs together. Be sure to leave that on. If not, use butcher twine to tie the legs together.
- Using a meat injector, inject the turkey liberally. I like to start with the breasts, then the thighs, and anything else that will hold it.
- Rub the outside of the turkey with the olive and season well all over with the Cajun rub. Add seasoning under the breast skin as well to maximize flavor.
- Place turkey on the smoker. Leave to smoke for 1.5 hours.
- After 1.5 hours, start drizzling some of the baste over the turkey every 30 minutes.
- If the turkey gets too dark, loosely cover with aluminum foil while it finishes cooking.
- Your turkey is done when it hits an internal temperature of 165°F. I like to pull my turkey off at 160°F and let it carry over to 165°F while it rests.
- Rest for 30 minutes before slicing and serving.
- Combine everything in a mason jar with a lid or a small bowl.
- Melt the butter in a small pot and then add the chicken broth, hot sauce, and the cajun rub and mix until well combined.
- Melt the butter in a small pot and add the remaining rub. Combine well.