What To Put In A Turkey Cavity When Smoking

Are you planning a smoked turkey this Thanksgiving?

Or do you want a change from the usual Sunday roast chicken?

Developing extra flavor within the entire bird can be a little daunting.

It all starts with the stuffing you make.

Below you’ll learn exactly what to put in your turkey stuffing!

Why Do We Season The Turkey Cavity Before The Smoking Process?

We season the cavity because it has a large inside surface area and will infuse the seasonings literally from the inside up!

Think about this, seasoning the outside of the bird is still a favorable option but it wouldn’t permeate the inside layers of the meat.

If we want a complete infusion of seasoning and flavor then doing so from the inside out reaches even the deepest meat.

Within the already large animal!

Do You Put Anything In The Cavity Of Spatchcock Turkey?

You should put anything in the cavity of a spatchcocked turkey before you smoke it. Just apply a seasoning after you give the skin a rub with butter.

What Should We Do Before Seasoning The Turkey Cavity?

I want to mention that a whole turkey should be dry or wet brined for at least a day before seasoning the cavity.

When meat is brined and exposed to salt it penetrates on a cellular level.

Right into the muscle fibers and protein structure. 

The salt molecules permeate the meat in the same way by extracting moisture.

This also stops the muscle contractions.

This adds new flavor profiles and tenderizes.

Applying A Wet Brine

A wet brine is created by adding sodium into cold water which in turn creates a water and salt solution. 

Brine Recipe

– 1 cup of water (230ml) to a tablespoon (14 grams) of salt. 

The brine solution should be enough to cover the whole turkey in how many cups of water it takes.

Leave the turkey refrigerated and submerged for at least 6 hours or ideally 60 minutes per pound.

What Ingredients Are Best To Put In A Turkey Cavity?

Below I have categorized some of the best and basic seasonings to put in the cavity of the turkey.

Be creative and follow the flavors you love.

Have fun!

Note: Always wash your hands or wear kitchen gloves when handling raw meat to avoid food poisoning. 

Food safety reasons are there to protect you!

Olive Oil Rub

I always start by rubbing a small amount of olive oil in the cavity.

This not only adds a subtle flavor but also can help reduce burning. 

The oil will also act as a glue for your other seasonings to stick to and infuse with.

Kosher Salt & Black Pepper

Salt and pepper are a must!

Be liberal but conscious if you have used salt-concentrated brine.

Fresh Herbs

Now is the time to get creative with your favorite herbs.

I love using fresh thyme and sage.

The stronger herbs work well with the gamey meat flavor.

Fresh Vegetables

Whole fresh garlic is a must.

Why not throw in a few halved white onions? 

These will not only flavor the meat but can also be removed to bulk up a gravy.

Whole Citrus Fruit Or Peel

Adding lemon or orange adds an acidic tang to the meat.

The enzymes will also help further break down the protein for a tender result!

Dry Spices & Herbs

What is your favorite spice rub?

Classic garlic powder with some cayenne or some dried fragrant oregano.

Breadcrumb Stuffing

A classic breadcrumb stuffing with herbs and sausage meat does wonders for flavoring.

You could even spread it in your leftover turkey sandwiches the next day.

Tip: Why not try lifting the skin away from the meat without fully removing it? You could put in some garlic melted butter!

A Tasty Turkey

This large bird is packed with natural flavor and makes for a fantastic holiday meal.

The flavorful turkey has beautifully tender dark meat with a light gamey taste.

This is in the thigh meat!

Or what about the white meat that develops a sweet flavor from the smoke in the cooking process?

This is in the breast meat!

So you can see these larger birds have additional flavor depending on the cut.

As we will be smoking the whole bird, we must ensure that each cut has the perfect flavor.

This is done by adding ingredients and seasonings inside the cavity.

Where Is The Cavity?

The turkey cavity is just the inside of the bird after the giblets have been removed.

The inside is cleaned after removal by the butcher.

Always check the packaging or ask your butcher if the turkey has had the giblets removed. You want to ensure the giblets are removed before you start bringing the turkey.

Some turkeys will still have them inside birds and can be hard removing them.

Especially in a larger turkey!

Remove the packaging and look for a hole at the back of the bird.

This is how you access the cavity.

Note: Giblets is the term used for the organs of the animal. 

Our Favorite Turkey Recipes

Smoked Turkey Breast

Whole Smoked Turkey in a Gas Smoker

Smoked Turkey Neck

Smoked Turkey Wings

Smoked Turkey Legs

Pre Cooked Smoked Turkey

Smoked Turkey Tails

Why Are We Smoking An Entire Turkey?

What are the benefits of using indirect heat smoke on the turkey?

  • The wood chips add a depth of smoky flavor and nutty undertones.
  • Enhances the savory flavor factor.
  • Chemical reactions form and create crispy turkey skin.
  • Slow and low smoking locks in moisture in the proteins of the bird to avoid dry turkey meat.

Note: A organic, fresh turkey will always be my first choice but a frozen turkey is also ok for smoking.

Smoke On!


Author: Charlie Reeves
Hi, I’m Charlie, I am head taste tester at Simply Meat Smoking! I love it grilling, smoking, and getting out in the yard with the kids! The family also love to test all my recipes (especially my EXTRA CRISPY pulled pork, smoky pork loin, and ANY SEAFOOD I grill)

You will usually find me playing with the kids, perfecting my brisket bark, or sipping beers with boys around the fire. Can’t wait to share all my delicious smoking and grilling adventures with you!

You can read more on our About Us page.

Hungry For More?

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *