These Beer Brined Smoked Turkey Thighs are packed with flavor and are so juicy, it’s not even funny! A few simple steps and some time on the grill made these an instant family favorite!
I was looking for some turkey in the grocery store, but now that we are empty nesters, I found it hard to justify buying a large bird just for the two of us. Fortunately, there were several turkey cuts available for a very reasonable price and a few of them ended up in the shopping cart!
Turkey Thighs – I always seem to gravitate to the darker meats. They are naturally juicier than the white meat of the breast, but definitely benefited from the brine.
Beer Brine – Kosher Salt and Brown Sugar are the working agents of the brine. The salt is absorbed into the meat along with the beer and other flavors. The Brown Sugar offsets the saltiness. Because I only brined the thighs, I didn’t need to find and clean a large bucket. Instead, a smaller kitchen bowl was just the right size to keep the thighs submerged during the brining process.
I used Deschutes’ Lil’ Squeezy Juicy Ale for the beer. The light, fresh flavors and the citrus notes worked well with the turkey.
Poultry Seasoning – After the thighs were removed from the brine, rinsed and patted dry, I used the poultry seasoning from Penzey’s. I wanted a mild, neutral rub to allow the flavor of the meat and the beer brine to shine through.
Cherry Wood Chips – I used a mild fruit wood for the smoking chips. Stronger woods like hickory or mesquite might have worked fine, but the Cherry left a mild, smoky flavor that didn’t overpower the flavor of the turkey or the beer brine.
The magic happens with the preparation. The brine needs a chance to work, so you’ll want to start the work on this about eight hours before you want to grill.
Step One: To prepare the brine, cut the lemon and orange into slices and add all of the remaining ingredients to the bowl. I had fresh herbs growing in the garden and used a few springs.
Step Two: Add the beer and then the brown sugar and kosher salt. Stir well to dissolve the salt and sugar. This will only take a minute.
Step Three: Add the turkey thighs and arrange them to make sure that they are fully submerged. Cover the bowl and let the brine do the work in the refrigerator for about eight hours.
Note: A lighter flavored beer works well with this brine. The turkey absorbs it very well, and a strong beer runs the risk of overpowering the meat. Keep to the wheat ales, lighter IPAs, or even a blonde lager.
Step Four: About ten minutes prior to the grilling, remove the turkey from the brine and rinse it with cold water. I found just as much success adding to a bowl of fresh, cool water. The idea is to remove any excess salts that may have accumulated on the skin. Let it soak for two or three minutes.
Step Five: Remove the thighs from the fresh water and pat it dry with a paper towel.
Step Six: Add the poultry seasoning to the thighs. Make sure to get both sides.
🔥 Smoking Instructions
Step One: Set your grill to indirect heat at 275 degrees. For gas grills, turn off the center burners and for the Big Green Egg, add the plate setter.
Step Two: Add the Cherry Wood to the grill to create a light smoke. Gas grillers should use a smoking box.
⚠️ Warning: You don’t want to have large, billowing clouds of smoke. That looks great on Instagram photos, but the reality is that this amount of smoke will be way too much and your turkey will taste like charcoal. Instead, look for a very light trickle of smoke. If you need to adjust, move the wood chips around until you get the light smoke.
Step Three: Add the thighs to the grate and let them smoke for about 60-75 minutes. There is no need to turn them over, thanks to the indirect heat. The turkey is ready when the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees. Definitely use a meat thermometer to check this.
Step Four: Let the turkey thighs rest for at least ten minutes before serving. Cutting into them too early will allow all the juices to drain out, and you just spent a lot of time adding them through the brining process.
💡 Recipe Tips
Make sure the turkey thighs are completely defrosted before starting the brining process. If they are still partially frozen, they will not absorb the amazing brine flavors.
You can add the brine to the stovetop, bring it to a boil, and then let it come down to room temperature before brining, but I did not notice a difference in the turkey when I did this, so you can definitely save yourself some time and skip that step.
Turkey thighs can be tricky to tell if they are done. The darker meat makes it difficult to tell if it is fully cooked or not. It is best to use a wireless meat thermometer to check. Mine will sound an alarm when the temperature reaches the desired level.
Note: Set the temperature alarm to five degrees below the desired level. After you remove the meat from the grill, it will continue to rise in temperature for a little bit. With all the extra juiciness added from the brine, you will have a little bit of play, and you shouldn’t need to worry about it overcooking and becoming too dry.
Grilled Turkey Legs – I used four different rubs to grill these amazing turkey legs. The results were amazing!
Grilled Whole Turkey – I wondered if the whole turkey would turn out too dry, but it grilled to perfection – even without a brine!
Smoked Beer Brined Turkey Thighs
- 1 Lemon
- 1 Orange
- ¼ cup Kosher Salt
- ¼ cup Brown Sugar
- 3 sprigs Herbs fresh
- 2 cans Beer IPA
Turkey and Rub
- 2 Turkey Thighs
- 2 tbsp Poultry Seasoning
Brining the Turkey Thighs
- Cut the lemon and orange and add all ingredients to a large bowl. Add the cans of beer and stir well to dissolve the brown sugar and salt.
- Add the turkey thighs and make sure they are completely covered by the liquid.
- Cover the bowl with Saran and refrigerate overnight.
Prepare the Turkey
- After brining for approximately 8-10 hours, remove the turkey thighs and let them rest in fresh, cold water for 15 minutes. This will remove any excess salts from the skin.
- Remove the thighs and pat them dry with a paper towel.
- Rub the turkey thighs with poultry seasoning. You really want the flavor of the beer to be the star of the show.
Smoke the Thighs
- Prepare your grill for smoking. For a Kamado grill, add a plate setter. For a gas grill, turn off the center burners.
- Set the temperature to 275 degrees. Add Cherry wood chips to create a slight smoke.
- Add the turkey thighs to the grill and let them smoke for approximately 60-75 minutes, until they reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees.
- Remove and let them rest for 15 minutes before serving.