My father-in-law, the same man who introduced me to smoked chicken 15 years ago, also introduced me to smoked turkey. But not in quite the same positive way as chicken. It was actually a nightmarish story that still lives in family lore…and scared me out of trying to smoke one myself until just a couple of years ago.
He set out to smoke a turkey for a delicious New Years Eve meal. The whole family was excited. He put the turkey on his Brinkman bullet smoker early in the morning, anticipating its completion in time for a tasty dinner.
Dinner came and went. So did dessert. Then midnight. Then 3am. Then the sun came up. The turkey continued to smoke.
It was a 22 pound turkey. And the poor little smoker has a hard time keeping its temperature above 200, especially on a cold December/January day.
So. The family had turkey for New Years Day Lunch.
So the lessons here are start with a smaller bird and know your smokers capabilities. You might even want to start with something as easy as smoking a three pound boneless turkey breast.
Now, don’t be afraid. Try this recipe out and you will enjoy the results. There aren’t many things more enjoyable than smoked turkey. PLUS, this frees up a ton of space in your oven, which is always a problem on Thanksgiving. That’s huge. So…better flavor, juicier, more oven space…win-win-win.
Smoked Whole Turkey
- 1 Turkey
- 1 stick butter
- 1/2 c applejuice
- 1 tbs real maple syrup
- 1 tbs honey
- 2 tbs salt
- Combine first 4 ingredients in pot and bring to a boil. Once cooled a bit stir in salt until dissolved.
- 1 onion cut in large chunks
- 1 lemon cut in large chunks
- 1 celery stalk cut
- 3 garlic cloves
- a few sprigs of thyme and sage
- 2 tbs olive oil
- salt & pepper
- Stuff the cavity of the bird.
- Inject the breasts and legs all over - every inch or so.
- Rub vegetable oil all over skin - this helps give a nice golden brown color.
- Sprinkle salt & pepper all over.
- Set up grill for indirect heat or use your smoker.
- Smoke at 225-250 with fruit wood chips/chunks until internal temperature of breast reaches 165, thigh reaches 175. This usually takes me about 30 minutes per pound.
So I’m smoking a few turkeys this year for my family, and as I’m prepping them I realized I wanted to give you just a few more thoughts about how to make your turkey extra delicious tomorrow. Here are 5 quick tips:
1. Brine. Keep it simple. 1 Gallon water, 1 cup salt, 1 cup brown sugar. Add other herbs (sage, bay leaves, thyme) if you desire.
2. Butter spread. 1 stick of butter softened, 1 clove of garlic crushed, 1 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp sage, 1/2 tsp thyme. Gently lift the skin and smear this happiness directly on the turkey breasts.
3. Aromatics. Do NOT put stuffing inside your bird. I know that’s tradition. It’s called STUFFING for heaven’s sake. But that stuffing will suck out all the juices from your meat! Granted, the stuffing will be delicious, but your poor turkey suffers because of it. Instead, please consider aromatics in the cavity: Onion, apple, celery, lemon, garlic, thyme, salt & pepper. Any or all. They add GOBS of flavor and moisture. Yes, dad, I’m speaking directly to you with this point.
4. Inject. Especially if you don’t brine, please consider injecting. Again, keep it simple: 1 stick Butter, 1/4 c apple juice, 1 tbs honey, dash of salt. That deliciousness is injected directly into your meat. How can you not want to do that?
5. 165. Not 180. 1 6 5 . That’s the magic internal temperature for your turkey breast. Not a degree over. If your legs aren’t done, cut them off, put them back in the oven/smoker and finish them. The legs need to be at least 175 to be safe. But don’t let your breasts suffer because of your legs. 🙂
Lastly, don’t forget to let your turkey rest for at least 30 minutes before slicing. These basic 5 ideas work for your smoker, oven, or roaster. If you don’t feel like lighting your grill/smoker tomorrow – that’s ok! But take a couple of these steps anyway and it will be the juiciest, tastiest turkey you’ve ever cooked.
Happy Thanksgiving everybody!