Smoked Cajun Turkey

This smoked Cajun turkey is juicy and flavorful and is going to make quite the presentation at your Thanksgiving.
smoked cajun chicken

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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
ingredients for smoked cajun turkey

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.

raw turkey on a wire rack

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. 

5. Season

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.

seasoned raw turkey on a wire rack

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.

cajun turkey in the smoker

To serve

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.  

a white platter of smoked cajun chicken

Now it’s time to load up your plates with Cajun turkey and your favorite sides.

Great turkey sides

smoked cajun chicken

Smoked Cajun Turkey

A flavor injection to start, a liberal coating of homemade Cajun rub, and a buttery baste during the cook for crispy skinned smoked Cajun turkey.
5 from 2 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 3 hours 40 minutes
Resting Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 4 hours 25 minutes
Servings: 12
Calories: 694kcal
Author: Brian Gerwig

Ingredients

  • 14 lb turkey thawed
  • 2 tbsp Olive oil
  • 6 tbsp Cajun rub

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

Injection

  • 1 stick butter melted
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 2 tbsp hot sauce
  • 1 tbsp Cajun rub

Baste

  • 1 stick butter
  • remaining Cajun rub

Instructions

  • 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.

Cajun rub

  • Combine everything in a mason jar with a lid or a small bowl.

Injection

  • Melt the butter in a small pot and then add the chicken broth, hot sauce, and the cajun rub and mix until well combined.

Baste

  • Melt the butter in a small pot and add the remaining rub. Combine well.

Notes

How to thaw a frozen turkey. Allow 24 hours in the fridge for every 4 lbs, so a 14 lb turkey will take 3.5 days to thaw properly.
How much turkey per person? The golden rule is 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, 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.
How to slice your turkey

Nutrition

Calories: 694kcal | Carbohydrates: 2g | Protein: 82g | Fat: 39g | Saturated Fat: 16g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 6g | Monounsaturated Fat: 13g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 311mg | Sodium: 1135mg | Potassium: 881mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 0.5g | Vitamin A: 875IU | Vitamin C: 4mg | Calcium: 58mg | Iron: 4mg
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