How To's

Ultimate Turkey Guide

Turkey in a smoker

Cooking a 14 lb Turkey can be intimidating. The last thing you want to do is mess something up and realize you ruined a large family gathering.

So here are a few tips from Lane's BBQ that will be sure to help.

Keep reading or if you like to watch video - Jump straight to the "How to Cook a Perfect Turkey" video.

Be Prepared

The right tools and a plan is key to making the perfect turkey. Here are some must have tools and things to consider before your journey. 

  • Thermapen (Instant read thermometer)
  • Carving knife (Keep it sharp, you don't want to tear the skin away)
  • Concave cutting board (Concave cutting board will help keep all the juices on the board and off the table)
  • Space in the fridge (for thawing and brining)
  • Duck fat spray (Or some other cooking spray)
  • Time - Don't be last minute (You will have to thaw, brine, dry, and cook your bird. Depending on the size of bird it could be anywhere from 5 to 6 days before you are ready to cook)

Pick the right size Turkey

We know a beautifully roasted full Turkey sitting on the table absolutely looks the best! However, if you only have a few people coming over for your dinner there might not be a reason to get the largest bird available.

  • Gathering of less than 6 people: Bone in turkey breast
  • Gathering of 6 - 8 people: 10lb Turkey
  • Gathering of 10 - 12 people: 12lb Turkey
  • Gathering of 14 - 16 people: 10lb Turkey and a Turkey breast
  • Gathering of 16 - 20 people: 2 10lb or 12lb Turkeys

This depends on how much leftovers you want and how many sides you are bringing. I typically fill up on sweet potatoes and am not able to eat much else. 

How Long to Thaw a Turkey

First off - If you can buy a fresh unfrozen turkey from your butcher... Do that. During a holiday season you are more than likely going to purchase a frozen turkey from your local grocery store.

Turkeys are big and thick, when you buy it frozen you have to give it the proper time needed to thaw. I only thaw my turkeys in the fridge and do not recommend any other method of thawing. There are other ways to thaw, but they are not fun and it will take the joy out of the cook. A little planning can go a long way here. Make sure you have room in your fridge for the thaw.

It takes about 24 hours for every 5lb of frozen turkey to thaw. For example a 12lb Turkey will take at least 2 full days to fully thaw before you start the next step. 

Brine the bird 

A turkey is notorious for being a dry protein. So you have to find a good way to get flavor and that juiciness into that fat bird. We recommend brine vs injection: Injection absolutely adds great flavor into the bird, but only in pockets. Some parts of the bird will be painfully dry and some parts of the bird will be filled with flavor. With Brine the bird gets to fully take a bath in the solution, soaking up every area of the Turkey. 

You should brine for no less than 24 hours fully submerged in water and Brine. We suggest our Lane's Signature Brine or Lane's Sweet Tea Brine, just add a cup of brine for every gallon of water and mix. 

Click here to see all of our Brine options

Click here to read our full How to Brine Article

Dry the skin

Now that you have soaked your Turkey in the Brine it's time to air dry the turkey in the fridge. After taking a 24 hour bath the outside skin layer of the turkey is absolutely drenched. You will need to dry the skin out uncovered for 12 to 24 hours in the fridge on a drying rack (to dry out the bottom skin of the turkey) The turkey meat will hold on to all that good moisture, this step is to dry the skin out so that the skin will cook nice and crispy. 

Season the bird

You are nearly there! Now that the Turkey skin has been drying out in the fridge, we will need to spray it down with Duck Fat Spray to make sure our seasoning will stick. Now we just need to give that outside of the bird a great flavor. Here are some killer seasonings we recommend to make your Turkey memorable.

Cook time

It's go time - all that hard work you put in is about to pay off. 

Place your bird in an aluminum tray or baking pan (depending on how you are cooking it) To catch any juices and any basting juices. You don't want to try to move your bird while it is 160 degrees to a pan, just go ahead and put it in one. 

We recommend:

  • Set your smoker/oven to 325 degrees, cook for roughly 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 hours or until the internal temperature in the fat part of Turkey breast is 150.
  • Baste your turkey with butter and continue cooking until internal temp is 160 degrees. The tray will catch any butter drippings.
  • Pull and rest your bird for 30 minutes - The bird will continue to cook while resting, also now that it is off the heat the juices will settle throughout the bird. 

Get into it

The masses are hungry, but don't take your eye of the ball quite yet. Place your bird on a cutting board preferably one that is concave in the middle to hold all the juices. No one wants the juices from the turkey spilling out all over the dinner table. 

Before slicing in we like to pull the legs, thighs, and wings off. Then we cut out both turkey breasts. We do this to make it easier to slice the breast the way we want it without all the other parts getting in the way. 

Make sure you have a nice carving knife that is sharp. You do not want to cut into the bird with a dull knife which would just rip and pull that skin right off. 

Last tip - Be sure to sit down, eat, and enjoy the time spent with your friends and family. Even if you completely butcher this meal, your family will still love you. Plus they will have a funny story to tell everyone at work. 

Watch Ryan Lane and his Top Turkey Tips


Corey Bakken

I have your turkey brine kit what flavor wood do you smoke with

Jim Brisendine

Great video! The way I now do my turkey , chickens etc.
Love the cooking turkey for Thanksgiving!! I have ordered my kit and ready to go!!

Russ welch

Great job as always. Your passion for que shines through. Always willing to share the tips. Of course using the best rubs (Lanes bbq) available helps too. That Spellbound hot rub is truly magical.

William Mcquigg

I will use these ideas my next cooking!


I did this recipe on Thanksgiving. The best Bird we’ve ever had and its going to be our new tradition.

Leave a comment

All comments are moderated before being published.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.