Preparing A Cajun Seasoned Turkey
First thing we need to do in preparation is defrost, assuming this is a frozen turkey. If by chance you are working with a fresh turkey you can skip past this part and move on to the brine. Below is a chart that will help you with the size of the turkey and when you should your defrost process.
When it comes to thawing the turkey you will definitely want to do it in the regfrigator. If you are running behind on the above schedule a suggestion is to defrost in some water. What I have done in the past is get a small cooler, place the turkey in, fill it with water and then put it in the regfrigator. If you do not have room in the regfrigator then leave it in the cooler and then ensure you keep the water temperature below 40°. Any concerns about doing this overnight, throw it back in the regfrigator and then repeat this water bath process again.
Once this process is done, we are going to start to move onto the brine.
If you are using a frozen turkey from a company like Butterball, there is probably a salt/brining solution already involved. In many cases those turkeys have been injected with a brine. You will see something along the lines of “Contains up to 8% of a solution of Water, Salt, Spices, and Natural Flavor.”. If that is the case, then there this turkey has either been injected or brined already. If you start looking around the internet, I make a bet you find a 50/50 split of people that still wet brine the Butterballs.
In this recipe, using a Butterball, I still do use a wet brine but cut back on the salt content of the brine and the time. At this point its more flavor that we are looking to achieve versus an actual brining. The recipe card brine recipe will reflect a brine and instructions for a frozen Butterball turkey. This brine is the same one I use in my Smoked Thanksgiving Turkey recipe. The allspice and ginger are a great compliment for this smoked Cajun turkey recipe.
You will first need either a food safe bucket or brine bag. I personally use a brine bag so I will review that method here. Because we are using the Butterball turkey, we are going to cut down on the brine time and instead of a normal 24 hours of brine, we are just going to do 12 hours, essentially a long overnight brine. You can go upwards of 24 hours but I would not go beyond that.
Remove the turkey from the package, remove any giblets from the inside. I do not use those, if you do, go right ahead and put them off to the side. Cooking or using the giblets has never been a priority for me. You can leave any twine or plastic ties on the legs for now. It will make handling the turkey much easier as you are going in and out of the brine bag.
We are going to combine our dry ingredients and add them to the cold water and broth. Make sure with the broth you use low sodium, we don’t want additional salt content being added to the brine recipe. Once you have everything combined and in the bag, you can place the turkey in the bag. Once its in the bag, you have two options, leave it in the regfrigator or place it in a cooler. If going in a cooler you need to add ice. It is important that you keep the temperature below 40°.
After 12 hours of brining you can remove the turkey and we will prepare to move onto the next steps of prepping the turkey so we can smoke it.
Smoked Cajun Turkey Recipe Rub
I love this homemade Cajun seasoning. If you prefer to go with something store bought, you can do that as well. Here are a host of options if you are looking for some store bought Cajun spices, besides a homemade version. I also used this Cajun rub on my Cajun Turkey Breast recipe.
Here is a list of what you will need:
- garlic powder
- onion powder
- cayenne pepper
- black pepper
- ground thyme
You can simply gather your ingredients, add them to a bowl and mix them together well. You can make this in advance by storing in an air tight container. I like making my spices a day in advance. Even though its not a ton of work, I feel like it just makes things easier on the day I am smoking something. Mix these and put these off to the side as we continue to prep the turkey.
Pat the turkey dry and then you can lightly brush on some olive oil to the turkey and then start adding the rub. You will want to ensure the turkey is covered everywhere with the Cajun rub. We are also going to ensure we get some of the rub in the turkey cavity as well. This may require a little bit of work but do the best you can, it will only add more flavor to the turkey.
Either before you start with the rub or after, if your smoker is large enough place the turkey in a roasting pan. If you cannot fit one of the smoker, make sure you have some kind of tray below to catch any juices from the turkey.
As a gauge for how long to smoke a turkey at 325 degrees, figure about 20 minutes per pound. When it comes to measuring the internal temperature of the turkey, ideally you want two probes in the turkey. One in the breast and another in the thigh. Something you need to know, thigh meat can take a higher IT, upwards of 175°. On the flip side, you do not want your breast meat going above 165 degrees or you risk having some dry turkey breast.
The thighs tend to cook faster than the breasts so do not get concerned if the temperature on the thighs is rising faster than the breasts.
I highly suggest checking out the ThermoPro TP829, its a great 4 probe meat thermometer unit that will not break the bank.
Smoking A Turkey
For starters, as is the case with most poultry with skin, we are going to do this hotter than normal. We want to smoke our turkey at 325°, as this will help us achieve that very desirable crispy skin. Don’t worry, you will get plenty of smoke flavor on the turkey running it at this higher temperature.
When it comes to wood flavor, a nice cherry wood is what you are looking for, to compliment this Cajun turkey recipe.
Probes should be set, one in the breast, another in the thigh and we are ready to go. Now that the turkey is on, we don’t need to do to much. If you did everything else correctly on the front end things start to get easier. You are going to let it ride, again figure about 20 minutes per pound. Depending on how big your turkey is, you will want to baste it twice, with some melted butter. Once at 135° and then again at 150°. Butter adds a little more flavor and will also help crisp that skin up for you.
The turkey will start off cooking relatively fast, but then it will slow down a bit. It does not stall out, like a pork butt, brisket or other large cut of meat but it will slow down and not cook nearly as fast as when you first placed it on.
Once you see your turkey breast get to 165°, and your thighs are likely to already be at 165°, you can go ahead and pull the turkey. I suggest you let it rest for 20-30 minutes or so but not necessary, esp. if you end up running tight on time. No one likes a bunch of hanrgy family members. When resting you can cover with some foil as well. After letting it rest, you can start slicing and serving.
Wrapping Up Smoked Cajun Turkey Recipe
The smoked Cajun turkey recipe offers a mouthwatering combination of flavors that will leave your taste buds begging for more. By infusing the meat with a blend of spices and slowly smoking it to perfection, you can enjoy tender and juicy turkey with a deliciously smoky undertone. Whether you’re hosting a holiday feast or simply looking to elevate your weeknight dinner, this recipe is sure to impress. So fire up the smoker and get ready to indulge in a delectable Cajun-inspired delight that will have everyone coming back for seconds.
Thanks for being here and checking out this Smoked Cajun Turkey Recipe. I hope you enjoy it! We always appreciate comments, 5 star recipe rating and social media shares. As always, keep that smoke rolling!
Looking for some other turkey or holiday recipes? Here are some suggestions:
- Grilled Turkey Recipe
- Smoked Prime Rib
- Peach Glazed Double Smoked Ham
- Apple Wood Smoked Duck
- Smoked Cornish Hens
- Smoked Boneless Turkey Breast
- 15-20 lb. turkey
- 2 sticks unsalted butter
- 1 1/2 gallons of water
- 28 ounces of vegetable broth (low sodium)
- 2 tsp. of crushed allspice berries
- 2 tsp. of crushed crystalized ginger
- 1/2 cup of kosher salt (for a fresh turkey, use 1 cup of salt)
- 1/2 cup of brown sugar
- 1 tsp of ground black pepper
Cajun Dry Rub
- 2 tablespoons garlic powder
- 2 tablespoons onion powder
- 2 tablespoons salt
- 4 teaspoons of paprika
- 4 teaspoons of cayenne pepper
- 2 teaspoons black pepper
- 2 teaspoons oregano
- 2 teaspoons ground thyme
- Start thawing your turkey, if frozen (see graphic in post for more details). If you are going to defrost outside of the regfrigator, in a cooler, you must keep temperature at no more than 40 degrees.
- After turkey has thawed, brine. For a frozen brined turkey, we will brine for a minimum of 12 hours, up to 24 is good.
- Brine using either a brine bag or a food grade plastic container. Keep in regfrigator or cooler.
- Set smoker to 325° using cherry wood
- After at least 12 hours, remove from brine and pat dry
- Ensure at this time all giblets and neck are removed as well as any kind of plastic ties or wraps on the turkey
- Once patted dry, apply the dry rub, generously in and outside the turkey. Use some olive oil as a binder if needed
- Place on smoker, in a roasting pan, with probes in the breast and thigh
- Baste twice with melted butter, at 135° and 150°
- Once the breast hits 165°, your thighs should already be there, pull the turkey
- Let rest for 20-30 minutes, covered with foil
- You can then serve and slice immediately
- If you don't have vegetable broth handy, you can substitute it with chicken broth
Nutrition Information:Yield: 20 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 75Total Fat: 2gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 26mgSodium: 510mgCarbohydrates: 3gFiber: 0gSugar: 1gProtein: 10g